“The kibbutz will change your life, Jonathan. You do know this?”
1978. Jonathan was a naïve eighteen-year-old who had just finished his A-levels. His cousin Andy suggested they fly to Israel in order to experience life on a kibbutz as a ‘volunteer’. Jonathan had never even heard the word kibbutz and he knew very little about Israel, but he agreed to take part in the adventure and made the necessary arrangements.
He arrived at a fortified settlement in the Upper Galilee, surrounded by a high fence and rolls of barbed wire, called Kibbutz Dafna. It was nestled at the top of the Hula Valley, in the shadow of the spectacular snow-capped peak of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights. He was allocated a thin, iron-framed bed under a window in a small, filthy room that he shared with three other English men – and colonies of ants and fast-running cockroaches.
Jonathan’s first impressions were not promising.
The food was awful and he had absolutely nothing in common with anyone at the kibbutz. He was set to work on night shifts in a bleak factory, on some dangerous and arcane machinery. He’d never worked in a factory before. He’d never worked shifts before. He hated it. He struggled with the physically demanding and unpleasant work, and was hopeless at it. He realised he had set himself a target of staying there for six months, which seemed like an awful prospect. Unable to face the ignominy and embarrassment of running home in the first week, he decided he must do his best, and try to overcome adversity. Kibbutz Virgin is his story.
Read on as Jonathan experiences danger when caught in cross-border conflict between Lebanon and Syria, romance as he shacks up with an?American girl called Chrissie, and adventure as he tries some not-so-legal substances.
Kibbutz Virgin will appeal to fans of travel writing and those interested in Middle?Eastern history. Jonathan Nicholas, who published Hospital Beat in 2011 with Matador, has been inspired by Dirk Bogarde.