Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An extraordinary Friday night dinner on Kibbutz Adamit

From the archives! This was the original Dining Room
Adamit’s first dining room was a simple building at the entrance to the kibbutz. When you got of the bus, there it was. When Marc and I arrived in 1976, plans for the new building were already in the works. When construction was complete, we had a dining complex more beautiful than any of us could have dreamed of.

The kitchen itself was fitted with the latest institutional sized refrigeration rooms, convection oven and fryer. Large steam pots for preparing soups, a machine for pealing kilos of potatoes, and another for cutting them into chips. We had a Mixmaster, large enough, to prepare cake batters, or to whip mashed potatoes for 200 people. But most importantly — the new dining room had a state of the art automatic dishwasher. Shiny new pots and pans, knives and mixing bowls lined the shelves and new dishware filled stainless steal wagons.

A picture of the new Dining Hall.

As you walked into the impressive building then, a solarium greeted you, planted with flowering plants. To your right, was a wall of mailboxes where we all received our daily Mail. To the left was the entrance to the expansive and impressive dining hall, arched windows on both sides, which was the centre of our communal life.

We had our meals here, and celebrated holidays here. Every evening, work for the next day was assigned here. It was the heart and soul of our — and every kibbutz. And it was a magnificent piece of architecture. It was also a place we all took turns looking after. Everyone at one time or another had washed the dining room floor, taken a turn running the dishwasher, wiped down the tables, set them for holiday meals, decorated the walls, and even cleaned the washrooms. The heartbeat of our community pulsed here.

So it was again — as if time stood still, when a group of about 20 of us assembled on Friday morning, to brush off the cobwebs so to speak and set up the dining room for our Friday night reunion dinner.

There have been many changes on Adamit, and for that matter on most of the kibbutz collectives in Israel. Most dining rooms have been closed, and lay dormant. Explaining why and when it all happened is much too complicated. Just take my word for it. It happened. This magnificent building, once so vibrant, sits empty most of the time. It still has its uses, but they are few and far between.

When we arrived, David was sweeping the front steps, Dan was unclogging the drain in the bathroom area, Joe was moving chairs, Tali and Isabel were bringing in supplies, Naftali and Gali were deciding on the floor plan of the tables to best accommodate the number of people attending. Within minutes, we joined the group, each of us figuring out what needed to be done and getting to it. Within a few hours, the entire place had been transformed. Floors glistening, tables covered in festive table cloths, the stage in place for the evening’s entertainment, flowers cut for centre pieces, napkins and silverware in place, and areas designated for food, hot and cold drinks and dessert.

At 7:00 that evening, the magic began. The parking lot filled with cars arriving from near and far. Before long the dining room was filled to capacity. Approximately 150 old friends in one long embrace, from wall to wall. The energy in the room was electrifying.

But the evening was not just hugs catching up and food. There was of course entertainment. Isy took the stage as the master of ceremonies. All the usual suspects took their turns, making us laugh and making us cry. In between musical acts and skits, Isy and Mayer retold stories of yesteryear that had us all in stitches.

photo by Steve Goldman

It was after midnight by the time we, Adamit members, past and present, cleared tables, packaged up leftovers, and said our farewells.

If we look at this experience from the point of an archeologist — uncovering an ancient civilization — everything I have described thus far, is only the top layer of dust. When you dig deeper and understand the hierarchy, structure and interconnection between the 150 souls sitting in that room, the true depth of the experience is staggering. I don’t really have the tools to do this justice. I have tried to find the right words but they still elude me.

For lack of a better description, perhaps the facts speak for themselves.

For the 10-15 years that most of us in that room shared this piece of land with each other, we, (children ourselves) built a community. We did army service, planted, grafted, sprayed and picked apples, pears, plums, peaches citrus fruit, avocados and cotton. We caged chickens for market, sewed t-shirts for sale, mended, laundered, and cooked. We got married, had children and raised them. We built houses for ourselves and for our children, installed central heat, fixed tractors, unplugged sewers and tended gardens. We sat up nights arguing about our socialist ideals. We danced and we sang together. We hurt and cried together. We fought and didn’t always get along with each other. We broke many of the ten commandments in the process, but came out the other end, adults — so much richer than when we started. For everyone in that room, those years were among the most significant in our lives.

We share that bond. Period.

Our reunion lasted six days and six nights officially. If you take all of the emotion I have tried to describe in this and the last post and spread that over six days and nights, in a restaurant here, someone’s living room there, the kibbutz dining room one night, the kibbutz club house the next, you can start to imagine the depth of the experience.

As I was saying my final goodbyes in the kibbutz clubhouse on Saturday night, Tzaffe, a present and long time kibbutz member (married to Yaffa who has been a part of Adamit in one way or another almost from the beginning), came up to me, gave me a deep hug, and said “Thank you!” I was confused and looked at him and said “But why are you thanking me? I should be thanking you for letting us have our reunion in your home.” He smiled, waited a moment and said quietly, “All of you built this. We will keep it alive”. My throat tightened, and my eyes filled with tears. All I could do was smile back at him. Any attempt to speak, and I would have lost all composure.

The truth is that the biggest thanks goes to Sara for coming up with this amazing idea and to Sue for agreeing to help her make this a reality. And to Tali and Isabel and all of the current members of Kibbutz Adamit for welcoming us all back into their home for the experience of a lifetime. Yet another experience we can add to the endless significant moments that we have shared together.

Happy 40th Adamit … Forever in our hearts.


  1. Wow (or as anyone familiar with an Israeli phone company's tv ads would say "wow wow wee wah")
    An incredible experience just to read this, never mind live it. I defy anyone reading this to not be a little envious of the life you all lived on Adamit and the bonds that you developed. I visited Adamit many times - and can see it and feel it in this post. Thanks for sharing such a beautifully written description of your reunion.

  2. Joel and I only lived at Adamit for 6 months but I spent time just about every one of those days working in the kitchen (the new one) you so beautifully describe. I even still have a faint burn scar on my arm from that convection oven. I remember it all so vividly. When we got to Adamit in the first days of 1983, we had been more or less hanging out together for a year. When we left in July 1983, we were officially engaged and moving to Boston. Adamit holds a special place in our hearts -- I can only imagine the love you have for the place after spending years and years there. I'd love to see more photos. Your painting that was in your previous post truly brought me back almost 30 years. Thanks Naomi!

  3. Naomi, I am so enjoying reading your blog. Your descriptions are wonderful and I can only imagine what you felt over the reunion few days! Keep enjoying it all!

  4. I remember this dining room, i was a volunteer here in the early 90s, what a great place it was, so many memories

  5. I was a member of Adamit in 1971-1972. I remember the old dining hall very well. Have never seen the new one.

  6. was a great time as a mid naviem there.. 86/87.. sad 2 c its not an available option any more..

  7. was a great time as a mid naviem there.. 86/87.. sad 2 c its not an available option any more..