We spent our third night of Hanukkah at the kibbutz Kfar Haruv (which means Carob Village) in the southern Golan Heights. Founded in 1974 by native Israelis and U.S. immigrants, Kfar Haruv was the sixteenth Israeli settlement established in the Golan Heights and now has approximately 400 residents. Kfar Haruv has a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee, the locale for many of the stories about Jesus in the New Testament.
A kibbutz (which means gathering or clustering in Hebrew) is a collective community that combines principles of socialism and Zionism (a national movement supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel). All members of the kibbutz perform jobs and responsibilities as needed for the greater good of the community. We heard from Sharon, who has lived at the kibbutz for 28 years. He described their method of collective decision-making. In the early days, all members came together weekly to talk about issues and make decisions. Now, they meet bi-monthly and have leaders for various aspects of kibbutz life (e.g., economic, social).
We asked Sharon about how the kibbutz deals with conflicts between members. He claimed that there is little conflict and they just work it out. As conflict resolution professors, we are highly skeptical! He said that if a couple wants to divorce, for example, they simply let the council now and then, boom, the next day one of them moves to a new cabin and they continue to live in close proximity and raise their children in this communal paradise. If the community disagrees, Sharon said they continue to talk about the issue at their meetings until it is finally resolved at some point in the future. The worst part of living in a kibbutz? Lack of privacy. “There are no secrets in a kibbutz,” Sharon said, smiling.
Sharon shared that kibbutz life has transformed over time. He hopes that his grown children will decide to return to the kibbutz after their military service and higher education so his grandchildren can be raised here. Whereas some kibbutzim have struggled to survive in modern times, Kfar Haruv is thriving. The have diversified their economy, including ownership of the A.R.I factory, which manufactures hydraulic equipment. They continue to engage in agriculture and produce dairy products. They also operate an impressive tourist operation (Mitzpe LeShalom, or Peace Vista), boasting charming cabins on the cliffs of the Sea of Galilee (5 star views from our cabins!). We were the happy beneficiaries of their hospitality, enjoying a delicious dinner and bountiful breakfast baskets packed with a variety of homemade breads, egg omelettes, vegetables and hummus, cheese, yogurt, corn flakes (yes, way more food than we had the time or stomach space to eat!).
We left idyllic Kfar Haruv feeling peaceful and well-satiated — many of us longing to stay for a longer respite from our packed tour schedule (especially when we heard they also have a spa!). But alas, so much more to see and learn. We headed out to Jerusalem–the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our first stop was Yad Vashem (meaning the “hand” and “name”), Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. This quickly jolted us out of our zen state from experiencing the best of humanity in the Golan Heights to bearing witness to the worst of humanity. The museum captures the Nazis’ deliberate campaign of dehumanization, deception, and destruction of Jewish identity, freedom, property, communities, and, finally, their lives. At the same time, Yad Vashem honors those individuals and countries who resisted the Nazis and aided the Jews.
The juxtaposition of idealistic, cooperative kibbutz life and the reality of Yad Vashem in the same day gave us much to ponder as ADR professors. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates, the need for creative solutions seems especially urgent.