Back in the Kibbutz, the Best Years of My Life: A Photo Essay

Canadian photographer Joel Kantor lived on a kibbutz from 1976 to 1987. In a series of photos, presenting the intimate perspective of a new member, he describes daily life on the kibbutz before it changed

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Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Daniel Tchetchik
Joel Kantor

I arrived in Israel as a Canadian student after a trip through Europe. Before I left home one of my uncles gave me a piece of paper on which "Kibbutz Kfar Menahem" was written. When I arrived, I met the Carmon family who received me, and mainly their son Shlomo. They made me feel at home from the start.

I came from a typical North American Jewish family, with all the accompanying pressure regarding social status and outward appearance, and the sense of freedom immediately penetrated me. I was charmed by the atmosphere of grass, trees and loving people.

After years of traveling between Canada and Israel, I found my place on the kibbutz. I had met very warm people, whom I returned to visit repeatedly, and in 1976 I made aliyah to Israel with my wife and our two children. I worked in the chicken runs and in agriculture, and in the end I found my place as a handyman. As a person with only one hand, and a law school graduate, I can say that this was an experience that I never could have had in Canada.

I planned my work in a way that would leave me time for photography, both on the kibbutz and in the country as a whole. Those were some of the best years of my life. The documentary photography enabled me to enter and leave a number of worlds, to formulate thoughts and to take a stand without being directed by those with vested interests.

Nowadays, when truth and fake news coexist everywhere, I believe that the statements in my work, for good and for ill, come from a protected, internal and genuine place.

The photos are on display in the exhibition "Night Guard: Historic Scenes from Kibbutz Kfar Menahem," which opened this week at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem. 

Blog editor: Daniel Tchetchik. From Exposure: Haaretz Photo Blog. Follow on Facebook

Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor
Joel Kantor
Credit: Joel Kantor