When I was in my 20's I suddenly became very interested in Israel. I should mention by way of preface that I am probably the most unobservant Jew you will ever meet - I think the last time I was inside a synagogue was when my friend's son died and I attended the funeral service; I was married to a Christian woman for 23 years and attended church with her.
Israeli consulates here have what is called the "Aliyah" program - if you are Jewish (e.g., your mother is Jewish) they will welcome you to return to the ancestral homeland, usually to work on a Kibbutz. I had drifted, going to community college, having a lot of fun, learning to play jazz (flute and string bass), but I was unfulfilled. So off to Israel I went - to Kibbutz Na'an, south of Tel Aviv.
It's a vibrant community of some 2000 plus residents that raises oranges and vegetables and also has a sprinkler factory that makes the Na'an lawn sprinklers that most everyone has seen. While there you spend half the day at an Ulpan- learning to speak and write Hebrew, and the other half of the day working. I worked in the orange groves, in the factory, in the Hadar Ochel (the kitchen) washing dishes, and other jobs. Everything is communal - you don't eat breakfast in your room or apartment - you go to the communal dining hall.
You get all the things you need - clothing, health-care, entertainment. Kibbutz people are only about 2 percent of the Israeli population, but they produce over 90 percent of the food. That's how Israel got started as a nation- they made the desert bloom, literally - with irrigation and advanced technology.
But the most important thing I learned while living in Israel is the work ethic - something that is sorely missing in American society. It shows you, in no uncertain terms, that you must work and contribute; that there is no free lunch as in the welfare/ food stamp state of America today.
When I returned to the states, I was motivated. I returned to school and earned a Ph.D. in economics. I became an expert computer programmer. And most importantly, partly because of what I learned living in Israel on a kibbutz - I became a conservative.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.