Kibbutz Ga'ash

Fred in Israel
Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Talking to an Israeli dancer last night at Foz? and Max's party I was reminded of the time I spent in Israel - April-June 1970. I can't find any diary entries for it (there's a gap in my journals from 1970-72!) so this is from memory. My adventurous girlfriend at the time Maddy said she was going and did I want to come? Err, yes, I replied. I was working in a dead-end job, in the dark mostly at Taylor's photo lab in Rodboro Buildings, Guildford, and sharing a room with Gus at 7 Mill Lane, so I thought why not. The plan was to fly to Tel Aviv on a one-way ticket, stay for an indeterminate time, then somehow hitch home via Greece!

The flight cost about 34 quid. We stopped to refuel at Istanbul and arrived at Tel Aviv early in the morning. After much traipsing round the suburbs we found an agency and were sent to Kibbutz Ga'ash, near Netaniya, on the coast. We were put into the wooden huts previously occupied by the settlers, who'd moved on to brick-built bungalows. It was all very informal - our jobs for the day were posted up outside the post office and we ate with the other volunteers in the communal dining room. Contact with the kibbutzniks was minimal. My main job was in a small factory making sheet metal fluorescent light fittings; Mad mainly looked after the chickens. Every so often we had to join in the harvest, potato picking for example, which was relentless back-breaking work - you had to gather the tractor-exposed spuds in buckets before they were covered over by the next furrow! The factory was more cushy, with regular coffee breaks! We were paid at the Post Office - a few Israeli pounds, 100 Nadiv untipped cigarettes a week (with tobacco so dry that if you tapped a ciggy it would all fall out), a small tin of coffee, and toothpaste if we needed it. We could take what clothes we needed from the laundry. Every blue moon there'd be a film show in the dining room, or the next kibbutz and if you were lucky you'd get a lift in a tractor.

We were close to a lovely unspoilt beach, under cliffs, and as it got too hot in the afternoons to work, we spent some time there. There were barbecues that involved killing chickens! We also went on several excursions - the Kibbutz was very relaxed about us going off on jaunts, mainly I think because the settlers were from South America with a mañana attitude. Hitching was easy and common, although any soldiers waiting in lay-bys got priority lifts. We went to Jerusalem (making a point of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane on the advice of an Al Stewart song), Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Hebron (a lift in an army half-track), north to Caesaria (where the beach was littered with Roman tesserae), Haifa, Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, south across the Negev desert to the hell-hole (then) of Eilat, the hottest place I've ever experienced. We slept on the beach, where mad locals would drive their jeeps all night. The coolest place to be was in the Red Sea. We couldn't get out of there because it was a long national holiday! We stayed mainly in segregated youth hostels or cheap hotels. The only place we didn't get to see was the Dead Sea.

It was at Ga'ash that I heard (from the man in the post office) that the Beatles had split up and that Johnny Hodges had died. It was a great place to hide away - in fact I'm sure one of the volunteers was an international criminal cat burgler - a big black car would arrive and whisk him off to Tel Aviv night spots. The food was good, although there was not much in the way of booze. The Shabbat wine was weak, sweet and full of flies - we used tea strainers to filter them out. But there were always plenty of oranges. After a while we wanted to get home, but had no money. We needed dollars to buy air tickets. I wrote to Gus for him to send some cash in an envelope but he did something through a bank and that came to nothing. Maddy rather foolishly sold some blood! We'd gone off the hitching through Europe idea. In the end, a new volunteer from the USA kindly cashed our Israeli money into hard currency and we got home. Back at Gatwick we were surprised to be able to change our remaining Israeli cash into proper money, and got the train back to Guildford.

On leaving the kibbutz we were each given a book (by the man at the post office) with a sweet inscription, as shown below.


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