Things happen in the world because of the efforts of dedicated and courageous people whose names no one has heard, and who disappear from history.Undergraduate Years
At the age of sixteen, Chomsky began undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. It was 1945. He continued to live at home, paying for his education by teaching Hebrew school in the afternoons, on Sundays, and sometimes in the evenings. Hoping to build on the reading he had already done in the areas of philosophy, languages, and logic, he enrolled in a general program of study. He also resolved to study Arabic, and was the only undergraduate in the university to do so at the time. Although he plunged into his work with typical freshman enthusiasm, Chomsky soon became discouraged because he discovered that the institutional structure that he had so loathed in high school was largely replicated at Penn. There were some highlights: he was able to make contact with a few stimulating scholars. He met C. West Churchman in the philosophy department, and his Arabic teacher was Giorgio Levi Della Vida, "an antifascist exile from Italy who was a marvellous person as well as an outstanding scholar" (Chomsky Reader 7). It was not simply an interest in their academic work that drew Chomsky to certain people; he was also, and perhaps more powerfully, attracted by their general attitude. Della Vida, for example, excited him more politically than he did academically.
Dismayed by his undergraduate experience, Chomsky soon began to reflect on the possibility of dropping out of college, "to go to Palestine, perhaps to a kibbutz, to try to become involved in efforts at Arab-Jewish cooperation within a socialist framework'" (Chomsky Reader 7). The decision was a crucial one at this stage in his life, and it also has a retrospective significance, given the lifelong difficulties he has had with the Zionist movement. Like numerous mainstream Zionist individuals and organizations, Chomsky opposed the idea that there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. The creation of such a state would necessitate carving up the territory and marginalizing, on the basis of religion, a significant portion of its poor and oppressed population, rather than uniting them on the basis of socialist principles. Opponents of the establishment of a Jewish state still raise the ire of the many contemporary Zionists who do not acknowledge the principles that underwrote one stream of Zionism earlier this century, and who, by extension, fail to recognize the problems created when a state is established according to religious precepts.
Hashomer Hatzair today
While Chomsky was doing his undergraduate work, various social movements were active in Palestine, but the one that interested him was the cooperative-labor movement. The approach its adherents took to organizing society, which was employed in numerous kibbutzim, bears important similarities to the Catalonian model as described by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia. So Chomsky's very early tendency to sympathize with cooperative libertarian impulses rather than Stalinist or Trotskyite visions which were popular among contemporary Zionist youth groups, notably Hashomer Hatzair once again prevailed.
As far as I recall, among the Zionist youth groups it was only Hashomer Hatzair that could seriously be described as involved in all of this, and in the U.S., at least, it was almost completely either Stalinist or Trotskyist. I met many activists from around the country at conferences, sometimes at the "Hachshara farms" (where young people would go to live in preparation for going to the kibbutzim), etc. I don't recall anyone in Hashomer Hatzair who was outside that framework. (13 Feb. 1996)
In 1947, at the age of nineteen, he began to date Carol Doris Schatz,
whom he had first met when they were both young children. Today,
almost fifty years later, they are still together. Also in 1947,
Chomsky met Zellig Harris, a charismatic professor who shared many of
his interests and who would have a profound influence upon his
life. As a result of meeting Harris, Chomsky delayed his planned
departure from university to work on one of the cooperative-labor
kibbutzim and prolonged his studies at the University of
Pennsylvania. This change of plans was to have important consequences.