Category: Business

Excerpt #2 From The Book ‘The Gardens’

December 3, 1970
Jerusalem, Israel

Mr. Sevi Yarkoni dropped the admission applications on his desk and wearily removed his glasses. Without thinking, his right hand came up and gently fingered the resolutely expanding bald spot on the back of his head. Queens Street was alive with cars, buses, and people during the late afternoon rush hour through the windows behind him. A slight pall of smoke filtered the indirect rays of the fading sun over the crowded streets of New Jerusalem.

Sevi was tired. No, more than just tired, he was emotionally and physically drained dry, and he knew it. He knew this was the price he was paying after years and years of hard, wrenching work in kibbutzim recruitment and development since he was a young man of eighteen years of age. Fueled by his family’s deep involvement in the Zionist movement since before the heyday of the 1948 war, Sevi Yarkoni had worked ceaselessly in establishing kibbutzim from one end of Israel to the other. He had personally been involved in the starting-up organization of no less than thirty kibbutzim over his career. And since the ’67 war, the pressure to build kibbutzim in the West Bank had run into the white-hot anger of the Palestinians already living there, ratcheting up the stress and danger for everybody. Now, twenty-nine years later and a victim of his own success, Sevi found himself thinking more and more about his family’s kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee and less about his work.

His back hurt. His head hurt. Even his eyes hurt. ‘Someone used my eyeballs for teabags,’ he thought to himself. ‘Again.’ With an effort, he returned his attention to the new recruits, two twenty-year-old Americans from the northwest part of their country seated patiently in front of him.

“So…” Yarkoni said to the Americans, “you have cleared the preliminary interviews and background screenings. You both deny criminal records and drug problems, and this is supported by the documents sent to us by the authorities where you come from. I will approve your applications for kibbutz placement, and I wanted to welcome you myself and fill you in on some final details. Either one of you familiar with Israel and the geography?”

The two recruits shook their heads no. Yarkoni turned and pointed absently at a large wall map that was dotted with numerous little colored flags. “These, gentle-man, are the kibbutzim, our collective farms. There are thirty-three of them all together in our own system alone, from the very northern border in the Upper Galilee all the way down to the Sinai desert. And new ones are being started even as we speak.”

He moved closer to the map, adjusting his glasses as he did so. “This is Mount Hermon,” he said, his finger circling a spot. “It is the northern-most boundary of Israeli-controlled territory. At Mount Hermon, the borders of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel all come together. We control this mountain currently, but it certainly is a disputed area. That did not stop us from putting in the only snow ski set up in all of Israel and the entire region.” Yarkoni stopped briefly, then continued, “Moving south of Mount Hermon is a long, narrow valley, the Huleh Valley, part of the Upper Galilee. It is a beautiful country; we have five kibbutzim in that area, in the west on the Lebanese border, and to the east near the Golan Heights. Then you come to Lake Tiberias, the Lower Galilee, and down to the Jerusalem area. Everything south of Jerusalem is mostly desert, and it goes a long way. And we are starting new kibbutzim in the Dead Sea Valley as well as the Sinai Desert.

“Now, while I am thinking about it, I wanted to ask you two what you know about kibbutzim and how you first heard about us.”

“I understand they are like communal work farms which can absorb new immigrants and volunteers like us,” Shilo Harper spoke up. “A friend of mine from college spent six months on a kibbutz near Haifa. He said it was the best six months of his life and is thinking of doing it again. That got me thinking about it, and then I read up on it. And it was time for a break from… college. Next thing I knew…”

“I came along to keep an eye on Shilo,” interrupted Mike Sandau. “I’m his best friend, and he needs me desperately.”

Yarkoni gave a pained laugh despite his headache. “Good to have friends. And yes, like communal work farms, it is helpful to think of them as cooperatives. Everyone contributes what they can, and everyone receives what they need. No kibbutz member receives a salary, and no one goes without. The Israeli government subsidizes new and struggling kibbutzim as required while at the same time, guides them toward financial independence. Kibbutzim performs two crucial functions for Israel as a whole.

Excerpt #1 From The Book ‘The Gardens’

December 28, 1955.

The marital bliss had dissolved into an alcohol-filled abyss. Looking back, Peggy Utter had seen signs of trouble but had chosen to make herself look the other way. At twenty-four years of age and with her WWII nursing service behind her, she was ready for the next phase in her life and vulnerable to covert manipulation. Dan had presented as handsome, gentle, and caring, and Peggy had allowed herself to be swept away in it all. But now, amidst the emotional and financial chaos going on around her, she finally realized he was an active alcoholic who had hidden his deepening illness from Peggy throughout their courtship and first year married together.

Three and a half years and four children later, she felt herself drowning in the tempest of her husband’s full-blown, unmasked alcoholism. At this point, Dan was drinking himself into blackouts and fits of violence, and things were only getting worse. Peggy feared for the children’s safety as well as her own. Lacking any basic resources or family supports, she realized a decision had to be made and made quickly.

So, in the middle of winter of 1955-56, Peggy packed her four young children into a long, green Ford station wagon and headed south from her home on the Little Spokane River near Spokane, Washington. She brought with them what cash she could withdraw from their savings account at the bank, a pile of blankets, towels, clothes, vitamins, and medicines, books for the children’s next school year, and strings of Christmas lights.

Nine days and three thousand miles later, they arrived in a small Mexican village named Ajijic on a large lake just south of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. Peggy figured it would take her husband a long time to find them there, and it would be peaceful in the meantime. She surveyed with relief and satisfaction the idyllic setting just as described to her by her good friend Mary Jane Rogers of Colville, Washington.

A long pier, partially covered by green lake weeds, jutted out into the lake and was the area’s focal point. Smiling villagers and shy children mingled with burros, goats, chickens, and pigs at a nearby outdoor market. Multiple animal smells competed with countless flowery scents, no other cars were in sight, and the blue lake stretched out to the horizon – shimmering in the increasing morning heat. Peggy and her four children, daughter Brooks, aged ten, twins Robin and Rob, eight, and the youngest child Shilo, five, could not have known it at the time, but they were about to have one of the best years of their lives. To Peggy, it all looked like an enchantingly beautiful Eden-like Garden, and she just couldn’t stop smiling. Continue reading…