Family Affair / The Kugler-Florsheim-Cohens

Kibbutz Yakum

W The cast: Erez (44 ), Ruthie (41 ), Idan (13 ), Tal (10 ) and Aviv (7 ).

Reli Avrahami

W The home: It is on one floor, renovated, and from it one hears the dull roar from the coastal road. The property is "titled."

W Titled: According to the so-called balance ("value of the property vs. number of years as kibbutz member" ), Ruthie ("I am a member" ) was supposed to pay the kibbutz NIS 65,000 to get title to the property, but her parents' rights completely offset the sum, so she paid nothing.

W Renovation: Two years ago the house was expanded to 110 square meters, the floor was redone in gray ceramic tiles, an open kitchen (with island ) was installed and the children's rooms were floored with laminated parquet. The landscape of fields through the windows remains as before ("These days no one is leaving this place" ).

W 4 P.M.: At the far end of the lawn and of a concrete path is a porch with flower pots, wind chimes and Nala.

W Nala: A Ridgeback whose snout peeks out from her doghouse. Until a week before our visit she crossed the coastal highway every night via a tunnel to visit a canine friend, Sancho, in neighboring Kibbutz Gaash. But then Sancho died. Nala continues to make the nightly journey, refusing to be comforted.

W Entering: On the other side of the door is a heavy wooden table ("We found it thrown out next to the marsh" ), followed by a well-lit kitchen with two red chairs, a living room with a brown modular sofa, orange poufs, a vase of thorns and a bureau that holds a television, above which hangs an orange-y rural landscape divided into three pictures. On to the other rooms.

W The other rooms: On the way we pass bookshelves ("Moby Dick," "Norwegian Wood," bound volumes of "Mishmar Leyeladim," the now-defunct children's weekly published by the left-wing newspaper Al Hamishmar, also defunct ) and a shared computer corner. On the right, Tal and Aviv share a pastel room with lots of teddy bears; on the left is Idan's room, with a certificate of excellence from school. We peek into the master bedroom (white bed, lace curtains ); on his side is Ilan Sheinfeld's novel "A Tale of a Ring," on her side a book about Feng Shui and another about love.

W Livelihoods and occupations: Ruthie manages the logistics department in Plastiv Packaging Solutions, the kibbutz industry ("a two-and-a-half minute walk from the house" ), which manufactures bottles for shampoos, soft drinks and more, and containers for mineral water. In her capacity of being in charge of shipments (from Kiryat Shmona to Yotvata ) she works a five-day week (5:30 A.M - 4 P.M. ), but is not entirely satisfied with her professional routine. Her dream: to establish ("within the next two years" ) a Trilotherapy clinic.

W Trilotherapy: A method developed by the Zen teacher Nissim Amon, consisting, in essence, of "balance between head, emotion and middle."

W Middle: "The self."

W Livelihoods (cont. ): As Amon's student, Ruthie explains that the method is intended "to open the inner 'contract' between head and emotion in order to forge an amended agreement." She is also studying reflexology ("a dream that is in the 'reserves'" - Erez ) in order to integrate the two doctrines. In any event, she is home with the children every day around 4 P.M., is content to be a working woman and has never felt threatened as such ("even though there are also characters in the kibbutz" ).

W Erez: He works at TSR (a Hebrew acronym for "planned improved vision" ), a company based in Kibbutz Ga'ash which sells equipment (mainly optical ) and software to the blind and the visually impaired (computer screen readers, Braille monitors, Braille keyboards, enlargement software, surgical eyeglasses ). He is in charge of training and support ("In a certain sense I am a product manager" ) and spends his days on the road, visiting homes of blind people around the country in a 2011 Hyundai i30; he drives 140,000 kilometers a year, likes his job.

W The children: Idan is in the eighth grade in the junior high on Kibbutz Shefayim, and is transported thanks to regional council buses; after school he does Krav Maga, a combat method developed, he says, by the Israel Defense Forces ("It's more self-defense than a martial art" ).

W Tal and Aviv: They attend the unique "Man and Environment" school on Kibbutz Ga'ash, and are in the fourth and second grades, respectively (school costs NIS 350 a month, NIS 12,000 a year for non-kibbutz children ). After school, Tal engages in kung fu, soccer and surfing, and dreams of riding the waves in Hawaii ("like Kelly Slater" ); Aviv participates in a gymnastics group at the Wingate Institute of sports and can already do a cartwheel.

W Ruthie's bio: She was born on Yakum to the Florsheim family, the youngest of four children (a sister, two brothers ). Her mother, who was born on Kibbutz Ma'abarot, taught language and was a homeroom teacher in a high school; her father, a German-born Holocaust survivor (author of the book "Diary of a Fortunate Man" ), speaks seven languages and was one of the founders of the kibbutz and served as its administrative manager ("and he computerized the general store" ). Theirs was a secular family, raised in the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair movement. Ruthie grew up during the period of the communal children's homes ("I did not come out scarred" ), but can't see her children undergoing a similar experience ("Enough is enough" ). She attended primary school on Yakum, high school in Ma'abarot ("We are the pile of kids on the grass," as the song goes ). Everything occupied her, she says, apart from school ("especially my friends" ). She served one year in the army ("That was enough for me" ), married at 19 ("a childhood folly" ), divorced three years later ("with no residual damages" ), returned to the kibbutz, did a B.A. in communications (College of Management, Herzliya ) and remarried (Yair Cohen, Idan's father ). She divorced after three years ("There are visitation rights" ) and met Erez (1999 ). Her second marriage, she says, was "suitable preparation" for life with him. Never did she stop believing in a true relationship ("The secret is to choose correctly" ).

W Erez's bio: He was born on Kibbutz Ga'ash in 1966, the youngest of four (brother, three sisters ). His parents, from Argentina, immigrated to Israel in 1948 and founded the kibbutz ("after fighting at Negba" in the War of Independence ). His father, who was kibbutz secretary, a carpenter and a driver, died in 1980 ("I was 16" ); his mother (who died in 1998 ) was a caregiver and administrative manager ("both in the hotel of the Kibbutz Artzi movement in Netanya and at the Kibbutz Artzi House in Tel Aviv" ). He attended primary school on Ga'ash, high school in Ma'abarot, has fond memories of communal housing ("There were some who found it hard" ), regrets the lost socialist spirit ("They threw out the baby with the bathwater" ), and still feels pangs of conscience for having crossed the line by moving from Ga'ash to Yakum. One way or the other, he says, 75 percent of his life today is music.

W Music: Erez plays the electric guitar and was a member of two bands, Adelita Cogan and the Cookies ("sort of resembling Crosby, Stills" ); he still gets together with friends to play ("We go all out" ).

W Bio (cont. ): He did not obtain a matriculation certificate ("out of choice" ), served in the naval commandos ("actually in logistics for rubber dinghies" ), spent a year afterward on kibbutz and then two years abroad ("United States, Thailand and so on" ), returned, worked in the kibbutz factory - Ga'ash Lighting (information systems department ) - moved over to "tourism" ("weddings by the pool" ), studied for half a year at the Rimon music school (composition ) and met Ruthie ("Theoretically, I saw her when I was 16, in practice I noticed her when I was 32" ).

W The meeting: She came by herself to a performance by the Adelita Cogan band at the pub on Yakum in 1999; he spotted her from the stage. That same evening he asked a friend (Ron ) to introduce them and they have been together ever since. Ruthie: "He was a real hunk and there was something charming about him, maybe his musicality." They started living together and the pregnancy (with Tal ) consolidated the relationship.

W Wedding: There was none ("There was a ceremony in the pub where we met, and Dan Toren made like he was a rabbi" ).

W Daily routine: Ruthie gets up at 5 A.M., brushes her teeth, washes her face, goes to work without drinking or eating anything. Erez is up at 6:30, washes, dresses, thaws bread for sandwiches, wakes the children (for a chocolate drink and dry cereal ) and has a cup of filter coffee. Ruthie joins him for a cup at 7 (1 teaspoon sugar ). Idan leaves at 7:20 and by 7:35 the house is empty.

W Lunch: Ruthie eats in the kibbutz dining room; Erez stops at "some Yellow [convenience store]" at a gas station along the way ("atrocious" ); if he's lucky, he will have couscous at Sima's restaurant in Petah Tikva. Idan, back from school, also eats in the dining room; the little ones eat at school ("There is catering" ). Ruthie and the children are back by 4:30, and if she has to drive them to some sort of activity, she "gets a car." Erez returns at about 6 for a hot meal.

W TV: Ruthie watches Channel 2 News ("I also liked 'Connected'" ); Erez goes for Louis Theroux and the National Geographic Channel.

W Household chores: Ruthie does the floors ("a real washing every two weeks" ); they make food together ("and Aviv always helps" ). Erez, they relate, is a specialist in cooking meat, beans and Brazilian feijoada.

W God: Idan believes, Tal doesn't, Aviv does. "There is something, some sort of guiding entity," Ruthie says. Erez: "When things are bad I believe, when things are good for me I don't remember him."

W Israel: "In the past few years I have wanted to enter a bubble" - Ruthie; Erez: "I travel around the country a lot and see a harsh reality - capitalistic, religious, nationalist - but I will not crack easily." Emigration? Ruthie doesn't think anything will make her leave.

W Missed opportunity: "I should have been self-employed long ago," she says; Erez: "Not choosing to do music." W What they miss: "Dad and Mom" - Erez; "the big lawn next to the dining room" - Ruthie. W Happiness quotient (scale of 1-10 ): Ruthie - 7; Erez and Idan - 8; Tal - 9; Aviv - 10.