Children of the Kibbutz

In her memoir We Were the Future, Yael Neeman describes her childhood in Kibbutz Yehiam in the 1960s and 70s, when children lived separately from their parents in what was called the “children’s house,” and the hope of a socialist future still had purchase. Rachel Biale, herself a product of such an upbringing, points out what the book successfully captures, and where it fails:

At their inception, the children’s house and collective education were to shape a new kind of emotionally healthy person unfettered by the crippling bonds of the traditional or bourgeois Jewish family. Over the last two decades or so, a cultural backlash has set in among some of those raised in children’s houses. In a small avalanche of art and writing, both memoir and fiction, graduates of the utopian educational system opened up a public reckoning with an upbringing they often depicted as traumatic. Yael Neeman’s We Were the Future is one of the very few of these testimonies to appear in English. As such, it offers a window into a vigorous debate taking place in Israel over an important chapter in Zionist history. . . .

Neeman’s book chronicles, in meandering yet at times beautifully evocative prose her life from kibbutz childhood to young adulthood. After her army service and another year of work on the kibbutz, she left, disillusioned with the collective’s promise and disappointed in herself. . . .

As a product of this collective education [system] myself, I found much of Neeman’s account of childhood on the kibbutz vivid and authentic. . . . Adopting the narrative voice of young children, almost always using “we,” rather than “I,” allows Neeman to capture this collective identity. “We were so close to each other, all day and all night,” she writes. “Yet we knew nothing of ourselves.” This is deeply sad and it rings true of at least some kibbutz children. . . .

[Yet] Neeman’s decision to write from a child’s perspective in the first-person plural also has significant drawbacks. One often wonders whether she is truly capturing the collective consciousness of her children’s house in the 1960s or reading later attitudes into it.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Kibbutz movement

 

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security