David Mittelberg Part II
"I believe that values don’t change, what changes are the value dilemmas we are confronted with and need to resolve.”
The narrative that was composed at Habonim was that Israel is the Jewish solution for the modern Jew, that you can be a Jew but don’t have to be religious. For me, the subject of Jewish identity was the reason that brought me to Israel, my universal values could be fulfilled anywhere in the world. I came here because I thought that a Kibbutz was a very special progressive 'ahead of the game' model of socialism, it was worth joining the Kibbutz for that and it was important to advance the security and vitality of the state of Israel after the holocaust.
Israel for me was in part a disappointment, I came to Israel because I was a Jew. When I came to Kibbutz Yizrael my universal values were completely realized, but the Jewish values were under serious challenge. In Israeli society, the question of being Jewish is a most contested, confronted, and divisive issue that Israelis have. Whereas Jews all around the world will try to look for a consensus, in Israel because of the politicization of the religious system and the power of the rabbinate the struggle for Jewishness was disappointing both on the side of the religious and the secular Jews, they both retreated into extremism, and the middle is very thin and narrow and every side of the extremes think that everyone should be just like them. I think both of them are wrong.
Today, I think that people who can make Aliya should make Aliya, I recognize that most people don’t do so. Even those who choose to come to Israel, especially from western countries and including graduates of Habonim Dror, after living in Israel, a significant proportion of them, if not a majority, choose to go back, at least they gave it a try.
9 years after making Aliyah and against the will of the Kibbutz, I became the world Mazkir of Habonim.
Becoming the World Mazkir of Habonim:
When I got back from Machon I took part in two big struggles, the defence of the State of Israel against the New Left on campus and the struggle to free Jewry of the Soviet Union. In Habonim, when I got back from Machon I was a Madrich and then Rosh chinuch. My best friend was the Mazkir and he went to Israel after the six days' war and then I was both Rosh Chinuch and Mazkir. In time I also served as Federal Mazkir, I was on the State Zionist youth council, all the Tafkidim. I was very, very active in the Australian Jewish community. I took part, as a youth delegate, in the world Zionist congress in 1968. I helped set up 'The Radical Zionist alliance' as a roof organization for all campus Jews on the center- left. We were able to engage with the left wing – non Zionist and anti-Zionist on the campus in defence of Israel. I was also involved in holocaust memorial.
When I came to the Kibbutz I left it all behind and accepted the fact that I was a" Poel", a worker and everything else was set aside. I believe that values don’t change, what changes are the value dilemmas we are confronted with and need to resolve. Then came the Yom Kippur war and some of my best kibbutz friends from Habonim were killed in that war. During that time, I was drafted as a Pa'il (activist) for World Habonim, as part of my army service, that is how I got to know World Habonim.
I was active in World Habonim as a Kibbutz member, the World Mazkir finished his term and World Habonim offered me to be the world Mazkir Habonim. The kibbutz was against it, they said I had been in Israel for only 7 years, and the kibbutz voted against it. I wanted to do it because of 'Din Hatnua' (The movement's commandment) but I also believed in the values of the kibbutz. So the movement went to va'adat Ir'u'rim (appeals committee) and they had agreed for me to be a World Mazkir for a year and a half.