This is a proud kibbutz, begun at the urging of David Ben Gurion in 1940, ostensibly for fishing but pragmatically for smuggling in then-illegal immigrant Jews. All membersí salaries go directly to the kibbutz which redistributes the income equally to all. The kibbutz provides housing; at Sdot Yam, triplex bungalows with tiny kitchens were the rule. (Many members have since enlarged their houses.) In the small-house days, children lived apart from their parents. This wasnít as draconian as it sounds: the entire kibbutz is a close-knit community. Today four generations met in the home Iím staying in.
Kibbutzniks do not own private cars; the kibbutz loans out communal cars when someone needs to drive somewhere. On the kibbutz, people ride bikes…or walk. The cars are equipped with credit card readings to track membersí usage. The kibbutz provides membersí cell phones, for in Israeli automobiles, mobile phones are carried in a charger/stand attached to the dashboard.
Schooling and healthcare are provided at no cost. Kids play freely in the green, shaded spaces between residences. A communal dining room provides tasty food. Eldercare is provided. The kibbutz maintains the membersí pension funds, so privatization is a scary prospect.
Sdot Yam manages a banana plantation, avocado trees, and a herd of dairy cattle. The big income producer is a factory that manufactures ďCaesar Stone,Ē a tile made of sand and polymers. Commerce is necessary, but I sense that what holds the kibbutz together is the spirit of sharing with others. The kibbutz is like an agricultural commune in the States, but with more formal rules. The family I stayed with were less harried than other people I met in Israel.
Location has something to do with this. Sdot Yam is on the Mediterranean coast.
The kibbutz sits at the limits of the ancient city of Caesarea, once the largest manmade harbor in the Mediterranean. Itís a great site: a short walk to the beach. The foundations of Herodís gigantic harbor are still visible, as are the mosaics and Corinthian columns of the Romans, the baths and storehouses of the Byzantines, the walls of the Crusadersí citadel, a minaret from the Muslim occupation, and the Beach Bar in Israelís resort on the shore of Herodís city. Each invading civilization did its best to destroy what had come before, yet all left significant reminders of its occupation.
Mazi, my host and a professor at Holon Institute, took me to see wonderful mosaics. These are outdoors, unprotected from the elements. Or your shoes — you can walk on them! We also toured an immense hypodrome, a Roman theater (still in use!), the Byzantine public baths, and more.
It is said that anywhere you put your shovel in the ground here, you’ll come upon antiquities. In fact, Roman marble columns are everywhere. If you’re getting in to this, you might want to visit my photos on Flickr.
Here’s Mazi, examining the mosaics.