Despite freezing conditions outside, the ruach (atmosphere) inside was warm when over 120 people came together in Belfast to celebrate the centenary of Israel’s kibbutz movement. Kibbutz experts Lydia Aisenberg and Aya Sagi from Israel explained the original ideals of the movement and what it is like to live on a Kibbutz today. Former Kibbutz volunteers living in Northern Ireland spoke very positively of their experiences – for example, Jim Black, who volunteered on Kibbutz Mishmar Ha-Emek as a young man in the 1970s, described the experience as life changing. The speeches were interspersed by Israeli folk songs spiritedly performed by Dubliner, Daniel Manor.
An exhibition of photographs explored the connections between Northern Ireland and the Kibbutz movement, showing Kibbutz pioneers training at the Millisle refugee farm during the War – many of whom were to make their home at Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee.
North Belfast Assembly member Alban Maginness, himself a former Kibbutz volunteer, gave the vote of thanks. Alban said his experience on Kibbutz was a formative influence on his political career. “As well as picking bananas and preparing chickens for market in nearby Hadera, I learnt a lot about social responsibility from my time on Kibbutz” he said.
NIFI co chair, Steven Jaffe, pointed out that over 1,600 people have attended NIFI events since our launch in March 2009.