A fascinating, non-partisan exploration of an incendiary region
Say the word “Israel” today and it sparks images of walls and rockets and a bloody conflict without end. Yet for decades, the symbol of the Jewish State was the noble pioneer draining the swamps and making the deserts bloom: the legendary kibbutznik. So what ever happened to the pioneers’ dream of founding a socialist utopia in the land called Palestine?
Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel draws readers into the quest for answers to the defining political conflict of our era. Acclaimed author David Leach revisits his raucous memories of life as a kibbutz volunteer and returns to meet a new generation of Jewish and Arab citizens struggling to forge a better future together. Crisscrossing the nation, Leach chronicles the controversial decline of Israel’s kibbutz movement and witnesses a renaissance of the original vision for a peaceable utopia in unexpected corners of the Promised Land. Chasing Utopia is an entertaining and enlightening portrait of a divided nation where hope persists against the odds.
This "investigative travel memoir" from Canadian journalist Leach (Fatal Tide) provides an informative history of the Israeli kibbutzim, socialist farms where generations of young volunteers have lived and worked communally, and examines prospects for the movement's future. In 1988, as young non-Jewish man, Leach spent eight eventful months in Kibbutz Shamir in the midst of the movement's decline and restructuring phase and the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. In 2009, he returned to find the kibbutz's vision shattered agriculture had been discarded and replaced by technology-based industries, shared property was privatized, and laborers had been hired. Over the course of three extended research trips in five years, Leach like other eminent former kibbutz volunteers, such as Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders struggles to reconcile his utopian philosophy with the realities of a politically divided state. The book is laced with interviews with Jewish and Palestinian activists. Leach hopes that their "new experiments in radical sharing, coexistence and moral dissent will take root, grow broad and strong as the kibbutz once did," but many Israelis who see the kibbutz ideology as dead or dying would deem Leach's hope misplaced and perhaps hopelessly utopian.