cover image Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel

Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel

David Leach. ECW (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $17.95 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-1-77041-340-5

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. Agent: Sam Hiyate, Rights Factory. (Sept.)