We Were the Future is an autobiographical novel that takes a look at life in the 1960s, in the kibbutz where the narrator grew up. It describes childhood in the particularly ideological world of the kibbutz, the disintegration of that ideology and how the values and principles that the communal settlement was based upon lost their meaning. Yael Neeman, a daughter of one of the founding families of Kibbutz Yehiam in the Western Galilee, gives a vivid account of the world of her childhood and shines an unforgiving but humorous light on the happenings, the characters, and the rules and regulations that shaped her. The distance in time has enabled her to observe the worlds of both the children, who lived apart from their parents, and the adults, worlds that seem almost never to have met and to have existed separately from one another.
While it is a personal account of the writer’s childhood, it is also a description of the entire generation that grew up and was educated in the controversial social experiment of communal living. This is reflected in Neeman’s use throughout of the first person plural – “we.” And it is not only the story of her and the other children that she lived and grew up with at Yehiam, but also the story of children on other kibbutzim. The book provides an opening for the reader to enter the private world of this generation, which was raised so differently from most other children everywhere: To this day they carry the memories and the scars from the life that was at the same time both innocent and harsh.
In her unique style of writing, Neeman covers the space that opened up between the idealistic parents and their quest for equality in all things and the children who suffered the consequences of the system, filling it with memories of her girlhood and teen-age years interwoven with stories about the veterans who established the settlement. Despite the unbridgeable gap between the generations, it seems that both the adults and the children share the same impulse: to tell those around them the stories about the principles and the practices that guided their lives and made them who they are.