One of the big mysteries surrounding Bernie Sanders’s early years may have been solved. For months, Jewish journalists have been in search of which kibbutz the Democratic presidential candidate volunteered on during the 1960s when he visited Israel in his early 20s.
The Vermont senator has said he is not currently involved in organized religion, but he did grow up Jewish, and that meant attending Hebrew school, getting bar mitzvahed and spending time on a kibbutz — a communal settlement — in Israel. Sanders has not talked in great detail about this time in his life, preferring to stick to conversations about what God means to him and his spirituality. But an Israeli journalist named Yossi Melman tweeted Thursday that Sanders had told him the name of the kibbutz — Shaar Haamakim — in a 1990 interview.
It was reported that B. Sandres refused to say in which kibbutz he stayed in 60's in Israel. In 1990 interview he told me Shaar Haamakim
— Yossi Melman (@yossi_melman) February 4, 2016
Shaar Haamakim means “Gate of the Valleys,” the Washington Post reported, and the kibbutz was founded in 1935 by immigrants from Romania and Yugoslavia, Melman told the paper. Like many kibbutz settlements, this one was originally affiliated with the socialist youth movement.
In recent decades, many kibbutz communities have been privatized and some have changed their communal lifestyle. But the Democratic candidate’s older brother Larry told the Washington Post that when Sanders worked on the kibbutz, he was interested in the sustainability of an agrarian communal system on a larger scale.
Over the past several months, many in the Jewish community have searched for the answer about Sanders’s kibbutz visit. The Kibbutz Movement, which is the organization overseeing the 250 communities in Israel, created a Facebook campaign to find where Sanders worked, and the Forward published an article asking readers to send in thoughts on the topic.
Melman’s 1990 article, titled “The First Socialist” can be found on the Haaretz website. The Forward found the former kibbutz volunteer coordinator , 83-year-old Dudu Haver, who said volunteers typically came to the kibbutz in groups of 30 or 40 at a time and stayed with host families in the community.
“We’ll be glad to host Bernie Sanders here again on the kibbutz,” Haver told the Forward.