German fashion brand Gerry Weber is coming to Israel. The first store is set to open in Tel Aviv’s Gan Hayir shopping center.
The Israeli franchise for the popular brand was given to the Efrati family, which imports high-quality fashion. The Efrati family is also the owner of Iren, a women’s fashion store located in Gan Hayir.
In early March, Gerry Weber bought the eight stores Israeli fashion chain Castro opened in Germany, after the Castro management decided to terminate its activity in the country which led to losses of some NIS 50 million (about $14.2 million).
The flagship store in Tel Aviv measures 110 square meters (1,185 square feet) in size and is designed in accordance with the company’s stores worldwide. Some NIS 500,000 ($142,000) were invested in the store, and additional branches are expected to open in the future.
Gerry Weber operates 415 stores and 2,000 sale points in 62 countries across the world, including Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Eastern European countries.
The company was founded by Gerhard Weber about 40 years ago and it manufactures ladies fashion under five brands. Two brands will be marketed in Israel: “Gerry Weber”, classic tailored clothing for women aged 30 to 50, and “Taifun”, a mix-and-match collection for young women.
The garments’ prices range between NIS 200-1,000 ($55-285).
Israel’s trailblazing kibbutzim continue to model democracy and mutual responsibility after 100 years of social experimentation. After a period of turmoil and financial difficulty, Israel’s Kibbutzim are now growing again.
They’re the stuff of legend: the young pioneers who banded together on collective farms called “kibbutzim” in early 20th century Palestine. Set on the task of nation building amid extreme deprivation and danger, they forged a brave new culture that came to define the State of Israel as a place where hard-working youth danced horas in miraculously fertile green fields.
Israel’s kibbutzim later experienced an identity crisis in a changing country. But rather than throw in the towel, they’ve been adapting a next-generation structure to better match 21st century Israel. In many of today’s 273 kibbutzim, backbreaking farm work has been replaced with sophisticated industry and cutting-edge agricultural technologies sought after by many other countries.
Now 100 years from the founding of the first of these socialist communities, Kibbutz Degania Alef near the shores of Lake Kinneret, Israel is celebrating the achievements of the Kibbutz Movement that spawned some of the state’s most famous soldiers, politicians, authors, musicians and artists — and now, some of its most successful industries.
A human adventure
Muki Tsur, former secretary of the Kibbutz Movement and its unofficial historian, describes the kibbutz as “a human adventure” of mostly European Jewish young adults. They shouldered the monumental responsibility of secretly re-creating a sovereign Jewish homeland right under the noses of the Turks and then the Brits who ruled over Palestine.
Every pre-state kibbutz was an independent community that had to find its own approach to culture, politics, economy, immigration and language. “Each was a laboratory where all these questions had to be asked,” Tsur tells ISRAEL21c. “Not necessarily to be resolved, but to be asked. The kibbutz had to be a laboratory on one hand and a place to live on the other.”
The overriding goal was to assure each member equitable ownership of the joint venture, with equal income, benefits, expectations and voting power.
“I describe it as a very developed welfare state,” says Shlomo Getz, director of the Institute for Research of the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea at the University of Haifa. “When you pay your taxes [on a kibbutz], you know where they go and you help decide how the tax money is spent.”
Lacking much in the way of resources aside from their bare hands, pioneer kibbutzniks managed to maximize the work potential of each member and provide for everyone’s needs.
Usually, that meant the women worked alongside the men. But contrary to popular belief, this was not the main reason kibbutzim innovated the controversial practice of housing and raising children apart from their parents.
“Babies’ and children’s houses were not invented out of ideology but out of necessity,” says Prof. Michal Palgi of the Institute for Research of the Kibbutz and co-author with Shulamit Reinharz of One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life: A Century of Crises and Reinvention, due out in July.
“In the beginning of the 20th century, kibbutz members lived in tents in remote places, and there were frequent attacks on the kibbutz communities,” Palgi tells ISRAEL21c. “They had to find the safest place for their children, so they made them real houses situated at the center, with the parents around them in tents, in order to keep them protected.”
In order to make sure kibbutz children would be cared for by certified professionals, in 1939 the movement founded the Kibbutzim College of Education to train preschool and school teachers. This once avant-garde institution, which emphasized nature studies as part of a holistic education, is still educating Israeli educators — not just from kibbutzim — today.
Palgi points out that kibbutz parents actually spent much “quality time” with their children, for an hour each morning and four hours in the afternoon. Parents put their little ones to bed in the children’s house and checked on them before they turned in for the night. Many had an intercom to reach Mom and Dad if necessary.
Even so, the idea fell out of favor and by the late 1980s, kibbutzim were closing the children’s houses and transitioning to standard family-style living arrangements. However, many kibbutzim still provide separate housing for member children over 18 years old.
War heroes, statesmen and musicians
Whatever its drawbacks, independent living fostered a uniquely spirited and hard-working breed of Israeli youth.
“Kibbutz-raised people who went on to high positions had learned from an early age to work for half an hour on the children’s farm with the chickens and then one day a week during high school, so the importance of work was instilled,” Palgi observes.
Israel’s most famous general, Moshe Dayan, was born on Kibbutz Degania Alef in 1915 and symbolized a generation of kibbutz-bred military heroes. Defense was always part and parcel of life on kibbutzim, which often doubled as army bases during the War of Independence since the vast majority are strategically located around Israel’s periphery.
“If you look at the border areas, they are marked by kibbutzim,” Palgi says. “They really were a tool in many ways in the creation of the country. And they are still essential to maintaining the country’s borders.”
Kibbutz members historically volunteered for elite military units, especially the Air Force, at disproportionate rates. The same held true in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. During the first decade of statehood, about 25 of the 120 Knesset members were kibbutzniks even though they comprised just five percent of the general population.
Getz notes that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, joined a kibbutz when he was already in his late 60s, well aware of the strong symbolic correlation between leadership and kibbutz membership.
The collective farms also bred extraordinary creativity. One of Israel’s most well known songwriters, David Zehavi, was born on Kibbutz Na’an in 1910. The Israel Prize-winning Gevatron Chorus was founded in Kibbutz Geva around 1948 and is still going strong today. Kibbutz culture is a strong influence in the literature of prominent Israeli authors such as Meir Shalev, Amos Oz and Uri Orlev.
“For many years, a kibbutz member who was an acknowledged writer, musician or artist would get two days a week off from his kibbutz duties to do his writing or music or art or choreography, and would be provided with all the materials he needed,” Palgi relates.
The Kibbutz Movement today sponsors a theater group, a dance company, a choir and a chamber orchestra.
As an invention of immigrants, kibbutzim continued attracting newcomers – most notably, World War II refugees and Holocaust survivors, many of them orphaned children from the same European countries the founders had come from. Jewish refugees from Arab lands, whose culture was radically different, were not as warmly welcomed. But kibbutzim did provide a fresh start to thousands of young people.
Today, the Kibbutz Movement offers many programs for new Ethiopian and other immigrants, and runs cultural and educational activities for youth movements in Israel and abroad. Twenty kibbutzim, including some of the 16 religious ones, offer long-term visitors half-day intensive Hebrew instruction combined with work in the orchards, barns or factories.
Hundreds of the immigrants populating kibbutzim are former volunteers. About half a million young citizens of five continents and different faiths have sampled this way of life during summers of manual labor such as washing dishes, cleaning coops, picking crops and milking cows on Israel’s kibbutzim.
Kibbutz in transition
“From the beginning, kibbutzim viewed themselves as endowed with a sense of duty, serving as a pillar of strength for Zionism as well as for the National Labor Movement,” says Getz. “After the establishment of the state, the kibbutz lost most of its external mission and turned to the internal issues of immigrant absorption, military action, production and agriculture.”
In the 1960s, many kibbutzim started mixing industry with agriculture and giving greater choices in work and compensation. But by the 1980s, the movement was floundering both ideologically and financially. This once hallowed institution was losing its luster and kibbutz kids weren’t returning after the army.
“Kibbutzim now are finding their way,” says Getz. “Members want to influence their surroundings and be open to society in both directions — not like the closed Hutterite or Amish societies.”
Thanks to changes implemented by the Kibbutz Movement, more than 2,500 new members have joined or rejoined kibbutzim in recent years, bringing the total population to about 123,000 people on 273 kibbutzim.
Only about one-quarter of Israel’s kibbutzim still operate in the traditional communal style, where division of income is strictly equal. A handful of others opted for the “integrated method” where each member gets a standard base amount, in addition to payments based on seniority and on the percentage of the member’s salary or contribution to the kibbutz.
Most kibbutzim adopted the “renewed” model, where higher earners receive more income, and a percentage of each member’s gross salary goes toward community expenses and to supplement the income of low-earning members. Renewed kibbutzim practice various forms of privatization, with a greater emphasis on individuals and families.
Despite these changes, core principles remain. “Two characteristics make the kibbutz movement stand out,” says Getz. “Democracy — all members participate in discussions and votes — and mutual responsibility.”
Advanced farming and industry
Many advances in agriculture and dairy farming came out of Israel’s kibbutzim. Drip irrigation technology, which Israel has shared with many other parched countries, was innovated by Netafim, a multinational, multimillion-dollar company founded at Kibbutz Hatzerim in 1965. S.A.E. Afikim, based in Kibbutz Afikim since 1977, is the global leader in developing, manufacturing and marketing computerized systems for modern dairy farm and herd management.
According to the Kibbutz Industry Association, up to 80 percent of Israel’s kibbutzim are manufacturing and marketing everything from furniture to popcorn. The most common kibbutz-made products are plastic and rubber goods, edibles, electronics, metals and machinery. Each modern kibbutz-owned endeavor has a separate bank account and board of directors.
A model to emulate
The kibbutz way of life is intriguing to people from around the world, says Palgi, who is immediate past president of the Communal Studies Association. “Communities from countries such as Japan, the United States and Germany have come and studied the issues involved,” she says, stressing that the concept must be adapted to suit the host country’s culture.
Tsur believes that even within Israel, the kibbutz will continue evolving. “If it’s a free society, then every generation has to reinvent the kibbutz; we don’t have a central authority to mandate what is best. Maybe there will be kibbutzim of educators, for example? Certainly it won’t be only about raising chickens.”
He adds that kibbutzniks continue raising critical questions concerning work, democracy and education. “These are the big questions young people all over the world are asking,” Tsur says. “The kibbutz was an invention of young people, and even if today there are old people walking around on them, it is still a society that is a human adventure, that asks the questions.”
He’s been the butt of so many jokes that he decided to join the party. The first blockbuster commercial that millions of American viewers of the Super Bowl in February were treated to was for Audi, and it featured a satirical take on a luxury prison breakout, where ascot-wearing, chess-playing inmates begin causing problems. When things begin to get out of hand, the guards call to the prison Riot Suppressor, played by Grammy-winning saxophonist Kenny G.
He begins to blow on his instrument into an intercom system, and within seconds, the agitated white-collar types turn into pussycats before plopping to the ground fast asleep. The not-so-subtle hint: Kenny G’s music works great as a sedative.
“It’s hard to explain why I did it,” said Kenny G (Gorelick) last week on his car phone on a freeway near his Los Angeles home he shares with his wife, Lyndie, and their two sons.
“You can look at the commercial and say to me ‘what you’re saying is that your music puts everybody to sleep and that’s why they’re using it. And that should offend you!’ But I don’t look at it like that. My music obviously strikes a chord with people – it can be looked at as soothing, or melancholy, inspirational, memorable, emotional or intimate. So what they were doing was pretty funny, taking it one step further. Originally, they were just going to play my music, but I thought if they’re already going to do that, then I might as well be in it and it will be even funnier.”
Kenny G was being serious though when he said his music strikes a chord with people. Despite his self-deprecatory façade, the 54-year-old musical icon with the trademark long, curly locks is the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era, with global sales of his adult contemporary jazz totaling more than 75 million albums.
One of the most identifiable musicians in the world, Kenny boasts staunchly loyal fans who readily defend his music against an equally vocal cross section of jazz purists who slam the sax player for non-improvisatory style and the rock establishment who label his dulcet tones akin to elevator muzak.
The Israeli contingent of the Kenny G fan club will likely be out in droves next week when he takes the stage on April 10 at Hechal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv, his first appearance – and first visit – to the country. Raised in Seattle’s heavily Jewish South End, Kenny G grew up as a cultural Jew in the 1960s.
“I’m not sure what you call a traditional home anymore, but we went to synagogue on the High Holidays and I had a bar mitzah,” he said.
“I’ve never been to Israel, though, but I’m going to come with my two teenage sons (Max and Noah). It’s going to be a boys’ trip and we’re going to do a little touring around the country for a couple days.”
RATHER THAN religion, it was music that grabbed Kenny G as a child. Even as the world of rock & roll was exploding around him, and fellow Seattlelite Jimi Hendrix was expanding the scope of what a guitarist was, Kenny G fell in love with the saxophone at age 10.
“I saw someone playing the sax on TV and it looked intriguing to me. Once I started playing, I really enjoyed it, and it’s a love affair that’s still going on,” he said.
The romance wasn’t without its trying times however.
When he tried out for the high school jazz band, Kenny G didn’t make the cut, but by the time he was a senior, he was so accomplished at the instrument that his band director made a special connection for him.
R&B great Barry White was touring the country, and in those days it was commonplace for established stars to pick up backing musicians at each locale they appeared in to cut down on the costs of traveling around with a full touring band.
“He knew the person that was finding musicians to be in Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra when they came to play in Seattle. They told him that they were missing one sax player that could do x, y and z, and he said, ‘there’s this kid in band…’ And that turned into my first professional appearance,” Kenny G said.
“I was so excited and nervous – I can’t believe looking back that I did that at age 17. But if I hadn’t taken that chance, then I probably wouldn’t be talking to you today.”
Kenny G continued to play professionally while attending the University of Washington in Seattle where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in accounting. Jerusalem resident Todd Warnick lived with the musician in the same dorm and recalled the sound of music always being close by.
“We used to hear him play a lot in the dorm. There were a number of talented musicians there and they used to play together, but of course, Kenny stood out from all of them,” said Warnick, a former international basketball referee who moved to Israel from Washington in 1979.
“During his freshman year, he got a gig backing up Sammy Davis Jr. and we were all excited for him. As Seattlelites, we’ve always been very proud of Kenny.”
At a crossroads between a career in accounting and music, Kenny G chose… guess what? Music. He landed a gig with the acclaimed Jeff Lorber Fusion where he honed his chops for a few years before signing a solo deal in 1982 with Lorber’ Arista Records and its head honcho Clive Davis.
“It was a huge step to sign that deal with Clive and Arista. I was really flattered that he wanted to take a chance on the sax player in the band he was already working with,” said Kenny G.
“At the same time, it was very difficult to leave Jeff.
He had given me my first national exposure and I learned so much from him – it was like leaving the nest, but I felt I needed the freedom to create the music I wanted to.”
BY HIS own admission, however, the early years with Arista were a bit rocky – even with his second and third albums GForce and Gravity achieving platinum status – as he struggled with the label over what kind of music he should be playing.
“They had no idea what to do with me – they kept trying to put vocals on my albums thinking that was the only way to make an impact. And I told them that I needed to be able to do my instrumental music and it took four CDs to get to the point where they actually would get behind what I wanted to do,” he said.
From there it was a quantum leap, with his fourth album, Duotones, selling over five million copies in the US alone, and his sixth album, 1992’s Breathless, becoming the number one best selling instrumental album of all time, with over 15 million copies sold. Kenny G, his saxophone and his hair had arrived, and were reaching more ears than any jazz musician ever had. But according to Kenny G, mass popularity and mainstream success have not been his primary motivators.
“The success has been satisfying in the sense that I’m creating the music that works for me – I’m not creating it to sell records. I wish I was that talented that I could know what people like to hear and then create it,” he said.
“But I’m just writing my music, hearing the melodies I hear, and expressing myself. That’s the satisfying part – that I just do what I do and people seem to enjoy it. I can’t speak for other jazz artists – hopefully they’re doing the same thing, but my opinion is that if people try to sell records or manipulate their music to try and reach people and get exposure, it’s never going to work in the long run. So I never do that – I try to stay true to what I do and let everything else happen after that.”
Not content to coast on his skills, Kenny G still gets up every morning and practices for hours, before transitioning to his other great passion in which he also excels – golf. On a good day, he gets to spend time indulging in both endeavors, but he’s clear where his priorities fall.
“Usually, I’ll start practicing my scales at 8 am for three hours, with some breaks for phone call and emails.
Then, if the weather’s nice and I don’t have anything pressing, I’ll head out to the golf course,” he said “So usually on a daily basis I get to do both of my loves, but if I had to pick one or the other, I’d pick the scales. I really enjoy practicing, it’s not a chore to me.
Part of my excitement every morning is discovering what I’m going to learn that day.”
He enjoys the same enthusiasm about his first visit to Israel next week, preferring to treat it as one of his open-ended musical pieces that may not have a rigid structure.
“I’m one of those guys who doesn’t try to have expectations, but just to be open to what happens. Maybe that comes with being a jazz musician, you improvise a lot. So I don’t know what I’m going to see or feel in Israel, but I am looking forward to it,” he said.
Asked whether he’ll be tailoring his show with any Israeli or Jewish themes, Kenny G said he was thinking about performing one of his composition, “The Hannuka Song.”
“I’m generally going to play what I always play because that’s why I was asked to come,” he said.
“But I do have “The Hannuaka Song” which has an old-style eastern European feel to it. So I may play that as a ‘tribute’ because it’s a Jewish-sounding song – it’s kind of weird to say something sounds Jewish, but I’ll play it and let the people decide if they like it or not. It works for me.”