The Passover haggadot compiled by the various kibbutzim make up the most important project of Jewish culture in Israel in the past 100 years, Prof. Asa Kasher says of a recently published book about the subject.
The 650-page "History of the Kibbutz Haggadah," by Zvi Shua (Faust) is the result of 25 years of research and material-gathering from dozens of collective communities.
It tells the story of the kibbutz Passover haggadah between the 1930s and 1950s.
For years Passover was seen as the main holiday on kibbutz. The Passover seder, with the theme of redemption at its center, became the most important event of the year.
"It's as if they said, not only our fathers were redeemed, we were redeemed as well," said Binyamin Yogev (Bouja ), of Kibbutz Beit Ha'Emek, one of the book's curators and editors. "They saw themselves as experiencing the exodus from Egypt in our time, and as those who were preparing the homeland for the Jewish masses. Without them the Zionist vision would not have been realized and there are no documents that reflect this more than the kibbutz haggadot."
The work on the book began in 1987, when Abba Kovner decided that Passover seder ceremonies in the kibbutzim and the Kibbutz Movement's haggadot were their most original cultural creation. He asked Shua, of Kibbutz Ga'ash, Aryeh Ben Gurion, of Beit Hashita and Zecharia Goren of Kibbutz Ha'ogen to collect material and memorabilia so it could be stored in the state archives.
Ben Gurion founded Shitim - the Kibbutz Institute for Holidays and Jewish Culture in Kibbtz Beit Hashita, but he died before being able to see the book's completion, as have Goren and Kovner. Shua continued alone until he was joined in the past three years by the Shitim institute, Ezra Rabin, Muki Tzur and Yogev.
"This is the first time hundreds of kibbutz haggadot are examined and cross-referenced, so that hundreds of quotes dealing with current events and public affairs can be seen. I think this is the most important chapter in the book, showing how issues like pogroms, the Holocaust, the ban on immigrating to Israel, establishing the state and others were dealt with," said Yogev.
The book's editors write "when the kibbutzim started writing and carrying out Passover seder ceremonies, the writers did not know their haggadot would hold the dreams and hidden sentiments of younger generations, who wanted to find in the kibbutz an end to the landless detachment and an opening to a grand spiritual adventure."
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