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Israeli brings kibbutz tales to Beth Hatikvah
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Israeli brings kibbutz tales to Beth Hatikvah

Avinoam Golan sings of the fading world of the state’s founders

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Israeli composer and storyteller Avinoam Golan sings of the pioneers who were interested in “building a perfect society.”
Israeli composer and storyteller Avinoam Golan sings of the pioneers who were interested in “building a perfect society.”

Avinoam Golan left the kibbutz world 30 years ago at the age of 25, and he’s been telling its stories in music and words ever since. 

Golan, a composer and producer who studied at Tel Aviv University in what is now the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, is a design engineer who builds recording studios by day and is a composer by night. His music is a fusion of Russian, Eastern European Jewish, and Middle Eastern sounds.

“It’s what the pioneers who founded the state would have been exposed to,” he said.

Golan, who is bringing his music and his stories to Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Summit on Saturday evening, Oct. 10, spoke with NJJN from Israel.

He speaks in glowing, worshipful terms of the “brave generation” who founded Israel and, in particular, those who founded the country’s kibbutzim. 

“They were really interested in building a perfect society,” he said. Describing his own upbringing at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel — located east of Hadera — where he was born and raised, he said it followed the experimental communal living arrangements of the early settlements. “We were not sleeping with our parents. We lived together with the other children our age. We saw our parents only from 4 to 8 p.m. when they had quality time, when they were available for us. After 8, they would bring us to the children’s house, give us a kiss good night, and a nanny would read us a bedtime story.

“The parents would go to cultural events and dancing. It sounds very ideal, but there were many problems,” he added. “It didn’t last.” 

But that story, he said, “makes its way into my music and my writing.” In fact, his main audiences are schoolchildren, kibbutzniks, and moshavniks. “Tel Avivites and Yerushalmis are not interested in why kibbutzim break up, how they break up, or how to make them better,” he said.

His “Song of the Hill,” for example, describes the archetypal story of seven pioneers who conquer a hill to form a kibbutz. “Step by step it goes through the things they faced: the hostility of the Arabs, diseases,” he said. “They form a beautiful kibbutz, but they saw it die before their very eyes. It’s very hard for them.” Golan sings in Hebrew; transliterations and translations will be provided via PowerPoint at the concert.

Describing his main musical influences, he pointed to an unlikely trio: the late Israeli composer Alexander “Sasha” Argov, the Beatles, and the English rock band Genesis. In addition to the piano, Golan plays the accordion, the mandolin, the keyboard, and the guitar.

Golan and his wife live on Srigim, a moshav in the Elah Valley outside Jerusalem. They have three grown children.

Golan originally pursued a career as a recording engineer in the music industry. “But one night I finished production, went home, and woke my wife up in the middle of the night,” he recalled. “I told her, ‘I’m resigning.’ I didn’t want to be part of the industry anymore.” Asked why not, he elaborated, “If you want to be a player in the music industry, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and sharpen your elbows, if you know what I mean. You have to be known and you have to know everyone. I didn’t want that. I want to be a private person, so I do what I do in limited communities.”

Rabbi Hannah Orden, who leads Beth Hatikvah, met Golan when she served as a volunteer on his kibbutz decades ago, and the two have been friends ever since. He had long promised her that when he came to the States, he would perform at her synagogue. On this trip, mainly to visit his sister, an animator who lives in New York City, he’s making good on that promise.

Golan’s performance at Beth Hatikvah will include songs, instrumental pieces, stories that offer a taste of kibbutz life, and an animated short film.

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