September 22, 2019

Israeli kibbutz can ‘feel the Bern’ of forgotten volunteer Sanders

An Israeli kibbutz is taking considerable pride in a former volunteer, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, even though no one on the communal farm can quite remember him.

In 1990 Sanders, then running for Congress, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper he had volunteered for several months as a young man at Kibbutz Shaar Haamakim, a community with deep socialist roots on the edge of the Biblical Jezreel Valley in northern Israel.

Sanders, 74, has mentioned in the past that he once worked on a kibbutz, but its name remained a mystery until Haaretz republished its interview with him earlier this month.

There are no records at Shaar Haamakim of Sanders' stint in 1963 and none of its veteran members can say for sure they ever met him.

That hasn't stopped journalists from streaming into the community to try to dig for details about Sanders' experience at the kibbutz, where the Brooklyn-born Vermont senator, who is Jewish, is now the talk of the farm.

“The fact that Bernie Sanders' name was linked with Kibbutz Shaar Haamakim is a big honor for the kibbutz,” said its chairman Yair Merom. 

“The values that Bernie Sanders speaks about and his ideology in the presidential race – the modern social democratic values – are incredibly compatible with Kibbutz Shaar Haamakim.”

Kibbutz elder Albert Ely, 79, told Reuters he couldn't put a face to the name but he remembered that “an American called Bernard” had once been a volunteer.

“Everybody mentions it. Now that the election campaign began, there is great happiness in the entire kibbutz,” said Gilad Hershkikovich, who tends to its cows.

“I'm sure he had a good time here.”