First Impressions of the Urfeld Circle Meeting
17-24 August, 2004
(A translation of a letter sent to the Israeli group right after the meeting)
First – the good part
I have no doubt that this year's meeting was one of the most interesting and active ones we have ever had (I think so after every meeting…). The organization, living conditions, the food, the hospitality were as always above the ordinary and we could easily recognize the effort, open hearts, the goodness and love. I want to express deep thanks, in my and Michal's name – first of all to the German friends who hosted us and were patient with our eccentricities and secondly to the Israelis who joined in the contribution to this successful week.
The forming of the "top coordinating committee" was a real blessing and of great assistance during the whole week. All the lectures and group activation were of importance, most interesting and created valuable and lively discussions. The Israeli "group activation" (the "anarchist" discussion circles, the "dilemma" groups, the all-Israeli evening meeting, the Naomi Shemer evening etc.) – all added something to the meeting and proved that assertivity is worthwhile.
The tense and "stormy" period within the Israeli contingent passed during the week although we still had our differences. But this difference of opinion did not divide or break us up, and that was good!
The informal spontaneous meetings during breaks enriched and invigorated us as always. It also created new bonds amongst us.
We all missed the older members of the Circle "our Elders" and their calming presence, their wise remarks and their balancing effect on the group.
The crisis connected with the uncertain future of the Circle brought about an affinity among the members of the Israeli group that strengthened their bond – and that was good.
I think that this year's meeting, like those of former years, sharpened and deepened the Christian-Jewish dialogue and made important contributions to both parts. Belonging to the Urfeld Circle was and is a unique experience, lending quality to our lives and rich of intellectual, social and emotional experiences, and I am happy that I had the right and duty to belong to the Circle.
And now to the problematic parts:
The information we received prior to the meeting was not complete and created difficulties and misunderstandings. The Israeli group was not sensitive enough to the difficulties that faced the German part (concerning the number of participants and their age, the wish to limit the number of guests etc.) and this made for a gap of unexpressed misunderstandings. Most of the German group is not trained in "Israeli activation" and way of thinking and organizing, and this created difficulty, threat, opposition and differences of understanding.
There is no doubt (if you had any) that the Gemeinde does not operate in a democratic fashion the way I understand it, and decisions are being taken by a "senior group", with little participation of the other members of the Gemeinde. I don't mean this as criticism, just state a fact. But this fact makes it hard, and creates superfluous tensions sometimes. The announcement on dispersing the Circle was sudden and one-sided, as I saw it, and that harmed the trust that grew between us throughout these years of close cooperation.
As to the decision itself on dismantling the Circle, I see it as a right and just one. The time has arrived for dramatic changes in the organization, the structure and the balance of the Urfeld Circle. But, it was not the best way of coming to such a decision in a complex framework which is founded on a delicate thread of mutual trust between two groups that stand on different and sometimes opposite grounds. We are all aware of the complexity of group processes, both in the group that is founded on charismatic leadership and the one that builds on broad collective leadership and therefore we have to be cautious in the way we make changes.
I have no doubt that the personal connections between the members of the Israeli and the German groups will continue in one way or another, on a personal, family or religious or any other possible basis, but the circle as we knew it, a unique, ever-changing and developing entity, is over. That's how I understand the process, even if the "process of change" will take a long time.
And now to the second part at question: What are we going to do now?
In my opinion we have to – first of all – let ourselves calm down.
After we come back to ourselves, we should invite all of us for a brain-storm meeting and plan our future together.
Be well dear Urfeld Circle members, I enjoyed and appreciated my time with you very much!
Yair and Michal Palgi
Kibbutz Nir-David, 28.8.04
Translated by Yoel Darom