Around the Island

Recalling life on a kibbutz

MOLLIE STRUGATS PHOTO | Ron Adler displays the medals he won at the Maccabiah Games.
MOLLIE STRUGATS PHOTO | Ron Adler displays the medals he won at the Maccabiah Games.

Ron Adler remembers getting up early on cold, rainy mornings to milk the goats, and being grateful for their warmth. Featured speaker at the November Women’s Club November 14 luncheon meeting, Ron shared his experiences growing up on a kibbutz in Israel, and talked about his participation in last summer’s Maccabiah Games. He supplied the food — in the form of Romanian eggplant, tahini, pita, and baklava — and props: photos of the kibbutz and the games, along with the medals he won.

Born in Kibbutz Gesher, five miles from the Sea of Galilee in the Jordan Valley, where the Jordan River represents the border between Israel and Jordan, Ron — like everyone growing up on a kibbutz at that time — lived in specially constructed children’s houses from birth through high school. Children ate, played, studied, and slept there, and saw their parents from about 4 to 7 p.m. each day. This system, by putting childcare for the whole kibbutz in the hands of a few people, allowed both men and women to work. The livelihood of the 800-acre kibbutz revolved around agriculture: crops, fish, dairy, poultry, and a gypsum factory.

From 1st grade on, the children took care of the animals in the children’s farm, and tended a vegetable plot. Times were tough in the beginning, food was scarce, and he was rationed just half an egg for breakfast. Two afternoons a week, as part of the curriculum, the children routinely worked in the kibbutz fields. They were also often called to help with seasonal work.

The 400 people in Ron’s kibbutz ate three meals a day in the communal dining room, the heart of kibbutz interaction and the location of weekly meetings where issues were discussed and voted on.

When Ron was 10, his kibbutz built an Olympic-size swimming pool. While his friends spent afternoons napping on cement floors to cool off (temperatures in the summer regularly topped 100 degrees, and there was no air conditioning), Ron spent hours swimming by himself.

From age 18 to 21, Ron served in the military, which is compulsory in Israel. He then moved to Tel Aviv for two years, and then came to the United States. Ron and his wife, Jennie, bought a house on Shelter Island in 1983.

When he retired at 64, Ron bet his sons that he could win more swimming medals in a single Olympic-like event than Michael Phelps had won in the London Olympics. Two and a half years later, in July 2017, he participated in every swimming event in his age division in the Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial sports competition held in Israel for Jews from around the world. Ron won eight medals, tying Phelps.

Ron’s sense of humor came through in his informative, engaging presentation. Congratulations, Ron. The Women’s Club members thank you.

The Shelter Island Women’s Club will hold it’s Holiday Luncheon at noon on Tuesday, December 5 at the Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall. All are welcome to join us and bring a gently used item for our silent auction as well as a covered dish for the luncheon. A monetary donation or non-perishable food for the food pantry would be appreciated.

Submitted by Linda Puls as told by Jennie Adler