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Urban Kibbutz Living

Alix Gould-Werth, senior
History, Sociology & Anthropology
Madison, Wis.

"This past summer, I traveled to Israel to do research for my senior thesis in Sociology/Anthropology. Supported by a Summer Social Science Research Grant, I studied the new phenomenon of the "urban kibbutz" in Israel. A kibbutz is a socialistic farming community in Israel, and kibbutzim have been an important piece of the Israeli social and political landscape since Israel's founding.

"In the past two decades, however, the kibbutz movement has lost strength, form, and members. However, there is a small movement of individuals versed in the story of the traditional kibbutz who are forming small communal groups and living in cities, doing social justice work. I studied the interplay of the legacy and experience of the kibbutz with the modern circumstances that these individuals encounter.

"There were so many moments during my time in Israel - eating pastries in an Arab village, going to the beach in Tel Aviv, visiting the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron, studying Torah with new-agey Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn, sitting on the roof of an apartment in Tel Aviv at night with a recent Swat alum, apple nargilah, and mint tea - when I thought, 'This is NOT what Swarthmore is paying for me to do in Israel.'

"But the truth is, it was. Every aspect of my time abroad filled in the context of my research, and when I reflected, a lot of it concretely related to my thesis. It was extremely important that I made accomplishing my formal research objectives a priority, but had I only interviewed and read books, my research would have meant so much less, both academically and personally."