This beautifully written memoir is composed of linked stories about growing up on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s and 60s, when children spent most of their time, from birth on, in a Children’s House. This memoir starts with a Prologue drawn from the diaries of Rachel Biale’s mother and the letters her parents exchanged while her father served in the British army. With excerpts from these documents, she describes how the long trials and tribulations that encompassed her parents dangerous escape from Eastern Europe to Israel – fleeing from the Nazis from Prague in 1939, five years of dangerous sea voyages, and long internments in British refugee camps. Throughout these ordeals, her parents socialist and Zionist values sustained them and eventually brought them to their kibbutz. The middle and main section of the memoir is devoted to Rachel's growing up as a kibbutz child. While Rachel's parents soon realized that no community can live up to its utopian ideals, Rachel's youth on kibbutz was a robust and buoyant one. Rachel pens 24 beautifully written and engaging stories about her kibbutz childhood -- from earliest memories at age three as part of a children's society, to her army service at age twenty. The stories focus on the world of children, but also offer a window into the lives of the adult kibbutz members, including Holocaust survivors. The book ends with a Postscript—as Rachel revisits her kibbutz and updates the stories of her childhood companions.
Preface Prologue: From Prague to Palestine: How My Parents Came to Israel Growing Up Below Sea Level: A Kibbutz Childhood 1. Coveting 2. Rice Pudding 3. Clean Sheets 4. Kindergarten Antics 5. Sugar Cubes 6. The Red Shoes 7. Aleph Bet 8. Tiny Feet 9. The Hungarians 10. From Now On, Call Me Danny 11. Her Mother 12. Night Walk 13. Snakes and Kisses 14. Shabbat and Sacrilege 15. Eighth Grade Baby 16. Jerusalem 17. America! 18. Going Home 19. What God Wants You to Do 20. Under the Bed, Below Sea Level 21. A Real Character 22. Never Turn Around 23. Desert Treasures 24. Turning Forward, Turning Back Epilogue Acknowledgments
"Rachel Biale’s fresh and vivid stories of her kibbutz childhood, raised in the biblical landscape of the Jordan River by European-born parents and community who had barely fled the Nazis, are pulsating with love and unblinking insight into the early kibbutz life. I read these stories with amazement and deep personal recognition. Literature is still the best path to grasping the heart Israel, and these stories touch on a pivotal moment in the young country’s history, geography, and social dreams."--Fania Oz-Salzberger, daughter of the late Amos Oz