Netanyahu to Hold Weekly Cabinet Meeting at First Kibbutz, Marking 100 Years to Kibbutz Movement

Cabinet readies to visit Deganya, raising hackles among some left-leaning kibbutzniks.

The government cabinet will hold its weekly meeting today at Kibbutz Deganya's original courtyard, honoring the 100th anniversary of the start of the Kibbutz Movement.

Beyond the symbolic significance, however, the cabinet is expected to make decisions it says are important to rural communities.

kibbutz - Gil Eliahu - October 17 2010
Gil Eliahu

In addition to declaring measures to draw people to live in rural communities, the cabinet is to declare a number of kibbutz sites part of its so-called heritage plan, an NIS 22 million tourism program around the country.

The sites include upgrading of the War of Independence battleground at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, of the visitors center at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, the museum at Kibbutz Sdot Yam and maintenance at the Kinneret cemetery, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit today.

The area around the courtyard and first kibbutz building has already been blocked off by security people.

As Tamar Gal, who works nearby, watched the goings-on, she said: "I understand that these things are necessary, and holding the cabinet meeting here is a great honor, but the excitement is already behind us. That was when we had the internal kibbutz event, two weeks ago. That was an authentic event."

Gal, the granddaughter of Yosef and Miriam Baratz, among the founders of Deganya, said she would like to speak to the members of this government, "which does not hold to social-democratic values like we do."

Gal said she would be very happy to speak to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"Perhaps in such a conversation he would express himself differently than in his pompous declarations," she said.

"Do you think that after the meeting, [Shas chairman and Interior Minister] Eli Yishai will move even one millimeter in his extremism? My grandmother, Miriam Baratz, who was one of the outstanding feminists of the Zionist Movement, would do somersaults in the air if she would hear what they think of us, the girls," Gal said.

Shai Shoshani, chairman of the kibbutz management committee, said he sees the historic meeting as a continuation of the visits of important personages over the years, including Albert Einstein, the poet Haim Nahman Bialik and Israel's first president Chaim Weizmann.

"The government knows how to appreciate the contribution of Deganya and the movement to the state and the Zionist enterprise," he said.

However, Shoshani said, "some members remind us that this government does not express Deganya's values in its actions and declarations. I think that precisely in that context we view this visit as an honor."

Not first historic, or controversial, visit

Yesterday a number of kibbutz members were reminiscing about prime minister Menachem Begin's visit to Deganya in honor of its 70th anniversary.

Begin, Israel's first right-wing premier, had castigated kibbutz members as "hedonists." Some members at the time discussed the possibility of not speaking to him during the visit.

But kibbutz member Yishai Hadas says today's cabinet meeting at Deganya shows the government is recognizing the kibbutz movement's contribution and "even if it is right wing, it's our government, and we'll put our differences aside."