A Trip to Another Land

The late 1960's were interesting times in the United States. The war in Vietnam had polarized the nation, and the hippie movement had turned it on it's ear. I was caught up by the times I lived in and the feeling that I could do anything if I wanted to. I decided to spend the summer in between my first and second year of high school hitch hiking around the country. I wanted to see what I could see. My folks, who were a bit more cautious than I, didn't think it was such a good idea. They had already figured out that if they just told me no, I'd do it anyway, so they resorted to guile. They bribed me.

They offered me that chance to go to Israel and live (and work) on a Kibbutz for the summer. I figured that I could always hitch hike cross country, but they might not offer the trip again, so I took them up on the offer.

So, off I went. I missed Woodstock. I watched the astronauts walk on the moon on the only TV in the Kibbutz. Everyone in the entire place was crowded around that TV. The wonder in the air was so strong you could cut it with a knife. It is only hindsight that makes me realize how wonderful that event was. At the time it seemed pretty interesting, but just one of those things that was happening at the time. We Americans were creating wonders, and I took them for granted. Now, having more experience and perspective I too am amazed at those wonders.

The trip was hard in some ways. The kibbutz I was on had never had Americans before. The way of life was very different from what I was used to. Both the kibutzniks and we Americans learned a lot. We, who cherished our individual status so dearly, felt stifled by the cohesiveness of the kids we stayed with.

They did everything together. If more than one of them stayed in one place for any amount of time, the rest would end up gathering around them. It was almost impossible to have a private moment in a public area. As we were included in the group, however tentatively, this tendency was extended to us. It was hard to get away.

They in turn were shocked by our inability to share in the emotions of the group. We never truly understood each other, I think, but we learned from each other. It was a very important awakening for me. I saw just how different people can be, even though we look the same. The things we took for granted were different. The way we saw the world was different. This was the first time that it was truly brought home to me that my way of life was only one of the possible ways of living. My world view and theirs were truly different, and neither one was more right than the other. This awakening was to be reinforced strongly during the next part of the trip.

After a time working on the kibbutz, we rejoined our tour group for a weeks whirlwind tour of the holy land. Just as people are different, each kibbutz was different, and everyone had a different story to tell. During that tour, I got a chance to see, by example, just how self-absorbed and parochial some Americans could be. The blind assumption that the way we did things was the right way or the only way was challenged again and again. It changed my entire perspective on life, a change that I carry with me now, and hope to keep forever.

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