Former Gaza Settlers Seek to Join the Kibbutz Movement

The families, most of whom were evicted from Atzmona and Kfar Darom say they 'do not hold a grudge' against the movement for supporting the disengagement.

Some 110 families evacuated from Gaza settlements during the 2005 disengagement are now seeking to join the kibbutz movement - even though it is largely affiliated with the left and supported the disengagement.

Kibbutz Shomriya- Alberto Denkberg
Archive: Alberto Denkberg

The families, most of whom were evicted from Atzmona and Kfar Darom, now live on Kibbutz Shomriya in the northern Negev. They already maintain a collective lifestyle, similar to that on Atzmona, which was a cooperative moshav: Salaries are not equal, but the means of production are held in common and all residents belong to the cooperative association that runs the town. The model is also used on many kibbutzim.

The idea of applying to join the kibbutz movement arose after a recent tour of Shomriya by senior movement officials, including movement secretary Ze'ev Shor - who said he very much liked what he saw.

Originally set up by the army, Shomriya became a civilian kibbutz in 1985 and joined the Kibbutz Artzi movement, affiliated with the left-wing Hashomer Hatza'ir. But it never developed either a strong economy or a large population, and by 2005, it was down to 23 members.

That was when the Disengagement Administration made them an offer: Leave the kibbutz, in exchange for compensation, so it could be turned over to some of the Gaza evacuees. The residents agreed, and the former settlers moved in.

The evacuees inherited everything: houses, agricultural enterprises, and also the kibbutz's debts. Nevertheless, the new Shomriya soon began to blossom: More families arrived in the following years, and the kibbutz now wants to expand even further.

But though it kept the name Shomriya, it was not officially affiliated with any cooperative movement. Now, it wants to rectify this omission.

Shomriya's secretary, Zevulun Kalfa, sees nothing strange in this request.

"Shomriya belonged to the kibbutz movement in the past, and now we just want to renew the connection. What unites us is our common denominator: The kibbutz movement is a movement of settlement and agriculture, and it seemed right to us to be together with them in the far from simple situation in which both settlement and agriculture find themselves in Israel today."

Kalfa said he doesn't see politics as a barrier, because "all kibbutz members no longer think in the same way."

As for the movement's support of the disengagement, "there's no point in holding a grudge," he said. "Life has to go on - and we're interested in cooperating."