Why I Moved to a Socialist Israeli Commune and Love it
“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? SLEEP WITH THE COWS!?”
There’s a multitude of living options here for the ambitious and less ambitious lone soldier: an apartment with friends, a lone soldier house, your buddy’s couch, an adopted family, a bathtub on a hilltop settlement, a bench in your local tachana merkazit, or a kibbutz to name a few. I chose the latter option, leaving the comforts of Teaneck, NJ to ‘rough’ it on Beerot Yitzchak, a small religious Kibbutz down the road from Petach Tikva. But sure, I know what some of you might be thinking.
Two conceivable reasons I chose to move to a kibbutz:
1) Ya, that guy who hoards organic food, thinks wearing Vibram Five Fingers in public is socially acceptable, and once spent an entire afternoon applying to receive deliveries from a website that clandestinely drops off milk taken directly from the cow? He would do it.
2) I purposely chose to do the most quintessential Israeli thing ever cuz like if I’m making aliyah why not go all the way?
Not at all, friends. Here’s why I decided to make a socialist Israeli commune my new home:
A) The Minutiae of Worry
When you get home from the army, the last thing you want to feel is tasked. Often enough, however, menial tasks end up tasking you: doing your laundry, finding a shabbat meal, going food shopping, taking care of bills, pretty much anything that prevents you from crawling into a nice cozy bed and passing the hell out. For lone soldiers- who don’t have time during the week or family to take care of these things- these to-do’s add up and make for unhealthy weekend worry. The weekend is only so much time to relax, catch up, reflect, and recuperate. And if you have to spend your Friday afternoon worrying about getting things done you’re unfortunately wasting very valuable time.
Enter kibbutz and it’s communality.
Kibbutz laundry is done collectively, which means on Friday afternoons I dump my gas-mask-recommended clothing in the designated soldier bins and pick it up Sunday morning nice and folded, the wanna-know-how-to-not-get-talked-to-at-a-social-gathering? smell totally gone.
Next, meals are eaten together in the chadar ochel so scavenging for food is never an issue… although I still haven’t and may never get used the reality that lunch is a main and breakfast and dinner are desserts in this country. Really, which highly-mustachioed, sky-high-khaki-shorted, paper sailboat-hatted Sabra set this standard? I can deal with the whole no Sundays thing but can a dude get some cereal and milk! Why are cottage cheese and cucumbers the new blue and white?!?!
While all lone soldiers get a salary and housing assistance from the army it’s barely just enough to cover basic living expenses- so many end up having to pay out-of-pocket for personal and social stuff. If you’re a lone soldier on a kibbutz, however, those expenses are all taken care of. Not only does the army give me an additional stipend for living here but my rent money goes right to the kibbutz and includes all housing costs. So each month I’m able to use my full salary for whatever I please and save the rest for whatever I future please.
B) A Home away from Home
Each lone soldier on Beerot Yitzchak is assigned a host family, which is important for someone like me who came having just three good friends and virtually no family here. My family, the Shneurs (whose kids’ habits include hijacking my phone to post random Facebook statuses and Instagram pics, singing zemirot in overly-americanized accents in my honor, and making me read Dr. Suess in hebrew for laugh out loud purposes (AS IF FOX IN SOCKS WASN’T HARD ENOUGH IN ENGLISH!)) made me feel right at home from day one.
If I ever need anything, whether it’s a pickup from the bus or train, a chat about Israeli life, or an excuse to watch The Voice Israel, they’re always there for me. I’m truly in awe of people who give so selflessly; that people like the Shneurs do so much without ever asking for anything for anything in return is a quality I hope I can one day emulate in equal regard.
C) The Social Factor
There are about 25 lone soldiers that live here on kibbutz. We live together, chill together, and enjoy it together.
Additionally, there’s a kibbutznick named Fred whose in charge of taking care of us. Every Shabbat morning after davening we meet in Fred’s dining room for maagal shabbat (I kiddish hop and show up after I’ve hit up some of the Shneur’s I-don’t-know-what-they-put-in-this-but-it’s-freaking-amazing kugel) where each person shares an army story, experience, or just catches everyone up on what’s been going on in their life. It’s hilarious, it’s bonding, it’s a great addition. Knowing that I can always come home to a relatable group of people is an indispensable comfort. These are friends who always have my back.