Good Memories, Not Bad, Emerge From Kibbutz Children's Rooms

Those who were born in a kibbutz and slept in "joint quarters" remember what happens when they tell people about their past. Suddenly, the kibbutz native receives a look of sympathy and understanding as if the past had to be painful.

Movies, exhibitions, articles and books in recent years have presented this system, which had children of the same age sleeping in the same room and not in their parents' homes, as cruel and insensitive and something that scarred the children for life.

But Ruti Barkan, 66, of Kibbutz Afikim, considers her childhood and teen years in joint quarters a positive experience. "We emerged with a great many values from the joint living experience. We learned the value of work and responsibility. It reflected the spirit of the times, and the conditions were not suitable for living with our parents. What did they have? A single room? Back then, there was nothing."

Dr. Alon Pauker, a researcher at Yad Ya'ari, describes the negative view of the unique kibbutz educational system (which ended about 15 years ago) as "a pathetic attitude toward the history of kibbutz education."

It's not about utopia, he says, but he rejects the idea that living in joint quarters was a bad or harmful thing. "It was appropriate for its time and many remember it positively," he says.