A formative experience as a young adult on a kibbutz, that's what!

Binchy, an Irish novelist whose work focused on women's lives and friendships, died Monday at age 72. Her book, "A Circle of Friends," was made into a movie starring Minnie Driver and the ferociously talented Alan Cumming, now starring as ethically suspect Chicago lawyer Eli Gold on "The Good Wife."

But I digress out of ferocious fandom for Cumming.

The many obituaries lauding Binchy mention that she got her start as a writer in newspapers, when her father published letters that she wrote to him from her stint in a kibbutz in the early 1960s.

Which begs the question, obviously, of what a Catholic Dublin doctor's daughter was doing on a kibbutz fifty years ago?

Ah, bless this series of tubes.

Here's what, from New York magazine's Vulture blog, which raised this topic in a 2008 Q&A with Binchy:

I’ve read you worked in a kibbutz.
In 1963, I worked in a Jewish school in Dublin, teaching French with an Irish accent to kids, primarily Lithuanians. The parents there gave me a trip to Israel as a present. I had no money, so I went and worked in a kibbutz — plucking chickens, picking oranges. My parents were very nervous; here I was going out to the Middle East by myself. I wrote to them regularly, telling them about the kibbutz. My father and mother sent my letters to a newspaper, which published them. So I thought, It’s not so hard to be a writer. Just write a letter home. After that, I started writing other travel articles.

Seems she was a lovely lady, no? Words to live by, I think: It's not so hard … just write a letter home.