WHO LIVES ON KIBBUTZ AND WILL A KIBBUTZ ULPAN PARTICIPANT BE PART OF THEM?
Kibbutzim, like any other society, are made of individuals who are all different from one another. Some members of kibbutz identify strongly with the pioneer spirit that founded the kibbutz. Many others, if not pioneers themselves, are the children of those pioneers, and are now grown up and have families of their own on the kibbutz. They are called “sabras,” or people who were born in Israel. (An interesting etymology that will give you a sense of Israeli character: “sabra” literally refers to a type of cactus fruit, which is hard and prickly on the outside, yet sweet and tender on the inside).
Many kibbutz members, however, will not fit this stereotypical image. Lots of kibbutzniks will look more or less like people from your hometown and in fact may even come from a place like your hometown. Many members of kibbutz are “olim” (immigrants) from foreign countries such as the United States, Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Russia or around Europe. Hebrew may not be their native language, but they all speak Hebrew, as it is the primary language spoken in Israel.
Some members of kibbutz are very old. Some of them were true pioneers in the early days of the founding of the state. Try to meet someone who was a founding member of the kibbutz where you are staying, and ask them to tell you stories about the early days of the kibbutz. It is a great way to practice your Hebrew and learn some Israeli history at the same time!
Ulpan participants are another significant group living on the kibbutz.
What distinguishes a participant from a “chaver” (full member) of the kibbutz? Firstly, the participant lives on the kibbutz temporarily, while members stay for the long haul.
Secondly, members have voting privileges which give them say in the issues of kibbutz life; participants do not take part in that.
Finally, members are eligible for a full use of all facilities on the kibbutz, while participants may not have access to certain facilities; this varies from Kibbutz to Kibbutz.
As a Kibbutz Ulpan participant, remember that you are a guest in the home of the kibbutzniks.
Because you come from a different culture, you view the grounds and facilities of the kibbutz differently than do members.
For kibbutz members, the entire kibbutz is home, rather than a house with four walls.
Take the kibbutz dining hall, for example. To the participant it looks like a cafeteria, which is public space. However, kibbutzniks see it as a dining room, which is private.
Participants are essentially guests in the home of the kibbutzniks, and you should be respectful of that fact just as you would if you were visiting a friend in his or her house.