Two Warring Sister Kibbutzim Mend Fences

Six decades after acrimonious split, Givat Haim Meuchad and Givat Haim Ihud to share a community director.

One night in January 1952, a reporter for the now-defunct newspaper Davar who went by the name of Nitzotz (Spark ) visited Kibbutz Givat Haim in the Sharon region. "Charm and tenderness infuse this kibbutz," the reporter wrote. "Givat Haim throbs with life and creativity." Later in the article he mentions the kibbutz's prosperous Prigat factory, producing fruit juice and canned fruits and vegetables, and the expansion of various branches of agriculture.

But foreboding signs were already in the air then, "Spark" wrote: "Visitors will be happy to see the development here, but at the same time will despair because of what is happening in this pioneering settlement, which has reached its 20th year only to fall victim to the curse of separation ... One's heart rejoices in seeing familiar faces, but a hidden tear falls when seeing the separation of friend from friend, even father from son. Will it truly be impossible to prevent this decree?"

Well, it was indeed impossible. Later that year, because of the ideological split in the entire kibbutz movement, Givat Haim also split in two: Givat Haim Meuchad became affiliated with the Mapam-affiliated Hakibbutz Hameuchad, and Givat Haim Ihud was built nearby and joined the Mapai-affiliated Union of Kvutzot and Kibbutzim.

Today the two kibbutzim, located on either side of Route 581, are both large and financially secure. Only a road has divided them all these years. Fortunately, they were wise enough to maintain their economic partnership in the Prigat concern. Beyond this, there has been virtually no cooperation. Even today, 60 years later, the wound between them is still unhealed.

Says Tamar Lang-Raz, an Ihud member for more than 30 years, "There are people here who say they can't stand the of smell anyone from the Meuchad kibbutz. Some are still carrying around the trauma. There was a huge fight here; families split apart and that left a deep mark."

However, for her part, her mother-in-law, Mirele Raz, who served as general secretary of Ihud 45 years ago, says, "the trauma is receding, disappearing and being forgotten. The years pass and one gets used to things."

It's hard to understand the ideological passions that led members of Givat Haim and other kibbutzim in the early 1950s into such a deep abyss of hatred, which separated even members of the same family and couples. Indeed, while much of this may seem rather esoteric to us, such disputes were taken with utmost seriousness in those days.

In the first three years of its existence, Israel was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, but David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, gradually began to side with the West. The question of which side of the Cold War Israel should choose created fissures in the kibbutz movement. Dining halls became segregated according to members' politics, and a few kibbutzim even made Marxist members leave. The disillusionment with the USSR set in particularly after the 1952 Prague Trials, in which an envoy of Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz movement was tried.

Therefore, it is no small thing that the two kibbutzim are now sharing a single community director (in the past, the position was called "kibbutz secretary" ): Last week, Eyal Nissan, who has served in that capacity at Givat Haim Ihud since 2008, was chosen to fill the same position also at Givat Haim Meuchad.

The appointment of a single community director for two kibbutzim is a fairly common practice given current economic realities, especially at privatized kibbutzim. But, according to a member of Givat Haim Meuchad, "the appointment of the same person as community director here and at the Ihud is not trivial in the least. I feel that, in some sense, the split was an event that is still alive and present on both kibbutzim. It's still with us."

According to her, "Before the appointment ... there were concerns. People were asking if there were going to be conflicts of interest. Obviously, such a question wouldn't have come up had he been serving in that role on one kibbutz."

Nevertheless, some people think that the shared post could pave the way to other joint ventures, perhaps in the fields of education and culture. So far, the two kibbutzim have shared their manufacturing plant, but now people are already thinking about capitalizing further on the proximity of the two kibbutzim.

"Why, for example, shouldn't we have a joint after-school program for children?" asked the interlocutor from Givat Haim Meuchad.

For her part Lang-Raz from Givat Haim Ihud says that "the fact that the community director will fill the same function at both kibbutzim makes sense. Beyond the tasks he has at the kibbutz, any activities that would promote cooperation and togetherness would be a wonderful thing."

The traffic circle recently constructed at the intersection separating the two kibbutzim may perhaps symbolize the growing closeness more than anything: If, until now, pedestrians walking from one kibbutz to the other were at risk of being run over, now the crossing from Ihud to Meuchad has become much safer.

Kibbutz Givat Haim Ihud.
Hagai Frid