My family and I had tried living on a small kibbutz in the south of Israel some ten years ago, but following two years on the ground, and despite its many attractions we packed up and left.
Living on the kibbutz felt too contrived, limiting and lacking the multiculturalism and diversity we so appreciate being part of on a daily basis in Jerusalem.
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Yet, we have kept fond memories of our kibbutz experience. In a sense, we have hung on the spirit of collective and collaborative living we longed to create for ourselves and get to manifest it during our summer holidays.
Every summer we pack a suitcase and fly to our own little family kibbutz on a Greek island in the Saronic Gulf. There we join my parents, brother‘s and sister‘s families and live in proximity, in a kibbutz-like, co-operative atmosphere during our holidays.
Over the years, our family kibbutz has expanded and now more family members and friends have started joining the community of sorts. A cousin from Athens and a cousin from London and their families, as well as friends from Athens keep coming back, learning year by year how to be part of our cooperation hub.
It takes a village to raise a child, and among us we have nine children. Two grandparents, my mum Elda who spent her holidays as a kid on the island is with us throughout our stay and my dad Iacovos who comes and goes back to Athens.
Our daily schedule resembles that of the Jewish summer camp of Thessaloniki. My sister, brother and I, as well as my husband and brother‘s wife are all graduates of the camp. Our daughters and nieces attend the camp each year so its program runs in all of our veins.
In the morning after breakfast and cooking we go to the sea, a five minute walk from where we live. When the weather allows it, one or two adults take three of the children on a zodiac to an even more exotic swimming spot that can be reached only by boat.
Siesta is past lunch from 3pm to 5:30pm and at about 6pm the evening program begins: another dip in the sea, a bicycle trip, an excursion to a village, in short some sort of outdoor activity in nature.
At about 9pm, past dinner, we gather again for the entertainment bit of the day. At times it involves a game of thieves and policemen for the kids, or a film, concert or art exhibit in town often in groups of shared interests.
What‘s most important though, is not what we do, but how we do it. We manage to all be happy, stay balanced and not exhaust ourselves and each other. In a sense we are living in synergy, producing a combined effect greater than the sum of our parts.
Cooperation is the name of the game.
We cooperate with each other, bringing our respective strengths and available resources to the fore.
Bicycle trips, walks and excursions on land are under my responsibility. My brother is in charge of the excursions by boat and the film screening nights. My mum is the associated press when it comes to concerts, and cultural events offered on the island, recommends special events and buys tickets for those who wish to join.
My sister, mum and myself do most of the cooking. My sister‘s French husband drives us to places, but also cooks French delicacies on special events. This year he brought an excellent gift to the family kibbutz, a light that changes colors that can be programmed. This has added so much color to our nights and the Friday night dancing shows led by the girls.
My brother and his wife take the kids out to tavernas from time to time. My brother‘s wife a professional jeweler in Athens also brings materials with which the girls experiment making their own jewelry and helps out my husband and sister in organizing the kitchen past communal meals. My husband plays the guitar and sings and entertains us at night. The kids help out with the cleaning, tidying up, and setting the table…and every Friday night throw a dancing show, where all of them take part.
Wouldn‘t this be sufficient? Dayenu?
The neighbors are joining us for dinner tonight. They have two boys, and their family has also become part of the family kibbutz. Their boys join our gang every other night, playing outdoors past dinner, the sort of games that children rarely play nowadays: Thieves and policemen, which involves being in groups where the policemen search for the thieves.
And while the children have the time of their lives looking to find each other with torches under the starry night, the adults enjoy a good conversation discussing reality from the perspectives of Athenians, Parisians, Londoners and Jerusalemites with a cold beer or raki at hand and some cold watermelon to keep us refreshed.
I love the abundance created when we each bring something to the table!
On Friday nights we have communal Kabbalat Shabbat dinners. One brings dessert, the other the salads, someone else the drinks, and the main dish is handled in parts. Tonight our Christian neighbors will be joining us and will be bringing the side dishes; baked potatoes and rice. And with the work load being shared and co-managed, we each enjoy the experience so much more!
We recently discovered that he boys‘ father loves singing and he and my husband make a great singing duo. After their warm up we all join in song, singing from Greek to English to Hebrew. We throw some Ladino words in during the course of the night, to remember our matriarch Yvette and a few words of Yiddish here and there to also honor the other side of the family.
This mix of people from London, Paris, Jerusalem and Athens, a blend of Jews and Christians is our little kibbutz on the island. We cherish it and come back each year to enjoy our holiday, in our co-created, synergistic paradise. Each year, we further hone our cooperation skills serving us and our respective home communities well; our small family gift of what is possible when cooperation is at work.
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