Kibbutz Ein Gedi in the south received a significant shot in the arm this week as 37 new members joined the community. Almost all the kibbutz members - 173 out of 176 - voted to admit the new members in a secret ballot held at a polling booth set up in the communal dining room.

"More than two-thirds of the members must vote in favor in order for the new members to be admitted," an Ein Gedi member said. "There are no forgeries here."

Some 15 years ago, Kibbutz Ein Gedi plunged into a socioeconomic slump. Its debts to banks rose to about NIS 100 million and several members left the community.

"The kibbutz was in a crisis. Members left and new ones didn't want to join," said Eilam Raz, the kibbutz demographic growth coordinator. "For a long time, people didn't want to come here. But without new members we would have been in dire straits," Raz added. "Until recently, people here didn't want to share with others and no new members were admitted. That was a big mistake."

Prior to Sunday, the average age on the kibbutz was 62. Now, with the new, younger members, the community has expanded by almost 20 percent and the average age has gone down to 52.

"We have no children on the kibbutz. It is run by older people. We want high quality young people who can contribute to the kibbutz," Raz commented.

Shukhrat Sadikov moved to the kibbutz seven years ago and has been waiting to become a member. "I used to be a deputy submarine commander in the Russian Army, but life was very difficult there," he said. "Here, everyone is like family. I want to do my share for the kibbutz that took me in and gave me so much."

Eldad and Moria Levy-Hevroni came to the kibbutz two years ago from London. "We chose the kibbutz because of the peace and quiet and quality of life. This is the best place in which to raise children," Moria Levy-Hevroni said.