During the 1960s and 1970s, many European non-Jewish volunteers came to work in Israel. They went to kibbutzim, where they worked a little and partied a lot. Some came for the fun, some for the ideology, and some for the sun. Now, years later, Mooly Landesman has created a particularly poignant and insightful documentary, The Volunteers, which looks at what has happened to those volunteers.
The film features five young women from Denmark, Holland and Germany, all of whom fell in love with Israeli men. They were naïve and young, and by marrying Israeli men, they created an upheaval in their lives, each having to redefine her own personal identity. Brigitta from Denmark marriedYochi from Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. Nana married Haim. Margaret married Gabi. Angelika, a daughter of German royalty, married Yackov from Moshav Habonim. Dina married Yossi.
Have these women become "Israeli" in their souls? Margaret who continues to live on the Golan Heights, even after her husband has passed away, feels that this is her home and that she has no other. For Brigitta however, things are different. Today, she and Yochi live in Denmark, where they are bringing up their children. Brigitta says honestly that she would not be willing for her children to risk their lives for the State of Israel.
What about the fact that some of the women are from Germany? The film confronts this head-on. Margaret recalls how hard it was for her as a young volunteer on the kibbutz when one of the veteran members harshly told her that he speaks German, but would not speak it with her. A daughter of one of the couples, at the age of 14, was shocked to discover a photo in a family album of their beloved ancestral home back in Germany decked out with a Nazi flag. Angelika's father, who was drafted as a young man in 1941, rose to become a Nazi officer. In a moving and startling scene, he admits that he supported Hitler and his great shame is that he never did anything to oppose him.
The stories of these five couples and their children, now grown, reveal a lot about the complexity of changing your identity and your homeland, about the difficulties of intermarriage, and about attempts at atonement for the sins of the German people.
The film (54 minutes) is available from Ruth Diskin Films.