The study examines the way in which veteran Argentinean immigrants, who settled in a Kibbutz in the southern part of Israel, structure their collective memory. This unique group of Israelis, who immigrated to Israel from Argentina in the early 1960's, originated from the Jewish agricultural communities founded with the assistance of Baron Maurice de Hirsch at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. Upon arrival the immigrants to Israel they have encountered a society denouncing their Diaspora past, and demanding them to abandon the rich cultural heritage of their homeland. In addition to the conflict between the two sides, this inter-cultural encounter generated a conflict between the immigrants' wish to preserve their homeland culture and identity, and their will to adapt, fit together and belong, which was a fundamental idea in their Zionist perspective. The intensity of this conflict amplified within the framework of the Kibbutz society, which at the time had radical ideological demands and commitments, influencing most aspects of an individual's life. This charged conflict created a complex negotiation, in which the group members' collective memory was formed.
Memory of the past plays a significant role in assimilating individual and collective identities. Numerous scholars and philosophers investigated Collective Memory and the manner by which it is retained and propagated, a topic which has been at the focus of work in the field of Humanities for over two decades. In cases of immigration, the encounter between the immigrant and the new society becomes an encounter of narratives as well. The negotiation which develops between the narratives is part of the adaptation process in the new society. A politics of memory is therefore conducted, which embodies positions of power, aspirations and demands of both sides, and restructures the collective memory. This study examined the manner in which the group members structure their collective memory, and form their subjective interpretation of the past. It reveals the dynamics of memory structuring and how it is affected by their position in society, changes in Israeli and Argentinean societies, the weakening of the Kibbutz-Zionist ethos, economic well-being, technological changes and the aging of the group members.
Using this case, the study attempts to examine and delve into the way in which Collective Memory is constructed in the contexts of "returning home", Diaspora and community in contemporary societies.
The study presents the manner in which the politics of memory, in the case of the studied group, is formed in a way which supports the group in achieving its goals while enabling the retention of its unique heritage. In this case, the politics and the agents of memory induct the collective memory in order to position themselves in the present Kibbutz society, and to claim a position of precedence in its framework while undermining the position designated to the group in the dominant meta-narrative. In this framework the members of the studied group structure their past in Baron Hirsch's settlements in a manner that wouldn't contradict the Zionist endeavor in Israel and the Kibbutz, in addition to being consistent with the Zionist endeavor, so the group uses prominent memory patterns to tell an alternative, competitive story. The group members use their story to extricate themselves from their inferior position, in which they were put by the dominant group.
In this way the memory is used as a resource which helps the group members attain a sense of belonging and receive recognition from the Kibbutz society. From this superior stance the group members criticize the Kibbutz society in the past and present, express their opposition to some of its life aspects, and take credit for a significant part of the establishment and the nature of the Kibbutz as it is today. In this way the group members structure their life story as successful and meaningful, which helps them justify the sacrifices they made and the abandonment of their childhood landscapes, their culture and their family in the Baron's settlements.
The study was conducted through a qualitative method which includes interviews, the analysis of life stories and group sessions. Through this method, and by incorporating a long presence in the field, a level of trust and the necessary directness are achieved to create a positive and meaningful interaction with the group members, to gather sufficient information and to become sufficiently acquainted with the field and its different layers and nuances.
The uniqueness and contribution of this study are in that it deals with the connection between immigration, intercultural transition and collective memory, and focuses on the unique structuring of the Collective Memory in this situation. Although every case which describes a negotiation of the past between groups is complex, this particular one is unique in that it deals with a negotiation that existed for a long period between extremely unbalanced powers, where one side is attempting to erase the other's past and enforce upon it the dominant narrative. The story of the group, and the way it structured its Collective Memory, demonstrates how memory-constructing ideologies are open to negotiation and use by the weaker groups of society.