Over the past few days, there has been quite a buzz in Israel surrounding the question of whether anyone in Kibbutz Be’eri, where Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Republican presidential hopeful, spent a summer as a 17-year-old volunteer, actually remembers her.
Bachmann herself never forgot the experience and even spoke about it in her five-minute video dedicated to Israel.
But the Kibbutz members had difficulties recalling the girl from Minnesota. Some even claimed her account of Kibbutz routine almost 40 years ago, such as volunteers being constantly guarded by soldiers, might not be accurate.
But there was a tiny paper trail left – Ziva Yellin, who was 12 years old when she met Michele Bachman, who went then by the name of Michele Amble, found a note she got from her.
“This is especially for Ziva who has such a pretty smile”, wrote the young volunteer Michele Amble. “You and Hagar can speak English so well. I feel stupid next to both of you. Thank you so much for your friendship, I will remember and think about you always. Your friend, Michele from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.”
While in the Israeli Kibbuz they were trying to recall who Bachmann is, in the United States some were wondering what the connection was between a socialist experiment – the Kibbuz – and the Tea party icon, vigorously conservative Bachmann.
Bachmann, 55, was born to a Democratic family in Waterloo, Iowa, and grew up in a modest home with three brothers. The family moved to Minnesota, her parents divorced, and she and her brothers were supported by her mother's modest earnings as a bank worker. As a devout evangelical Christian, she came to Israel at the age of 17 after graduating from high school; she spent a summer as a volunteer at Kibbutz Be'eri on behalf of a Christian organization. She has since visited Israel several times. In a campaign video, she says that even back in her kibbutz days she realized Israel is the United States' most important strategic asset in the Middle East.
She studied law, and specialized in tax law. She volunteered in 1976 for Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, which she and her future husband joined after they had met during their studies. But Carter's positions disappointed her deeply and she realized she was a Republican.