The working life of digital nomads – freelancers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and employees who telecommute from home, coffee shop or public library — is blessedly free of commuting and clock-punching.

But working solo can be lonely and sedentary, which is why programs such as Remote Year and WiFi Tribe are popping up across the world to give location-independent workers a way to see the world while working in a stimulating social environment for a chunk of time.

A former Israeli digital nomad is putting a uniquely Israeli spin on this idea with Gather, a month-long program enabling groups of digital nomads to work remotely while experiencing communal kibbutz life and enjoying on-site content such as work-skills and fitness classes.

“I realized that the kibbutz has everything remote workers need because they are communities where people live, work and play together. Everything is on premises, such as a dining hall, grocery store and laundry service,” says Gather cofounder Omer Har-shai, 30. “And there is the added value of the natural surroundings and agriculture.”

Gather participants can spend their lunch hour enjoying the natural surroundings of a kibbutz. Photo by Almog Gurevich
Gather participants can spend their lunch hour enjoying the natural surroundings of a kibbutz. Photo by Almog Gurevich

The first group of 25, now being chosen from among several hundred online applicants from North America, Europe and Australia, will gather at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the Jordan Valley in December. The second group will spend the first month of 2020 at Kibbutz Tuval in the Upper Galilee.

“Kibbutz” means “gathering” and that’s what gives the new enterprise its name.

The kibbutz movement is a uniquely Israeli cooperative living and working model with roots in agriculture. The first kibbutz, Degania, was established near the Sea of Galilee in 1910. Today, more than 120,000 people live on 270 kibbutzim across Israel.

Overseas volunteers have long been attracted to back-to-basics kibbutz life and the opportunity to form strong personal bonds over a short period. Kibbutzim welcome the extra hands in the fields, packing house, cowshed, coop or whatever other endeavor brings in its livelihood.

Gather is reinventing the kibbutz volunteer experience as a millennial- and laptop-friendly option. While participants may volunteer in whatever capacity and for however many hours they like, the priority is to get their own work done in an unusual and motivational setting.

An office with a view” on Kibbutz Tuval, Upper Galilee. Photo by Almog Gurevich for Gather

“Today’s generation wants to travel and experience amazing things without compromising their career and having to restart their lives when they come home,” Har-shai tells ISRAEL21c.

“We think this environment will really encourage greater productivity because they’ll be living a more balanced life, perhaps starting their day by working in the fields a few hours and eating breakfast in the main mess hall.”

This could be your “office mate” on Kibbutz Tuval. Photo by Almog Gurevich for Gather

For a fee ranging between $2,000 and $3,000 for the month, Gather participants get simple accommodations, shared office space and access to kibbutz facilities, often including a swimming pool or tennis courts.

Organized activities may include hiking, yoga, lectures and weekend trips to places including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Har-shai, who has experience in marketing, sales and business development, shopped around his proposal to 40 kibbutzim.

“Almost all are open to the idea. The two we’ve partnered with to start are both green and beautiful, but different from one another. Kibbutz Tuval is remote and quiet; Kibbutz Kfar Blum is more traditional with a supermarket and a pub on premises. We’ll help each person find the kibbutz that is right for them.”

Gather participants could work at Bluma Café on the grounds of Kibbutz Kfar Blum. Photo by Almog Gurevich

A third Gather location is planned in the Arava, the northeast strip of the Negev desert where most of Israel’s agriculture is grown.

Each location will have a community manager onsite full time to ensure that all runs smoothly, says Har-shai.

Acknowledging the many digital nomad programs already available, including Israeli-founded Selina concentrated mainly in South America, Har-shai points out that Gather had no need to build infrastructure because it’s already in place on the kibbutz.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel, just offering a new approach for the age of Wi-Fi and remote work – living and volunteering on a kibbutz while keeping your day job.”

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