The Past, Present, and Future of Kibbutzim Within Israel


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A kibbutz is simply a settlement made up of like-minded people with shared communal space that typically use varying forms of industry or agriculture as the bases for the community’s livelihood. Israel has a strong history in using communal living with the first kibbutz being established nearly a century ago before Israel even became a nation. Today there are nearly 270 different kibbutzim within the boundaries of Israel making up a small chunk of the country’s economy. In these communities people work together to build a society that is independent and self-sufficient with emphasis on communal ownership. Most individuals who join a kibbutz are immigrants or refugees. This is because kibbutzim offer a strong sense of family and equality amongst its participants. These communities are partial to sharing living spaces with one another including eating, sleeping, and bathing areas. Each individual in the community contributes to the communal family, which can include raising the children, preventing crime, and physical labor.

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The community functions with a form of democracy, which is heavily based on group elections. Elected community figures have a lot of responsibility and large impact on the direction in which the kibbutz takes. Since there are no individual bank accounts all-important purchases tend to be well thought out and agreed upon by consensus. Kibbutzim in Israel brings in over $100 million in profit a year, which is more heavily influenced by the industrialized kibbutz’s than the agricultural ones since now only 15% of kibbutzim still rely on agriculture as the livelihood for the community. An interesting fact about kibbutzim is that they played a large role in defining Israel’s boarders. A high increase in established kibbutzim happened in the 1930s till the end of 1945. In 1946 many kibbutzim were hurriedly established in northern parts of the state in order to give Israel a better claim to the land.

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The first kibbutz was called Degania Bet and came into existence in 1909 by Jewish Zionist pioneers. With only 12 members the community was located on the southern part of the Seas of Galilee. Some of the social aspects of life on a kibbutz included the importance put on equality of the sexes and the importance of communal family. Children slept in unattached sleeping quarters away from their parents called children’s houses. Originally these communities were intended to be utopias with a heavy influence from socialism and Zionism, but since then many have become privatized with changes in communal lifestyles.

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This lifestyle creates personal eases and has unique benefits like a strong sense of community and family, but there has been more recent studies providing research that this lifestyle may not be the best for children to grow up in. Studies have shown children raised in Kibbutz’s tend to have troubles holding a long-term relationship in adulthood. They say this could be the result of the children rearing process many kibbutz’s use, which is separating children from their parents to be raised with their fellow peers. Although on the other hand, many individuals that grew up on kibbutz’s have had very positive outcomes from the experience, but ultimately overall only a small majority of kibbutz children decided to continue the lifestyle.

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The continuation of the kibbutz tradition is important as a small sub-culture within the Israeli community. It is a community, which doesn’t need the approval of mainstream society to prosper in the world. It keeps strong values and philosophies while still interacting with the modern world while also being self-sufficient. Ultimately there a lot to be learned from the kibbutz lifestyle that westernized culture could use to benefit their communities.

Resources:

http://jafi.org/JewishAgency

http://jbd.sagepub.com/content/8/3/273.short

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degania_Alef

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5 thoughts on “The Past, Present, and Future of Kibbutzim Within Israel

  1. I was really surprised to start reading this and realize that I had heard of a kibbutz before. It took me a few minutes to figure out where I had actually heard it, but I finally figured out that it was in a book I read once before. I can’t put my finger on what the title of the book was but I remember that it was similar to the scenarios that you mentioned within your blog. It goes along with where you mentioned that sometimes growing up in a kibbutz, when the children reach adulthood they sometimes have trouble holding long-term relationships. The story told of the girl’s life style while growing up in the kibbutz and also told of the different problems that arose as her life changed. I know I read this book sometime in middle school for a project so it leads me to believe maybe this has been an ongoing problem that researchers just started studying.

  2. I would be very interested in visiting a place like this. It seems like a lot of positives come out of them however it does seem odd how they decide to raise the children. It definitely is different than how we do things around here. Do you know if anyone prominent has come out of these communities? Such as government officials or celebrities?

  3. So does this explain the settlements in the occupied areas, or are these communities completely separate entities? Regardless it seems as if the kibbutz have adopted a very interesting way of life that would be interesting to see applied here in the United States.

  4. Hm. Interesting article. Are these counter culture to the sort of Westernized cities or does this simply follow a subculture? I wonder if it is much like communal living in the USA in the 60s. Seems more productive though… and a lot more aimed at gathering land to own. Wonder how much this has contributed to the take over and often state sanctioned theft of Palestinian land.

  5. After reading this article I immediately called my Dad I had remember him telling me that he once lived on a Kibbutz for three months as a volunteer. He told me how he would pick avocados and bananas during the week and would help with the Sabbath dinner. He said no matter what job from a painter to a doctor you made the same amount of money, I found that so interesting. He said this made it hard for someone to leave the Kibbutz if they wished because they did not make very much money while living there. I too would love to spend a little time on a Kibbutz to experience true socialism.

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