"He said, 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' which in Hebrew is something like 'Lech le'azazel,'" I explained to Rotem, who was sitting next to me in the dark, in a row with the other kibbutz children, in front of the giant screen. "I know that because I already saw the movie in the city!" I added, to prove that I knew whereof I spoke.
She wrinkled her nose. "You're a bit like her," she whispered.
"But Scarlett has slaves," I retorted, the better to differentiate between me and Vivien Leigh. "And besides, I don't have blue eyes."
"There's something in your character that's the same," she said, after pausing for reflection. I took it as a compliment.
"Gone with the Wind" was the first movie I saw in Beit Karp, the cultural center of Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov near Lake Kinneret, where I lived from the age of 11. The largest public structure on the kibbutz was a shy giant, which had been built next to the main gate in 1961, after 40 years of frugal living and hard work. It was named for Ze'ev Karp, who - as my aunt explained to me last week - was one of those people who was always busy with hush-hush missions for the state and was rarely operating on the work schedule of the kibbutz itself.
On the outside of the building, the artist Arik Koren had engraved scenes from the kibbutz members' working lives and leisure time, using thin lines. Two long-limbed figures stretched along the right side of the wall, from the foundation to the roof, with a baby in their arms. Inside was a movie theater, with row upon row of wooden chairs threaded on iron poles facing a vast stage and the huge screen. There was also a high-ceilinged room which was the kibbutz members' club, for parties, meetings and small-scale social events - signifying the importance attached to shared rest and recreation during the afternoon hours.
Despite much effort, including live performances and movies, Beit Karp could still never replace the communal dining room. Maybe because it was not located in the center of the kibbutz, like the less imposing dining room from which all paths always led and to which they always returned; the place where everyone gathered for meals three times a day and where the nerve-wracking general assemblies were held, along with mass bar/bat mitzvah shows and the gorging parties on Purim - a place where real steaks were served, not klops.
It was in the dining room that performing artists were hosted, including the curly-haired Meir Ariel, who made us laugh with clever songs; in Beit Davidka in the neighboring kibbutz, the charisma of the young actor Doron Tavori, performing in the play "Soul of a Jew," almost set the front rows on fire; and everyone showed up for the harvest festivals and the Independence Day celebrations on the rolling lawns.
Only Beit Karp stood solitary, like a mute sentry at the gate. Its outside artwork looked out every day on Lazer Karp, the first baby of the kibbutz, who grew up to be an awkward bachelor who never hurt a fly, rode a miniature lawnmower and trimmed the grass in front of the building named after his father.
Two or three years after I saw Vivien Leigh there, I entered through a side door to the backstage area, which was also used as a hall for practicing gymnastics. When my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I saw Rotem's father behind the side horse. He was very tall and very handsome, and though I thought he was really old he was actually only 37 at the time. I stood close to him, looking up at his face defiantly, and we both remained silent and motionless for a very long time. Afterward I did not speak to him, nor did I say anything about it to anyone.
Some time ago, I visited the kibbutz to attend a funeral. The door to Beit Karp was locked with a chain, following an attempt to turn the building into a dimly lit club, city style, with deejay and bar. Next to the cracked stairs leading to the members' club, those waiting for the funeral spoke in hushed tones. When the cortege finally set out from Beit Karp, the coffin at the head, I saw Rotem's father in the crowd. Our eyes locked. He nodded. (Tal Niv)
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