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Important! We take volonteers only from age 23 on and only if you stay at least half a year!
Statement: Georg, Volunteer on Samar 2012
I came to Samar in search of the most communist place on earth. Communism I understand to be the paradigm of taking from each according to their ability and giving to each according to their needs. If Samar isn’t that place, it certainly comes close.
To realize the precept of taking from each according to their ability, members are under no formal obligation to work, and are free to do whatever they feel able to do. While there is, of course, an informal expectation to contribute in one of the kibbutz’s branches or by taking paid work in the labor market outside, I think that Samar’s approach is a distinctive step towards realizing the principle, as compared to the situation of most people in today’s developed nations. Members of Samar can train for and alternate between various occupations, independent of age, and without the fear of unemployment that is increasingly widespread in contemporary societies. Also, people put considerable weight on a non-hierarchic and sociable working climate. That makes each person's contribution to the community a satisfying experience, and, in some cases at least, a fun way to socialize, much better than anything else. For example, packaging dates is hard work, but it's an activity that pretty much nobody likes to miss.
In order to realize the precept of giving to each according to their needs, all the kibbutz’s revenues are pooled in a communal bank account. Daily necessities for all are provided for out of these funds: There’s lunch and dinner every day, and the food supply areas are open to everyone at every time, as are an extensive stock of hygiene and cleaning products. Children can go to day care, kindergarten and youth clubs on the kibbutz, and the local elementary through high school is a short bus ride away. The kibbutz also has sports facilities, a library, laundry service, shared cars, and many more facilities. For other expenditures, kibbutz member families are free to access the communal account directly via credit cards. While there is an informal expectation that people will not make excessive demands on the budget, this scheme helps provide a materially comfortable life, up to Western standards, for members and their families, irrespective of whether they work in the cowshed or manage the kibbutz finances.
One may perhaps be inclined to think that sustaining such a system for 40 years is only possible in a community of committed leftists. It is among the things that surprised me most about Samar--that its members are not particularly interested in political theory. The decision to live on Samar is not made for political idealism, but because of the distinctive quality of life that its communist structure makes possible.
And while the economic data are impressive in their own right, there is much more to life on Samar. To begin with, the collective organization and the proximity of the various facilities largely free the residents of the need for shopping and commuting, and also relieve them of some household chores. In comparison to people in ordinary Western societies, residents of Samar thus have countless hours of free time for doing whatever matters to them. Together with the absence of financial worries, this provides a secure footing for freely developing one’s talents, pursuing various projects (from inventing hydraulic machinery to composing symphonies--a bit of everything has been done on Samar), or for living a rather ordinary life, with much less stress than is typical of the world outside. No matter what their preferences, people on Samar tend to be very good-humored and easygoing, making for a generally laid-back spirit throughout the kibbutz. Along with the egalitarian economic system, this mindset gives Samar a unique ethos, in which respect for the individual is practiced in a meaningful, broadminded and highly appealing way.
Having said that, it seems that the closeness brought about by this rather isolated setting in the middle of the desert, and by the cooperative lifestyle, can be quite strenuous to some permanent residents. Sadly, a mode of living together without friction or shortcomings is yet to be found.
As concerns my quest for communism, Samar’s economic structure confirms its existence. But what convinced me of its vitality and broader social appeal is Samar’s life quality and the absence of ideological zeal among the residents. If communism is to have any future in society, it must be attractive and workable for people who are not committed communists. Samar’s existence shows us that this is not as utopian as it may sound.