About a year ago, hit with a nostalgic bug, I visited my old kibbutz – a place I spent my seventeenth year fulfilling my idealistic Zionist dream of working the land and giving of myself to a greater cause. I was well aware that the kibbutz movement of today is not what it used to be. Still, when I arrived at my kibbutz whose lush sprawling fields embrace the Beit She’an Valley, I was b’shock, as one would say in Israel. A term I learned from my army sons when referring to certain new recruits who are literally b’shock in the first weeks of army training.

I was in shock, because not only did I not recognize the old place, but what was once a model of communal living was now just another capitalist enclave that hired foreign workers as cheap laborers, and the simple modest kibbutz homes had been transformed into newly renovated expansive villas. I was profoundly saddened to behold a landscape of a world-no-more.

Yet, not too long ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing something that today has become the exception to the rule – the spirit of Zionism in action.

The strength of character and determination of the pioneers who came to the Land of Israel in the late 1800’s, and in the turn of the 20th century is once again flourishing on the rolling hills of Netzer, in Gush Etzion in an area located between Elazar and Alon Shvut.

What I witnessed was 60 Jewish youths, boys and girls, under the auspices of the Yibaneh Fund, toiling under an unforgiving sun, digging, planting, laying irrigation pipes, carefully covering the new seedlings with sheets of plastic to retain the moisture – working the land with their bare hands. Joining our local youth were farmers from the Galil and the Jezreal Valley that answered the Yibaneh’s call to recover and revive our land.

Since then, regular volunteers, many of which are women with grown children, have joined the ranks in tending to this land and can be seen planting rows of olive trees on Friday morning before returning to their homes to see to the last preparations for Shabbat.

One can likewise see the not too slow attempt of Arab takeover over these lands with the financial assistance of the European Union and anti Israel organizations such as PARC, UAWC, LRC, and PHG and groups such as JAI – Joint Advocacy Initiative. A large sign at the sight by the Netherland’s representative office testifies to the unholy alliance. To date, they have been instrumental in helping the Arabs take over 120 dunams of what is officially delineated as state land according to the map of the Israel Land Authority.

All too often, the modest group of Jewish volunteers would come upon their fields in Netzer to find that the trees they planted were ripped from the soil by local Arabs, some hacked with axes, and the irrigation system pulled and torn unceremoniously from the earth. Undaunted, these modern day heroes set out to plant anew. If one travels to Netzer, one can already see the results… the fruits of their labor.

Why the Israel Land Authority stands idly by at the outrageous attempt by Arabs to illegally take over state land is mind-boggling and a whole other talk show.

The Yibaneh Fund established by Women in Green, initiated Operation Facts on the Ground. The goal is clear: redeeming Eretz Yisrael and preventing the illegal takeover of land by the Arabs, their European backers and their anarchist accomplices.

The heartening affect of Yibaneh’s endeavor is the Jewish people’s return to redeeming our land with our own hands and by the sweat of our own brow. From all the wonder filled places one can visit throughout Israel, there is no sweeter sight than seeing the hands of our youth tend to our soil with the love, determination and zeal that characterizes the heart of Zionism.

Just up the hill from my home in Efrat, another inspiring endeavor is currently taking place embarked upon by a lone enterprising immigrant from the United States. On the outer edge of some nearby residential homes, a parcel of state land numbering about 10 dunams laid barren until this man who is a doctor by profession, decided to put his hands to use, work the land and bring to life an otherwise parched tract of land developing an impressive vineyard.

Motivated by a pure love of the land, he sought no personal monetary profit and anyone who wishes to partake in the luscious grapes can do so freely. With hoe in hand and knowledge he obtained from various gardening books, he toiled for three years through all sorts of inclement weather as well as under the merciless heat that only the Middle East can render to bring to fruition a robust and hearty vineyard surrounded by a colorful collage of fruit bearing trees.

Back to basics – the way it should be.