Neot Semedar, created in 1989 in the middle of the Negev desert is based principally around organic agriculture, recycling of water, cooperation, and particularly apprenticeship. The kibbutz is only open to visitors at certain times, and only certain parts of the oasis are accessible. The location is fascinating, and I took photos of the main structure which was a cooling tower that created a natural and ecological acclimatization.
The welcome of the community members was warm and friendly, but seemed strangely superficial. When, for example, I wanted to photograph an artificial lake that I had seen on Google Earth, a resident denied that it even existed. It was a way of telling me that I wasn’t authorised to visit it.
On returning to France, I started to research this community. I tried to organise interviews via Skype. It wasn’t easy, as most of the founders seemed very reluctant and secretive, but others described life at Neot Semadar as utopic. Originally, it was a group of friends from Jerusalem who followed a person, Joseph Safra, who taught Buddhist philosophy as well as the Torah. Even though he died 17 years ago, his strict rules are still followed. He defined Neot Semadar as a school rather than a kibbutz: a school to “discover yourself.”
As a result of my research, I quickly realised that not everyone believed in this utopia. I met people who had left the community, and even some who had broken all ties with it. Those people who accepted to speak to me described a certain violence, and Joseph as a guru with absolute powers.