Depression in Margaliot, Hope in Ma'ayan Baruch

Eitan Davidi stirs the coffee pot, waiting for the water to boil. The pear tree in his orchard provides shelter from the oppressive heat. Above his head hang impressively large pears, "the most beautiful in the land," he boasts.

When he reminisces about the Second Lebanon War, Davidi turns from a romantic farmer to a nervous, jumpy man. The chairman of Margaliot's local committee recalls the night when the moshav residents were about to return from a hostel, where they found respite from the incessant shelling, "into the fire," as he calls it. "I was wandering what to do when someone emerged from the darkness. He asked me how much money I needed to keep the people in the hostel. I told him, he took out a checkbook and wrote a check." The man was businessman Noam Lanir.

That night, Davidi understood, "It's each one to his fate. I know I can count on Lanir, but I really can't rely on the state. We've been abandoned. During the war the strong managed to get along and the weak were left behind. It's the same today."

Margaliot was founded on the northern border fence by new immigrants from Iraq in 1951, some three kilometers west of Kiryat Shmona. About 350 people have been living there for years. "If we don't get new blood we'll die out eventually," Davidi says.

When the war ended, residents of Margaliot believed that the border communities would benefit from a state-sponsored development momentum. But Davidi, who once led stormy protests and obstructed road intersections near the northern border, is tired. "Today we've given up, we have no strength left for fighting. People have stopped believing. We feel that we're in a temporary truce, waiting for the next round, and the government is afraid of investing for fear all will be lost in the next war. Look at Haifa, with its electoral strength. They've upgraded Haifa while they've buried us - the moshavim who have been bombarded for decades - deeper," he says.

Davidi says that people in Margaliot "expect a swimming pool, a sports hall, a football field, a feeling that the state is behind us. There's no investment in the children. We will feel secure when we feel socially and economically strong, when new people arrive and new investments develop tourism."

Ten years ago, Davidi planted a vineyard 10 meters from the Lebanese border. Across the border, a few hundred meters away, huge dream castles are being built at a rapid pace. "Hezbollah is investing," he says bitterly. "That's an extension of Mis A-Jabel village."

West of Margaliot, in the northern end of the Hula Valley, a group of 11th grade graduates from moshavim near Kfar Saba are spending part of their summer vacation hiking the Israel National Trail. "This is an amazing area," one of them says, "but I wouldn't live here, so close to the border."

From afar, the new houses of Ma'ayan Baruch are gleaming white. Established in 1947, the kibbutz has recently built a new neighborhood that has "brought new life to the community, in addition to the economic contribution," says Arnon Hamal, Ma'ayan Baruch's project manager.

The real estate boom on the kibbutz's outskirts has infused new hope into Mayan Baruch, which like most kibbutzim suffered an economic and social crisis since the mid '80s. Many of the newcomers are from other kibbutzim and townships in the region, while others hail from all over the country.

"The war was another security ordeal, the kind we go through every few years since we've founded the place. The community is strong and close-knit, and has withstood hard times since the state's establishment," says Hamal.