'I Felt I Had Come Home'

Filmed interview with actor who attended legendary kibbutz school is one of 115 that have been rescued from obscurity.

The Shomriya, the legendary school of the Kibbutz Artzi movement, stands in the center of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek like a crumbling memorial to an era of fascinating educational experimentation, of big dreams and total dedication.

Actor Shlomo Bar-Shavit recalls his time there as one of "great joy. When I came here, I felt I had come home," he said.

Yehuda Talmi and Yehuda Moshkovitz

The hour-long filmed interview with Bar-Shavit, in which he speaks of his happiness and his difficulties at the school, is one of 115 interviews with Shomriya alumni that until recently were housed in a neglected storeroom at Herzliya Studios.

Kibbutz members and employees of Yad Yaari, the research and documentation center of the Kibbutz Artzi Federation and the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, had feared that the precious videotapes were lost forever, but after many requests they were recently handed over to the archive.

The collection is an "inexhaustible resource for anyone studying the early days of communal education," said Yad Yaari director David Amitai. As a primary historical source, it is "a very important contribution," he said.

The documentary project was initiated about 13 years ago by Miriam Spielman, a Shomriya alumna and the daughter of Herzliya Studios founder Margot Klausner. Spielman, together with fellow alumnus Zvi Gera, sought to interview every graduate from the school's early years.

Yehuda Talmi and Yehuda Moshkovitz, members of Mishmar Ha'emek's media crew, boast of archival footage of the kibbutz from as early as 1939. The Shomriya project's first documentarist was Mordechai Bentov, who went on to serve as housing minister and as minister of development.

"They felt they were making history, so they recorded and preserved everything, and they turned out to be right," Talmi said.

He said the interviewees spoke about their personal experiences, "adding to the overall picture" of the kibbutz movement captured in the archives.

"It represents a very rare documentation of personal matters," said Talmi. "These are people who belonged to a period of dedication" to the collective and did not express intimacy, "and here we find a kind of exposure that cannot be found anywhere else."

Not everyone, apparently, was eager to reveal themselves to the cameras.

Spielman used to complain that "everyone's terribly busy these days," Talmi recalled. "They've turned into 'princes' and you have to chase them down."