The kibbutz, or kevuẓah (plural: kibbutzim, kevuẓot) is a voluntary collective community, mainly agricultural, in which there is no private wealth and which is responsible for all the needs of the members and their families. The kibbutz movement in Israel in 1969 numbered 93,000 people in 231 kibbutzim and kevuẓot organized in several federations according to social, political, and religious outlook. Since that time the kibbutz has undergone enormous changes, distancing itself from the classic model (see below) and becoming what its founders never dreamed it would become.
The first kevuẓah was founded in 1909 at *Deganyah by a group of pioneers, who, after working at first as employees of the Palestine Land Development Company, undertook collective responsibility for the working of the farm. Another group, which started work at *Kinneret in the same year, became an independent kevuẓah in 1913. By 1914 there were 11 kevuẓot established on Jewish National Fund land under the responsibility of the Zionist Organization, and the number grew to 29 by the end of 1918. The early kevuẓot had small memberships based upon the idea that the community should be small enough to constitute a kind of enlarged family. During the Third Aliyah, after World War i, when larger numbers of pioneering settlers (ḥalutzim) arrived, Shelomo *Lavi and others proposed the establishment of large, self-sufficient villages, combining agriculture with industry, for which the name "kibbutz" was used. The first of this type was *En Harod, founded in 1921, and many others followed. Later, however, the distinction between the two terms almost disappeared. The kibbutzim and kevuẓot combined to establish federations in accordance with their social character, political affiliations, or religious outlook: Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot, founded in 1925 (later merged in Iḥud ha-Kevuẓot ve-ha-Kibbutzim); Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, and Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad, both founded in 1927; and Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati, founded in 1935. In 1979 the two kibbutz organizations, Kibbutz Ha-Meuḥad and Iḥud Ha-Kevutzot ve-ha-Kibbutzim reunited after 28 years of separation to form the Ha-Tenuah ha-Kibbuẓit ha-Meuḥedet (TaKaM). (For separate accounts, see below.)
The kibbutzim received their manpower mainly from the pioneering youth movements abroad and, in their turn, provided the movements with a practical ideal of pioneering settlement on the land in order to make a major contribution to the building of the Jewish National Home and create a model and a basis for the socialist society of the future. They played an important part in expanding the map of Jewish settlement and safeguarding the growing community. In the late 1930s many were set up overnight on the *Tower and Stockade plan so as to forestall official obstruction and Arab attack. The kibbutzim served as bases for the *Haganah defense force and later the *Palmaḥ, its commando section. Most of the new villages established under emergency conditions during and immediately after World War ii, especially in the Negev, were kibbutzim. By the establishment of independence, they numbered 149 out of the 291 Jewish villages in the country.
In 1948 and 1949 the momentum of kibbutz expansion continued: out of 175 new villages founded during the two years, 79 were kibbutzim. The Jews from Muslim countries and survivors of the Holocaust who arrived in enormous numbers during the early years of the state were not favorably disposed to the kibbutz idea, however, and most of them preferred to settle in *moshavim. Youngsters born or brought up in Israel, including the second or third generation from older kibbutzim and graduates of *Youth Aliyah and Israel youth movements, became more prominent among the founders of new kibbutzim, especially in the Negev and, after the Six-Day War (1967), in the Golan Heights.
The Original Character of the Kibbutz
The kibbutz was a unique product of the Zionist labor movement and the Jewish national revival. It was not conceived theoretically as an escapist or utopian project; it was developed by Jewish workers inspired by ideas of social justice as an integral part of the Zionist effort to resettle the homeland. From its inception, the kibbutz movement played a pioneering role in the economic, political, cultural, and security activities required to carry out that purpose. The movement was composed of people from different countries and backgrounds, and of varying political beliefs. Some communities were inspired by A.D. *Gordon's ethical Jewish identification with nature and of physical labor as the supreme human value. Others cherished the tradition of the *Gedud ha-Avodah of the early 1920s, which regarded itself as a militant constructive task force. Others, again, do not regard themselves as a part of the socialist movement, while a number of kibbutzim (mostly organized in Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati) have been established by religious Jews and combine communal life with the fulfillment of the laws of the Torah.
In the early 1950s differences of opinion over Marxist theory and support for pro-Soviet policies led to a split in Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad, and one section joined with Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot to form Iḥud ha-Kevuẓot ve-ha-Kibbutzim. Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, believing that the kibbutz as an economic unit could not be divorced from its political ideals, regarded itself as a political unit as well. Over the years, each of the federations was associated to a greater or lesser degree with one of the Israel parties. With the passage of time, many of the initial differences between one type of kibbutz and another disappeared. Most of the small, purely agricultural ones grew and established industries, and the differences between the small kevuẓah and the large kibbutz vanished. With the intensification of Soviet hostility to Israel, the attitude to the U.S.S.R. ceased, to all intents and purposes, to be a dividing factor, especially since the Six-Day War. There was an increasing trend toward inter-kibbutz activity and cooperation in all spheres, ranging from education to the economy.
The movement was supported from its inception by Zionist and Israel government agencies with long-term leases of national land, technical advice, development projects, and long-term financing. Through a special corps, *Naḥal, composed of youth movement graduates, the Israel Defense Forces trained nuclei of future kibbutzim and helped in their establishment. Sites for new kibbutzim were chosen in the light of national settlement and defense policy, often at the expense of economic viability. Many of them were in border areas and played an important part in the regional defense system.
In the classic model, the basis of kibbutz administration was a weekly general meeting of the membership, which formulated policy, elected officers, and superviseed the overall working of the community. Candidates for membership were usually accepted after a year's probation. Kibbutzim were incorporated cooperative enterprises, and generally speaking members transferred all assets, other than personal effects, to the kibbutz. If a member decided to leave he was entitled to his personal effects and, in line with a later decision of the movement, to a cash grant proportional to the time he had been in the kibbutz. Uniform national bylaws governing individual rights in the kibbutz were approved.
Affairs of the kibbutz were conducted by elected committees, the principal one being the secretariat, which usually consisted of a secretary, treasurer, chairmen of some of the key committees, the production manager, and others. There were committees in charge of education, cultural activities, questions of principle and personal problems of members, economic planning, coordination of work, and nominations. Elective positions, including managerial ones, were rotated every year or two.
The kibbutz federations provided financial assistance to their member villages through independent loan funds and national negotiation with financial and governmental institutions. They offered technical advisory services ranging from economic analysis to the planning of communal kitchens and laundries. Central purchasing and marketing services cut costs for individual kibbutzim and a special department dealt with kibbutz-based industry. They operated their own psychological clinics for children (including a school for disturbed children) and, in cooperation with institutions of higher learning, offered courses in specific branches of technology, agriculture, and kibbutz management. Cultural activities ranged from movement-wide choirs and amateur orchestras to regional schools for adult education on a non-university and university level. The kibbutz federations were joined together in Berit ha-Tenu'ah ha-Kibbutzit ("Kibbutz Movement Alliance"), which coordinated their activities in the many areas in which they cooperated. The three major ones jointly operated Israel's largest teachers' training college – Seminar ha-Kibbutzim.
Each federation operated an ideological center, where seminars were conducted, and published bulletins and journals of letters and opinion. Berit ha-Tenu'ah ha-Kibbutzit established a company for the production of television material on kibbutz topics. Each federation negotiated with its kibbutzim for manpower for general movement activity, not only within the movement itself but in the Zionist and labor movements and in government service. There was an increasing degree of regional cooperation cutting across federation boundaries. This included regional secondary schools, youth and cultural activity, and large regional economic and industrial complexes – including plants for canning, poultry slaughtering and dressing, packing and fodder preparation, cotton gins and large silos, trucking and hauling cooperatives, and large regional garages.
Social and Educational Aspects
The kibbutz movement believed in personal labor and placed equal value on all kinds of work. In the course of time people took up more or less permanent jobs, but there was a great deal of work mobility. With economic expansion and the increasing technical complexity of the kibbutz economy, it became necessary in many instances to hire outside labor in contradiction to the movement's socialist principles. It was hoped to solve this problem in the course of time with increased population and efficiency. Another problem which the movement tried to solve was the absorption of the increasing proportion of members who pursued academic or professional careers, often outside the kibbutz, while retaining their membership.
The kibbutz provided a complete spectrum of services to its members, ranging from razor blades to housing and from honeymoons to financial aid for dependents living outside, with complete medical coverage. Each kibbutz had a communal dining hall, laundry, and tailor shop. With the rise in the standard of living, increasing allowance was made for individual tastes and for spending in accordance with personal inclination on clothing, furnishings, cultural activities, hobbies, vacations, and so forth.
Up to 1970, in all but some dozen kibbutzim children lived in children's houses, which included sleeping quarters and play and study rooms, where community living was taught from the very earliest age. They were part of an organized children's community, living, eating, and studying together; in some ways they constituted a miniature kibbutz, conducting their own affairs, with the advice of teachers and group leaders, and in many kibbutzim operating their own small farms. Children "graduated" from one house to another as they advanced in age. Mothers – especially, of course, when nursing – visited their children frequently during the day, and after work the children were with their parents. People working with children were trained in kibbutz-sponsored courses, ranging from intensive three-month seminars to full-fledged kindergarten and teacher training. The kibbutz school differed from the city school in its emphasis on agriculture and on work as an integral part of the curriculum. It was considered an extension of the children's society, so that the teacher-pupil relationship was close and informal. All kibbutz children continued through secondary school; the increasing number who intended to go on to higher education were prepared for the matriculation examinations. A number of kibbutzim, principally among those belonging to the Iḥud, changed the system to provide for children sleeping in the homes of their parents. Advocates of the change believed that it enhanced the psychological security of the child, as well as improving the position of the woman and the family in the kibbutz. The effect of the kibbutz and its educational system on its children has been extensively studied. Research has not shown significant indications of maternal deprivation, though some psychologists have found some signs of this at the younger ages. They feel, however, that this was overcome at a later age by the powerful supporting environment.
There were some kibbutzim in which the third, and in a few even the fourth, generation had reached maturity, and a goodly number in which the kibbutz-born had become the dominant group. Through 1970 over 75% of the latter remained in the kibbutz, despite the attraction of the cities. Though only 4% of the total population of Israel, their percentage among army officers was three or four times as high. A quarter of all the casualties in the Six-Day War were soldiers from kibbutzim. More direct and practical than their parents, and less given to hairsplitting ideology, it was the young people who were the principal force pushing toward the ultimate unification of the movement.
Some sociological studies have shown that although there was no material basis for social stratification, elements of such stratification did exist on the basis of social prestige or kinds of work. There were some differences in personal possessions as well, due to outside sources of income such as gifts, reparations from Germany, or inheritances, which were not always handed in to the kibbutz in their entirety, though very large sums of money received by beneficiaries of reparations were handed over to the kibbutzim. Women were disappointed at times in their relationship with the kibbutz community. The idea of freeing women from household chores so that they could work at other tasks was one of the prime aims of the movement, but this became increasingly difficult as a kibbutz grew older and pressure was generated for increased work in child care and household services. Kibbutzim attempted to improve the personal and family status of women by improving physical conditions of work in the services, by raising the work level of a profession through training and study, and, in some cases, by reducing working hours for women with families.
The kibbutz movement was a major factor in the activities of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel. Its influence was both moral and practical, ranging from settlement and security functions (including settling new areas after the Six-Day War), to the absorption of immigrants and Youth Aliyah children, and the provision of leading personnel for Zionist and government service. The number of kibbutz members in the Knesset and among army officers was far beyond their proportion in the population. This influence is indicated by such diverse statistics as the fact that in 1970 its production accounted for 12% of Israel's gross national product, and that more than 20 members of the Knesset were kibbutz members. In the late 1960s the movement was increasing in size at the rate of about 2–3% a year. Although it had become an established institution, it was still demonstrating a capacity for changing with the times.
Iḥud ha-Kevuzot ve-ha-Kibbutzim
Iḥud ha-Kevutzot ve-ha-Kibbutzim (Heb. "Union of Collective Settlements") was founded in 1951 through the unification of Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot and Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim, which had split off from Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad (see below). In 1969 it comprised 81 communities, with a total population of about 30,000. Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot was the federation of the smaller, purely agricultural collective settlements, many of whose members believed in the ethical socialist concepts of A.D. *Gordon, and most of whom belonged to *Mapai, the Israel Labor Party; it included such long-established villages as *Deganyah and *Geva. The Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim settlements also leaned toward Mapai. The Iḥud was considered the most liberal of the three major kibbutz federations, allowing for more diversity and imposing less social or political discipline. In 1970, for example, children slept in the parents' homes in more than a dozen of its villages, though most of the other kibbutzim regard the dormitory system as a part of the movement's educational methods. A number of Iḥud kibbutzim also allowed for more latitude in the spending of personal funds. In 1953, the non-socialist kibbutzim of *Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni, associated with the Independent Liberal Party, joined the Iḥud on condition of educational and political autonomy.
Each kibbutz elected its representatives to the national executive, and the national secretariat consisted of members drafted from the kibbutzim. The movement operated a loan fund, purchasing services, and departments for economic planning and assistance, social and ideological problems, education, youth work, military security, manpower, and immigrant absorption. It delegated members for work in youth movements both in Israel and abroad, in Zionist and political affairs, in the labor movement, and in government service. It conducted a variety of seminars and courses in cultural and technical subjects. It cooperated with the other kibbutz federations in operating Seminar ha-Kibbutzim for training teachers, and at its convention in 1969 it decided actively to encourage university education for members. The kibbutzim conducted their own elementary schools and regional secondary schools, attended in some areas by children from moshavim and Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad communities as well.
The movement published a weekly bulletin, Iggeret la-Ḥaverim (from 1951); a quarterly journal, Niv ha-KevuẒah (from 1930); a bimonthly journal of opinion, Shedemot (from 1948); and a periodical for educators, Iggeret le-Ḥinnukh (from 1952). It organized regional and national cultural activities, such as discussion circles and the federation's choir. The youth of the movement was affiliated as a group to *Ha-No'ar ha-Oved, the Histadrut's youth section. The Iḥud had a special relationship with a number of youth movements in Israel and abroad, sending youth workers to them and receiving reinforcements from them. Among these are Ha-No'ar ha-Oved, Ha-Ẓofim (see *Scouts), *Iḥud ha-Bonim, and La-Merḥav.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arzi-ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir
Founded in 1927, comprised 73 kibbutzim and two *Naḥal outposts in 1969. Its ideological basis was a belief in the kibbutz as an instrument for fulfilling the Zionist ideal, furthering the class struggle, and building a Socialist society. Its founding members, who belonged to the *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir ("Young Guard") youth movement, came from Poland and Galicia in 1919, and in 1920 established the movement's first kibbutz, which settled at *Bet Alfa in 1922. By 1927 there were six Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir kibbutzim, four of which founded Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi. In the 40 years that followed, the population of its villages grew from 249 members and 19 children to over 31,000 persons, of whom some 16,000 were members and 10,000 children.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi ("The National Kibbutz [Movement]") regarded the kibbutz as an autonomous unit of social life, comprehending all spheres of economic, social, cultural, political, and educational activity, which were developed on principles laid down by the movement as a whole – both as an instrument for the realization of Zionism, the class struggle and the building of Socialism, and as an end in itself: the archetype of the Socialist society. Through continual democracy in all fields, the movement strove to develop a common outlook on life that united all its members (the so-called "ideological collectivism"). Its ideology was founded on pioneering Zionism paving the way for mass aliyah, the kibbutz way of life, integration of settlement work with political activity, Jewish political independence combined with Jewish-Arab cooperation, and the defense of Israel's security coupled with unremitting efforts to achieve peace.
From the start, Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi favored a union of all workers, including those in the cities, based on Zionist pioneering and Socialist principles. Since such a union failed to materialize, a Socialist League was formed in 1936 as its political partner. In 1946 they combined to form the Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir party, which, in turn, joined with two other groups in 1948 to found *Mapam, the United Workers' Party, of which Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi with its constituent kibbutzim was an integral part.
Members of Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi played a prominent part in the struggle for Jewish independence. They formed the first Tower and Stockade settlement, Tel Amal (Nir David) in 1936; many of them joined the supernumerary police, the Jewish units in the British army, and the Jewish Brigade; and they made an important contribution to Aliyah Bet (*"illegal immigration") and the founding of the *Palmaḥ.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi regarded the education of its members' children as a matter of central importance. It trained them for active and creative participation in collective life, employing youth movement traditions and progressive educational methods. There were independent children's communities, covering the first six years of schooling, in almost every kibbutz, as well as 25 schools serving the kibbutzim, with youth communities covering the 7th–12th school years, and a teachers' training seminar at Givat Ḥavivah. The aim of the movement's educational institutions was to inculcate a general philosophy of life, and not mere booklearning. Some 4,800 of their alumni became kibbutz members and in 1967 the first group aiming at the formation of a new kibbutz was founded. Members of the older kibbutzim served an additional year in newer kibbutzim after completing their army service.
Although Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi had as its primary objective the development of agriculture, most kibbutzim started up industrial plants. In 1968, the movement's agricultural output was valued at il 168,000,000 ($48,000,000), or 9.9% of agricultural output in the country, and the industrial output at il 98,500,000 ($28,000,000). Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi published various periodicals for its members. It maintained a publishing house, Sifriat ha-Poalim, founded in 1931, which had issued about 1,000 books by 1970, and the Moreshet Institute for research on the Holocaust, established in 1962. The highest authority in Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi was the triennial convention, which had committees that meet annually. The convention chose an executive council, which appointed a secretariat. Younger members had their own sectional organization.
[Yaakov Arie Hazan]
Founded in 1927, Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad ("The United Kibbutz [Movement]") was a national organization of kibbutzim united by a common concept of the kibbutz and a common approach to the building of a labor society in the Land of Israel. The ideology of the movement was based on the following principles: the kibbutz should be a large settlement, with no predetermined limit to the number of members; it should be open to all comers and should not restrict itself to the graduates of any particular youth movement; it should engage in all forms of essential production, both agricultural and industrial; it should play a role in the integration of newcomers to the country by aiming at a membership representing a wide range of geographic origin. The first kibbutz with these aims was En Harod (founded in 1921 by *Gedud ha-Avodah, "the Labor Legion") and when the Kibbutz Me'uḥad movement was founded, at a conference in Petaḥ Tikvah in 1927, it was based on En Harod, groups of newcomers, and local youth from the moshavot. Other kibbutzim joined in 1929, and a second conference, held at Yagur in 1936, further elaborated the movement's principles. It exercises authority over the kibbutzim of the movement in matters of ideology, each kibbutz being autonomous in administration and finance. From its foundation, it regarded Yiẓḥak *Tabenkin of En Harod as its spiritual and ideological leader. During the Mandatory regime Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad played a large part in the defense of the yishuv, the organization of "illegal" immigration, and the struggle for independence, with a special role in the creation and maintenance of the Palmaḥ. The movement's kibbutzim were scattered all over Israel, and it prided itself that their location had always been determined by the country's pioneering needs. Thus the first Jewish settlement to be established on the Golan Heights after the Six-Day War was founded by Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad, conforming to the principle, adopted at the 1955 conference held at Givat Brenner, that "the natural borders of Ereẓ Israel are those of the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and this is the area for aliyah, settlement, and the realization of the Zionist program."
Most of the movement's members belonged in the 1940s to the left-wing faction of Mapai. When the latter split in 1944, Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad was the nucleus of the newly formed Si'ah Bet (b Faction), later *Aḥdut ha-Avodah, which joined with Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir in 1945 to form Mapam, though a minority remained in Mapai. Owing to the fact that its members came from a variety of youth movements, there was never a dearth of internal political and social controversy in the movement and its kibbutzim. Differences came to a head as a result of the growing intensity of the struggle between Mapai and Mapam and the decision of the Mapai minority to set up its own cultural and educational institutions. At a meeting of the movement's council, held at Na'an in 1951, kibbutzim with a Mapai majority seceded and formed Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim, which joined with Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot to form Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim ve-ha Kevuẓot. Four kibbutzim (one of them En Harod itself), which were evenly divided between Mapai and Mapam, were each split into two separate settlements.
Members of Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad have figured prominently among the founders and leaders of the Israel labor movement and the Haganah, officers in the Israel forces in the War of Independence, authors and artists, Knesset members and cabinet ministers. Always a strong advocate of the unification of the labor movement, it supported the formation of the Israel Labor Party, which was joined by practically all its members. Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad had a chain of economic enterprises and cultural and social institutions: Keren ha-Kibbutz and Mishkei ha-Kibbutz, its major financial and economic instruments; Efal, a center for higher education and leadership training; Mi-Bifnim ("From Within"), an ideological quarterly; and Ba-Kibbutz, a weekly. It also published periodicals for youth and others dealing with education, culture, etc. Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad publishing house issued 700 original works up to 1968. The movement maintained a museum and research center for the study of the history of the Holocaust, Beit Yiẓḥak Katznelson, at Kibbutz *Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot, and an art museum, Ha-Mishkan le-Ommanut, at En Harod.
In 1968 it comprised 58 settlements, with a population of some 25,000. One of these, Givat Brenner (population 1,604), was the largest kibbutz in the country. In the 1960s the population of the settlements grew by an average of 3.5% per year. The area under cultivation was 12,500 acres (50,000 dunams), and the number of industrial enterprises was 45, with a turnover of about il50,000,000.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati (Heb. "The Religious Kibbutz"), the union of *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi kibbutzim, was established in 1935 by four religious pioneer groups consisting of members of Baḥad (see *Mizrachi)-Ha-Po'el Ha-Mizrachi from Germany and the Mizrachi Pioneers from Poland. Most of its development took place before Israel's independence. Seven pioneer groups were founded before 1940 and another nine before 1948. Ten groups were able to establish kibbutzim: three in the Beth-Shean valley (Tirat Ẓevi, Sedeh Eliyahu, En ha-Naẓiv), three in the Hebron hills (Gush Eẓyon), three in the neighborhood of Gaza (Be'erot Yiẓḥak, Sa'ad and Kefar Darom), and Yavneh. Two more were founded in 1948 – Sheluḥot in the Beth-Shean Valley and Lavi in Lower Galilee. Six of the villages, which were situated at the edge of the Jewish area in a completely Arab district, were totally destroyed during the War of Independence and many of the adult population were killed. They were reestablished later, three of them as *moshavim shittufiyyim. After a lengthy period of stagnation, most of the religious kibbutzim recovered in the 1960s and numbered among the most flourishing in the country. One new kibbutz, Alummim, was founded in 1966, and at the end of 1967 Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati had 11 member settlements with a total population of 4,000, including Naḥal outposts on Mount Gilboa and at Kefar Eẓyon.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati was based, from the beginning, on the idea of combining religious practice with labor – Torah va-Avodah. Its founders believed that the best means to this end is the communal group, within the framework of which the community can carry out religious precepts in daily life; this attitude was in contrast to the general view of Ha-Poel Ha-Mizrachi of the time. While implementing the general kibbutz principles of communal production and consumption, equality, self-labor, and pioneering, it also emphasized the importance of Jewish religious tradition. Its religious socialism was founded on prophetic concepts of social justice and talmudic principles of human relations and good government; as regards their attitude to contemporary problems, its way was that of religious socialism. It regarded democracy as a basic value of the kibbutz, and not merely as a corollary of equality. In its view, communal ownership was important not only for economic reasons but as an expression of religious and human attitudes.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati aimed at establishing a self-contained religious society as a major instrument for bringing about religious renewal under present conditions of national renascence and the resettlement of Ereẓ Israel. It developed an approach of its own to the celebration of Independence Day, army service for girls, public prayer, shemittah, and so forth. It aimed at establishing groups of kibbutzim in the same area, with a view to developing regional activities in education and economy in accordance with its principles.
Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati influenced public life in Israel in various ways: it was among the founders of *Youth Aliyah and of various religious youth villages, yeshivot, and other educational institutions, and it provided help and guidance for the *Bnei Akiva youth movement. Politically, it expressed its independent view within the frameworks of Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi and the *National Religious Party, having been instrumental in the establishment of La-Mifneh, the left-wing faction in these movements. The association published a journal, Ammudim (called Alonim 1938–49, Yedi'ot ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati 1951–56), which appeared monthly and was devoted to questions of the religious public and the state, apart from purely internal affairs.
The Beginnings of Change
The period commencing in 1977 was particularly significant because of a series of events that had unusual importance for the kibbutz movement. The first event was the political upheaval of 1977, in which the Labor Alignment – to which the decisive majority of kibbutzim belonged – lost control of the government, which it had held in various coalitions since the establishment of the state. The change in the political conditions had far-reaching effects in many areas of the kibbutz: these were felt only several years later. In an apparent paradox, the years of the Likud government, 1977–1984, were a period of rapid economic growth and development in the kibbutz movement. However, at the end of this period an economic crisis began, with social consequences within the kibbutzim themselves. According to some analyses, the sources of their subsequent problems are to be found in the long-term consequences of the economic policies carried out by the Likud government. The political changes also sped up the processes of change in the structure of the kibbutz movement, which culminated in the unification of the Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim and the Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad movements in the United Kibbutz Movement (ukmTakam in Hebrew). One of the main justifications for the unification was the necessity for the creation of a large and united kibbutz body which would aid in renewing the labor movement and in influencing the general Israeli society.
As a basis for understanding these events, three structural developments, which had previously taken place within the kibbutzim, must be noted:
(1) The kibbutzim were no longer small, rural, communal farms, but were now large settlements, with a varied economic base, with several generations born and living there, plus new members from all over the world.
(2) There was a transformation from almost complete dependence on agriculture as a source of income to a complex economic formation, integrating agriculture, industries of many kinds, educational and service systems, and connections to large and powerful local and national economic and financial institutions, both in and outside of the kibbutz movement itself.
(3) A noticeable rise occurred in the standard of living in the kibbutzim, which made possible the meeting of more varied material and personal needs, even as it raised expectations in those areas.
More than in the past, this period posed the question of whether and how it was possible to realize the communal and egalitarian values upheld by the kibbutz in the conditions of a large and complex society which had become increasingly heterogeneous and more similar to the surrounding nonkibbutz society.
During this period there was relatively fast growth in the kibbutz population. Between 1976 and 1986, it grew from 98,800 to 126,700 people. This was an increase of 28.2%, which was much greater than the rate of growth during other periods after the establishment of the state (from 1950–1960 the growth was 16.4%; between 1960 and 1970, 7.7%; and from 1970 to 1976, 7.9%). The rate of growth of the kibbutz population in this period was greater than that of the rate of growth of the Israeli population as a whole (21.1%), and even more so when compared to the rate of the Jewish population (17.9%). This was a change from the pattern which had existed from after the establishment of the state, where the rate of growth of the Jewish population was much greater than that of the kibbutzim. This change was mainly a result of the large waves of immigration in the 1950s and 1960s, which caused the share of the kibbutz within the total Jewish population to fall from its height of 7.4% in 1947 to only 3.3% in 1970. The turnaround of this tendency in the 1980s was reflected in the small, but significant rise in the kibbutz share of the Jewish population to 3.6%.
The rate of growth of the kibbutz population was also much faster during this period than that of the moshavim, which grew only by 10%. The moshavim – the second major form of cooperative settlement – grew much more quickly than the kibbutz after the establishment of the state, because the vast majority of the mass immigrations which were sent to agricultural settlements were directed to them. The moshav has been traditionally based largely on individual agricultural holdings worked by a single family as its source of income, while maintaining some limited forms of communal, social, and economic cooperation. This form of settlement was considered more suitable for absorbing the waves of immigrants who came from North Africa and the Middle East in the 1950s.
The growth of the kibbutz population slowed in 1986. Apparently this was connected with the economic crisis that had overtaken the kibbutz movement and whose effects were especially felt at the end of the period.
The vast majority of the kibbutz population (more than 85%) were members of the kibbutzim and their children. In addition there were children from outside and youth groups who were being educated in the kibbutz; groups of young people receiving training prior to their joining the kibbutz or setting up a new one; students at special schools for learning Hebrew and groups of young men and women from abroad working in the kibbutz in order to learn about its way of life.
The sources for the growth in membership of the kibbutzim have changed during the different stages of development of the kibbutz movement. Before the 1960s few of the children of the kibbutz had reached the age at which they might join the kibbutz as members – this would be in their early twenties, after finishing their army service. Most of the members of the kibbutzim were immigrants, mostly from Europe, and a few who were born in Israel or had come from North or South Africa or from Middle Eastern countries. From the 1960s the proportion of kibbutz-born children rose significantly among those joining the kibbutz. Among those coming from outside the kibbutz, from the 1970s an increase occurred in the proportion of young people who applied for membership without having gone through the traditional path of the youth groups connected to the kibbutz movements. These youth movements originally developed independently, principally in Eastern Europe, and continued with the guidance and help of the kibbutz movements, which saw in them a major source for growth.
According to figures from one kibbutz movement (Kibbutz Arẓi), during the decade of 1970–1980, kibbutz-born individuals made up 38% of those joining the kibbutz, and young people who came out of the youth movement or who were educated in the kibbutz made up 26%, while those who came from outside the kibbutz, but were not in the youth movement, were the largest source of growth comprising 44%. Statistics from the other kibbutz movements were not available. However, there is reason to believe that the situation was similar.
The proportionate weight of different groups in the growth of the kibbutz was dependent not only on their weight among the joiners, but also on the rate of those now leaving the kibbutz. Each of the groups had a different rate of leaving the kibbutz. The highest relative leaving rate was that of people coming out of the youth movement, particularly the Israeli branch. As a consequence the proportion of the three different groups in the net growth of the kibbutz in this decade was as follows: children born in the kibbutz – 43%; graduates of the youth movement – 13%; and absorbees without movement background – 44%.
The group of absorbees without movement background was not homogeneous in its make-up or motivation for joining. They joined in large part through marriage to people born in the kibbutz, and they were thereby connected indirectly with internal sources of growth of the kibbutz. (Boys and girls from the same kibbutz tended not to marry among themselves; the majority of marriages were with people from outside the kibbutz movement.) Another group of those without movement background were graduates of the ulpanim for learning Hebrew or volunteers from abroad. There were also young families from the city who chose the kibbutz way of life. Unlike the past, the kibbutz movements made special efforts in the 1980s to encourage absorption from among the latter element by means of advertisements in the mass media or by special programs aimed at certain communities.
Evidence of the rise in the importance of internal growth may be seen from a comparison between the natural growth and the "migration balance" (the ratio between those staying and leaving among those who came from outside the kibbutz) as factors in the increase in the total kibbutz population. During the entire period from 1950 until 1975, natural increase was the only source of growth, while the migration balance was negative; the number of those who left was greater than those who joined the kibbutz from the general society. Of course, some of the kibbutz children left and some of the absorbees stayed on, but the latter were so few as to be unable to account for any significant part of the population growth. The relatively low percentage of absorbees staying reflects the process of selection and choice involved in joining a cooperative society whose way of life is essentially different from that on the outside.
Starting in 1975 this pattern changed, and, in most years through the 1980s, the number of those joining from the outside was greater than that of those leaving. However, in this period, too, natural increase remained the main source of growth. This was despite the higher rate of death in these years due to the relative aging of the kibbutz population. The large share of internal sources in the growth of the kibbutz stems also from the relatively higher rate of birth in the kibbutz compared to other sectors of the Jewish-Israeli society, which will be dealt with below.
The kibbutz population was originally younger than the general population, since it was established by homogeneous groups of young people. Within this decade, in the older kibbutzim which were founded in the 1920s and 1930s, large groups of the founders passed the age of 70, or even of 80 and 90. In some of these kibbutzim the members over 65 make up a quarter or more of the population. However, in the total population of the kibbutzim the percent of this stratum reached only 9.2%, and this was slightly lower than that of the Jewish population in Israel, 10.1%. The percent of the kibbutz population in the younger age groups was also greater than is found in the general Jewish population (in the age group from 0–14, it is 30.3% in the kibbutz vs. 19.9% in the city; and for the age group 15–24, it is 19.1% vs. 16%, respectively). In general, then, the kibbutz population was younger than that of surrounding Jewish society. There was, nevertheless, importance in the age distribution in the individual kibbutz. In some kibbutzim the existence of a large group of aged created problems that demanded new solutions.
When the first members in the older kibbutzim reached the age of retirement, they came to a decision, which was later taken in all the kibbutz movements, that these older members would not stop working at this fixed age. Later on, a decision was reached that specified a gradual reduction in the daily norm of work hours (the standard was eight hours per day), starting at the age of 50 for women and at 55 for men – down to four hours a day, at the age of 60 for women and 65 for men. Most of the oldsters worked until a very old age, and research findings show that there was a positive influence on their mental health from the continuing activity. The kibbutz took care to develop suitable places of work, appropriate for the skills and capacities of the older members, yet many continued to work in their previous work places. In general the work of the older people made an economic contribution of real significance.
The extended family, with children and grandchildren in the same community, was an important supporting element in the process of aging, along with the development of welfare institutions and services which dealt with health and rehabilitation problems (cases of members being sent to old people's homes were very rare). These conditions led to a much longer life expectancy in the kibbutz than in other societies. At the age of 50 life expectancy for men in Israel was an additional 25.7 years, while in the kibbutz 28.3 and for women in Israel 27.9 and in the kibbutz 31. The average in 64 other countries in 1980 was 23.5 for men and 27.3 for women. It seems that in addition to the social support within the family a major factor was the contribution of the communal framework. Furthermore, it has been noted that in the kibbutz there is no difference in the death-rates for married and unmarried people, while in other societies there is a higher death rate for unmarried people.
Different age-structures as found among various kibbutzim was only one of the many differences among them in the area of demographic characteristics. One crucial difference between kibbutzim resulted from the different sizes of their population, connected in many cases with when they were established.
While in 39 kibbutzim, most of them young, the number of members was less than 100, in the 16 largest kibbutzim the number of members was over 500. However, in only four of these large kibbutzim were there more than 700 members, and in only one did the number approach 1,000. The total population in a single kibbutz community that includes in addition to adult members also children and temporary groups varies between less than 100 and more than 1,500.
Patterns of growth occurred in almost all the kibbutzim in this decade, but the rate of growth was higher in the younger settlements than in the older kibbutzim. In the older kibbutzim the internal growth was augmented by absorbees from the outside, who did not come from a movement background. In contrast the growth of the younger kibbutzim was based more on graduates from the youth movement and to a certain degree also on young people who had left the older kibbutzim where they had been born.
From 1967 to the late 1980s, around 50 new kibbutzim were set up, mostly in the Galilee and Negev areas, continuing the traditional trend of settlement distant from the metropolitan center (51% of kibbutzim were concentrated in the north and 20% in the south of Israel).
As a result of government policy that favored settlement in the West Bank over that in other areas, the settlement activity of the kibbutz movement ran into difficulties during the decade and had to be partly financed by the movements themselves. Some of the newer settlements did not achieve social stability. Up to this period almost all the new settlements had been set up by graduates from the youth movements who went to them immediately after their army service.
changes in the role of the family
During the period under discussion the process of the strengthening of the family continued within the social structure of the kibbutz. In addition, there were other tendencies that appeared. The beginnings of the process of enhanced importance of the family date back to the 1950s and 1960s. and found expression in the kibbutz's demographic patterns: a rise in the birth rate, low rates of divorce, and a low marriage age.
There were also effects in the social and institutional areas. At the social level there appeared the extended family of several generations: in the same community would be found, besides the parents of the older stratum, the families of their children, and in the senior kibbutzim, the families of their grandchildren. In the oldest kibbutz therefore, four generations of the same family might be living together in the same community. This phenomenon was in contrast to the pattern outside the kibbutz of intergenerational mobility, geographic, occupational, and social.
In the institutional area, expression of the strengthening of the family took the form of demands which arose in different kibbutzim for a transfer of authority in both the educational and consumption fields from the kibbutz institutions to the individual families. The most obvious example was the demand that the children spend the night in their parents' homes, and not in the children's houses as was standard in the past. This issue raised stormy arguments in many kibbutzim before the final decision was taken.
Until the early 1970s only one kibbutz movement (the former "Iḥud") gave legitimacy to this change. However, during the 1980s, the changeover was completed in almost all of the kibbutzim of the United Kibbutz Movement. The demand to have the children sleep in their parents' homes also came up in the kibbutz movement which had always opposed this move. As a result of pressure from members/parents, approximately one-quarter of this movement's kibbutzim were already in different stages of the changeover during the 1980s.
The process of the changeover to having children sleeping at home developed in parallel with other symptoms of the strengthened status of the family, mainly in the area of consumption. At the same time efforts were made to strengthen the cohesion of other groups (work groups, age groups) besides the extended family.
The growing importance of the family in the kibbutz contradicted prevailing tendencies within Western society to weaken its status. On the other hand patterns similar to the more general direction began to appear in some areas of kibbutz demography.
With larger groups of kibbutz-born children reaching the stage of parenthood in the 1960s, there appeared a significant rise in the rate of birth in the kibbutzim and for the first time they surpassed the rates prevalent in the general Jewish population. During the period from 1965 to 1975, the birthrate of the kibbutzim was 26.8 per thousand, compared to 23.4 per thousand for the total Jewish population. From 1974 onwards a sharp change appeared in this pattern, and the birthrate went down from 28.6 to 22% in 1984, which was only slightly higher than that of the general Jewish population (21.6 per thousand).
A movement in the opposite direction appeared in regard to the divorce rate. From 1965 until 1975, there were lower rates of divorce in the kibbutz than in the past, and they were similar to those in the general Jewish society (less than one percent). From 1975 the rate went up from less than one percent to 1.4, which was greater than that prevailing in the society at large. There was also a rise in the age of marriage. While in the early 1970s many young adults married close to the end of their military service, it now became more popular to marry after a long trip abroad or after studies.
In any event, the family continued to play a more central role in the area of social relationships and this despite the fact that it had no economic function and its educational authority was relatively limited, even after the children began to sleep at home. The family did not have a defined formal status in the kibbutz since kibbutz membership was individual. The strengthening of the family resulted from the weakening of the overall social bonds in the kibbutz, with the growth and differentiation of the population. Furthermore, the family provided a kind of personal refuge from the intense communal life. These familial tendencies also expressed a desire for privacy and, sometimes, individualistic tendencies. On the other hand it would seem that the family appeared also as a framework bound up with obligations that might limit the freedom of the individual. This was evidently the significance of the rise in the divorce rate and the delaying of the marriage age.
changes in the economic and occupational structure
The economy of the kibbutz went through many rapid changes in the 1980s. The process of industrialization, which began to accelerate in the 1960s, continued at a fast pace, and in most of the kibbutzim industrial operations employed more workers than agriculture and the income from industry was greater than that from agriculture. In 1986, 25.5% of the kibbutz's active population worked in agriculture versus 5.2% of Israel's active population; 22.7% versus 24.6% worked in industry. Nevertheless, the agricultural output continued to rise during this period, but at a rate slower than the growth of the industrial output. The agricultural output of the kibbutz movement grew by 30.8% and in 1986 accounted for 39.7% of the Israeli total, while the industrial output grew by 73.4% and made up 6.8% of the total Israeli product.
The relative increase in the role of kibbutz agriculture in overall Israeli output took place during a period in which many crises hit the agricultural sector. Besides a deterioration in the export conditions and for various agricultural products, such as cotton, flowers, and citrus fruits, the change in the government's policy had a negative effect on Israeli agriculture as a whole. In some periods the agricultural planning was drastically curtailed and surpluses were formed, causing a fall in prices which badly hurt many farmers and certain branches of agriculture. The conditions under which credit and loans were given were made more difficult, with extremely high interest rates, far above the norm in the West, and research and development activities were limited.
Kibbutz agriculture was affected relatively less than other sectors of agriculture partly due to professional and organizational advantages which accrued to the large kibbutz farming operation and partly due to capacity to balance the damage to agricultural income by means of the income from other branches, particularly industry. The data from the agricultural census of 1981 give evidence of the more efficient use of labor and capital in the kibbutz, especially as compared to the moshav.
Kibbutz agriculture continued to concentrate on those crops which demanded less manual labor and progressed in its process of modernization by introducing computers in different areas, for example, control of the field crop's irrigation and of the nutrition of dairy cows. Those branches in which the majority of production was in the hands of the kibbutzim were cotton, apples and bananas, fish ponds, potatoes, and the raising of cattle for meat and milk.
However, the principal economic efforts concentrated on the development of kibbutz industry. In contrast to their dominant position in agriculture, the kibbutz enterprises made up a relatively small sector within Israeli industry in the mid-1980s: 5.8% of the workers, 4.8% of the plants, and 6.8% of the production. From this it can be seen that the average number of workers per plant was greater in the kibbutz. However, about half of those employed in Israeli industry worked in plants with more than 300 workers, while in the kibbutzim, most workers were concentrated in plants with fewer than 100 workers.
The smaller size of kibbutz plants stemmed from the tendency to base operation principally on kibbutz members alone. In the early stages of kibbutz industrialization, it was thought that, in order to succeed in the competition of the larger market, the number of workers could not be limited to just those who were available from the kibbutz workforce, and some kibbutz industries hired a relatively large number of workers from the outside. Most kibbutzim opposed this tendency and decided to avoid setting up plants which were labor-intensive; they specialized in plants that were relatively capital-intensive and with a high level of modern technology. An example of this type of operation was the plastics branch of the kibbutz industries, whose production made up 45% of the total Israeli output. Other areas in which the kibbutz sector constituted more than the average of kibbutẓ industries were wood and furniture (18.3%) and metalworking (10.6%). The avoidance of hired labor and the focus on industrial branches based on high technology became the general direction of kibbutz industry in the 1980s, in which a relatively large number of new plants were set up (73 of the 335 total). At the same time, there was a constant decline in the proportion of hired workers within the kibbutz industry workforce from 43% in 1975 to 28% in 1986.
In the 1980s the introduction of advanced technology became a rapid process, including the use of computerized numerical control (cnc) and the use of industrial robots. It seems that the introduction of advanced technology in kibbutz industry was significantly faster than was the case in similar industries in the general Israeli society. This is supported by the fact that 60% of all the industrial robots in Israel were to be found in kibbutz enterprises.
The capital and technological intensity of the kibbutz industries and its special organization and social structure seem able to explain the difference in the accomplishments in various areas between kibbutz industry and the other sectors of Israeli industry. For example, between 1976 and 1986 the index of exports grew in the kibbutz industries from a base of 100 to 364 in contrast to the growth of Israeli industry as a whole to an index level of 224. The index of sales per worker was 20% more for the kibbutz than in the general industrial sector, and, in the plastics branch, this index was 25% higher than in Israeli plastics industry overall. The capital investment per worker was also higher in the kibbutz industries, and, with the advent of the economic difficulties that appeared after 1983, criticisms were voiced asserting that the investments in industry were too high given their decreasing rate of return.
There were other problems in regard to the direction of the development of kibbutz industry which arose with the economic crisis. Some critics asserted that the relatively small size of the kibbutz plants limited their capacities for research and development and for proper marketing operations and that there was a lack of the necessary experts in the technological professions.
Efforts were made to build up systems of research and development and those for marketing to be shared by kibbutz industrial plants in the same production branch, and steps was taken to improve and encourage technological education and training.
Throughout the decade there was a remarkable rise in the level of education of kibbutz members, especially the younger ones. In 1972, only 20.4% of kibbutz members had post-secondary education, while in 1985, the rate had risen to 32.3% of the kibbutz members. This was considerably higher than the level of the general Jewish population in Israel, which stood at 24.4%. There was an important difference in the distribution of the level of higher education, however. In the kibbutz there were fewer people with higher degrees, while the percentage of people with post-secondary training in the fields of education, technology, and social services was much higher than that of the overall Jewish population of Israel. The difference in regard to holders of higher university degrees (i.e., M.A. and doctorate) stemmed from the fact that only in the 1970s did the kibbutz movement free itself of ideological opposition to the acquisition of university degrees and begin to encourage academic studies. Thus in the 1980s the proportion of holders of academic degrees grew at the same time that the representation of kibbutz members on the teaching and research faculties of the institutions of higher learning also increased.
Along with the contribution made by people with academic degrees to the economic and social capacities of the kibbutz, problems caused by the unsuitability of the kibbutz work structure, based on work in agriculture, industry, and the services, to the academic qualifications of its members arose. Most of the jobs simply did not demand the high level of education acquired by college graduates, and this created conflicts with their expectations and desires for professional advancement.
A labor market did not exist in the kibbutz because there were neither the wages nor economic incentives or sanctions which operate in the general society to direct people into the different occupations in some relation to supply and demand. This made the coordination between the changing needs of kibbutz society and economy and, on the other hand, the professional and academic aspirations of the members more complicated than ever before. Decisions about the economic structure were made democratically at the general assemblies and in the committees and were thereby influenced by the preferences of the members. The other side of this relationship was that the professional plans of the members were themselves influenced by the present and/or expected occupational structure, although increasing numbers of young and old members chose courses of academic studies which seem to have no direct connection to the kibbutz's expressed economic and educational needs.
The 1980s saw changes as a result of the rising level of education and of the rapid technological advances, but the economic crisis of the kibbutz movement also had very important effects in this period. Different factors contributed to the development of the crisis, expressed principally by the formation of a large debt accompanied by high interest payments, which weighed heavily on ongoing economic activities. This occurred despite the successes in the fields of both industry and agriculture. The major cause of the crisis was the lack of economic stability that characterized the Begin years and was most obviously reflected in the rates of hyperinflation which ran rampant from the late 1970s until the mid-1980s. From 1978 to 1984, the rate of inflation jumped from 51% a year to 445%! As a result of the government's economic program in the mid-1980s, there was a sharp drop to an approximately 20% rate of inflation per year, which was accompanied by an even steeper rise in the cost of money, i.e., the interest rate, which rose from 11.8% in 1983 to 89% in 1985.
Besides these outside factors, financial mistakes were made by the kibbutz movements and by individual kibbutzim, which invested in unsuccessful business ventures, in speculative stocks, or in consumption projects. The economic crisis was especially damaging to those kibbutzim that had not been successful in their attempt to balance the decline in the profitability of agriculture with an increase in their industrial activity. This had the added effect of exacerbating the inequality among the kibbutzim. For example, in the United Kibbutz Movement, the group of 19 kibbutzim in the most difficulties had to use 38% of their yearly income just to pay the interest on their debt, while another group of 38 kibbutzim had to earmark 25% of their income for interest payments; the majority of the kibbutzim, 83 in number, had to earmark only 6.6% of their yearly income for interest payments.
In an attempt to overcome the crisis and to make possible the continuation of production operations, the United Kibbutz Movement asked the government for help, not for grants but to restructure its loan repayment schedules. This request made the issue of help to the kibbutzim the focus of a political debate, where representatives of the Likud took advantage of this situation to criticize the kibbutz movement while putting pressure on the Labor party, to which the ukm is affiliated.
Kibbutz ha-Arẓi, which also was in need of additional sources of funding, preferred to mobilize capital on a commercial basis, essentially without government intervention, by means of bonds issues, which avoided dependence on the political system. The requests of the ukm for aid were only approved in part, after many delays and after a public political campaign by the kibbutz and moshav movements. Even before the public aid could come, the kibbutzim strengthened their apparatus of mutual support. The kibbutzim which were economically stronger were helping the weaker ones both by giving them loans from the movement's trust funds, which were funded by means of a progressive tax on the kibbutzim, and by providing guarantees for loans taken out by the weaker kibbutzim.
At the same time all the kibbutzim decided to lower their standard of living, regardless of their economic situation. This took various forms, such as not allowing trips abroad or kibbutz-financed vacations, lower spending on food in the communal dining room, and reducing the number of members sent to study, etc. All of these cutbacks were even more harsh in those kibbutzim in the worst shape, where even their autonomy in day-to-day expenses was severely curtailed. Parallel to these moves, cutbacks in capital spending, particularly in such area as apartments and public buildings, were made.
equality and democracy
The cutbacks in spending, including the member's personal yearly budget, gave rise to demands in some kibbutzim for a larger share of the kibbutz's total budget to be given to the individual member and his/her family (such as clothing, shoes, furniture, and vacation allowances). This would have entailed a corresponding cutback in public spending, such as for communal dining, education, health, etc. For the first time suggestions were made to allow members to increase their budgetary income by working extra hours in branches that suffered from a manpower shortage.
In a similar vein, a far-reaching demand was made by a new settlement group, Si'on, which had recently joined the ukm and was heading for Kibbutz Bet Oren, which was on the verge of dissolution after passing through an extended social crisis. The group proposed that they would work five days a week in the framework of the kibbutz work regimen, but that on the sixth day each member would decide whether to work and make extra money which could be used as one pleased or to take the day off. All proposals linking extra work to additional income had met with firm opposition by the movement's institutions, and this was the fate of Si'on's proposal: they were told that they would have to give up their plan as a condition for being accepted into the kibbutz federation. The reason for such severe opposition to these kinds of proposals was the principle of separation between the obligation of the kibbutz to satisfy the needs of each member and the amount and quality of the work done by that member. It is precisely this principle which distinguishes the kibbutz from other forms of communal living.
The absence of a link between the function a member fulfills in work or public activity and his or her standard of living and opportunities made it possible to prevent or, at least, to limit the processes of social stratification and polarization. These processes had occurred all too often in egalitarian organizations and had caused the dissolution of cooperative communities in the past.
The simultaneous processes of industrial development, economic expansion, differentiation in levels of education and administration, and the increased importance of the family in the kibbutz social structure created conditions that would appear to encourage stratification. Various studies had shown the existence of differences among members in regard to their influence on kibbutz life and in regard to the esteem in which they were held within the community. At the material level, some members had access to private sources of income from outside the kibbutz, as a result of inheritances, presents from family, and so forth. Nevertheless, one could not point to the crystallization of groups benefiting from special rights or privileges in contrast to other groups who were relatively discriminated against or disadvantaged as a unit. Another important factor in minimizing stratification was the maintenance of the pattern of rotation of leadership and management functions among the membership of the kibbutz and the movement as a whole. The continued operation of the rotation principle was aided by the fact that, although those holding managerial positions have greater power to influence issues during their term, they do not achieve a higher standard of living. In addition they must deal with many difficulties in fulfilling the responsibilities of their positions, due to which they were generally unwilling to continue in their demanding jobs for long periods of time.
In addition there were many members active on the various committees which were responsible for the organization of diverse areas of kibbutz life. In most kibbutzim there was a general assembly every week, although in some cases it was held every two weeks. There were great differences between the kibbutzim in regard to the number of people participating in kibbutz discussions. There seemed to be more participation in those kibbutzim with a higher level of social cohesion and in which the democratic idea was more highly regarded. However, even in kibbutzim where the general assembly was not so highly esteemed as an institution, proposals to replace it with some form of elected council were met with opposition.
In one kibbutz it was actually decided to stop convening the kibbutz assembly, but after a year and a half its meetings were reinstituted. The reason for this is probably that, in a society in which so many of the vital issues in one's private life, such as educational opportunities, personal consumption, and living arrangements, were determined by the community, members were unwilling to give up their right to participate in making such decisions, even if they do not often make use of this right. The kibbutz assembly still had the supreme authority in determining policy in the kibbutz, even though many specific decisions were reached in the committees and only brought before the assembly for ratification. However, the assembly had the authority to overturn any decision of a committee, and each member had the right to bring up any issue for discussion in the assembly. Some aspects of the running of the assembly had changed, and certain issues, especially regarding individuals and families, were voted upon by secret ballot, and in the larger kibbutzim, referenda were conducted outside the kibbutz assembly.
The existence of participatory democracy in all areas of life, together with the maintenance of cooperative consumption, which made possible the separation of the needs of members from their contribution at work or in other activities, had forestalled the emergence of elite social strata. Nevertheless, this was not enough to prevent the continued existence of a certain degree of gender inequality, whose roots were in the division of labor according to sex. Most of those working in the productive branches are men, while in the services and in education mostly women are employed. This inequality exists despite the fact that there is complete economic equality, and membership in the kibbutz is on an individual basis, not familial, as is the case in the moshav. In the past this inequality had expressed itself by the fact that the productive branches had a higher status than the service branches, which were discriminated against from the point of view of budgets and manpower. Later the inequality took the form of the more limited opportunities for women to choose the work that they prefer, which stems from an assumption that work in the services and in education is the main responsibility of women.
Women's lack of experience in economic management, which was usually acquired in those productive branches from which women were largely excluded, was a factor in their low level of representation in managerial positions, such as economic manager, treasurer, or industrial plant manager, all of which are positions with much authority in the running of the kibbutz. In the 1980s, the awareness of women of the existing inequality was heightened, although in earlier periods inequality was also considered a deviation from the values of the kibbutz. In both Kibbutz ha-Arẓi and in the United Kibbutz Movement departments for "Sexual Equality" were set up and worked to increase awareness of the issue, to encourage women to enter professions commonly defined as "for men only," and, conversely, to encourage men to go into those areas of education and services traditionally the domain of women. Overall, there was some progress in the proportion of women fulfilling public positions like secretary of the kibbutz or head of a committee, and the number of women working in industry rose, but there was no meaningful improvement in other areas, particularly those having to do with economic management.
changes in kibbutz education
The greater importance of the family in the kibbutz, the increased involvement in the system of higher education, and the changes in technology and occupational structure caused fundamental changes in the kibbutz educational system.
The greatest change, which was accompanied by much debate, was the changeover to having children sleep at home instead of the children's houses. A few kibbutzim made this change in the 1950s and the 1960s, and it became a legitimate way of life in the former Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim movement. However, only in the 1980s did most of the kibbutzim of the United Kibbutz Movement (which includes the above lḥud with the former Kibbutz ha-Meuḥad) adopt the new system, while in Kibbutz ha-Arẓi it was given only limited and conditional legitimacy. In the past sleeping in the children's houses was seen as an integral part of the education, where the children's house served as an all-encompassing center for the child, while the parents' home had only a supplementary function. Gradually awareness of the crucial role played by the parents in the educational process grew, and the proponents of home sleeping arrangements saw the changeover as another step in this direction, which, first and foremost, expressed the desire of parents.
In contrast to this approach, those who opposed having the children sleep in their parents' homes asserted that the change in sleeping arrangements would affect the all-embracing character of kibbutz education, which would turn the children's house into merely a "day care center" and would curtail the responsibility of the educators. Other justifications for maintaining the old system were voiced: The change would exacerbate sexual inequality because additional burdens and responsibilities would be placed on mothers. This would in turn have a negative effect on their kibbutz jobs, limit their opportunities for further study, and especially limit their participation in community activities, whether administrative or social.
The growing number of kibbutz-educated children applying for higher academic studies raised the issue of changing the policy of the kibbutz movements, which had previously opposed the high school matriculation tests necessary for entry into Israeli universities. The opposition to these tests was directed at the achievement orientation and competitive factor of the tests, and, in some kibbutzim, the opposition was connected to an unwillingness to introduce graded tests. The opposing view wanted to keep the emphasis on the development of internal motivation to study, on supportive peer opinion as a source of motivation, and on the development of the capacity for independent study in each child.
At first an arrangement was reached with the universities in which a graduate of a kibbutz high school would have to do a preparatory course, usually about a year long, before entering the university. However, due to the difficulties involved in this arrangement, which was only designed to be a temporary solution, almost all the kibbutz schools started to prepare their students for the matriculation certificate, if the students wanted one. In conjunction with the change, efforts were made to preserve the special social foundations of the kibbutz high school by means of an increased emphasis on values and socialization.
Almost all the kibbutz high schools were regional institutions, taking in students from several kibbutzim and sometimes from moshavim and also other children sent there for various reasons. In Kibbutz ha-Arẓi the high schools were also boarding schools (several days of the week) in order to achieve an all-embracing secondary school framework. On the other hand, the primary schools were, until the mid 1980s, based in each individual kibbutz, integrated into the life of the community. However, due to the relatively small size of these schools and as part of the policy of the Ministry of Education, a process began of joining together the primary schools of neighboring kibbutzim and making one area day school. The establishment of the area schools, both primary and especially secondary levels, raised anew the question of the integration of the kibbutz schools with those of the surroundings, the development towns and the moshavim.
Despite the desire of the kibbutzim to maintain their independent framework, which was needed in their opinion in order to educate their children to their special values and way of life, some move in the direction of inter-community integration occurred. A number of schools were set up with the participation of moshavim, arrangements for cooperation with schools in development towns were made, and the absorption of youth groups, often from deprived backgrounds, within the kibbutz schools, continued and were even expanded. Nevertheless, the argument continued between those who favored greater integration to break down the barriers between kibbutz children and other sectors of the population and those who demanded the maintenance of the independent kibbutz framework.
As part of the effort to strengthen the commitment to education for kibbutz and movement values of both youth and adults, the 1980s saw an energetic expansion and utilization of the kibbutz institutions for higher education, which were intended for high school students and for academic studies and research. In the first centers, Efal and Givat Ḥavivah, the range of courses of study were broadened, and research departments were established. The Ruppin Institute, for the training of agricultural and industrial workers and managers, and Oranim, the school for training teachers, and the Kibbutz Seminar in Tel Aviv reached various forms of academic recognition. At the University of Haifa, there was the Institute for Research on the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea, which also ran a large number of courses in kibbutz studies in coordination with the Sociology and Anthropology departments. In some areas, at the initiative of the kibbutzim, local colleges were set up to provide academic level studies for the members of the surrounding kibbutzim and moshavim. These were usually connected to universities and the course credits went towards earning a college degree.
the kibbutz and israeli society
The question of regional cooperation and integration in the field of education was only one aspect of the complex relationships between the kibbutzim and the surrounding settlements, mainly developmental towns and moshavim. The major issue in these relations was their economic connections where the kibbutz-owned regional enterprises had an important function in the area's pattern of employment. These plants whose major task was to process the agricultural produce of the local kibbutzim, employed many hired workers from among the area residents. However, most of the administrative and managerial posts were held by members of kibbutzim. In most areas the moshavim had their own separate regional enterprises. The speed of the development of the area enterprises can be seen from the growth of the number of employees from 5,000 in 1977 to 7,300 in 1982. Afterwards, the rate of growth slowed, partially because of the crisis that hit agriculture all over Israel and also due to a decline in investments, which had already begun during the first period of fast development.
In some areas, e.g., Bet Shean and Kiryat Shemonah, the regional plants became a focus for tensions between some of the hired laborers from the development towns and the kibbutzim, which were exploited for political purposes. Particularly during election campaigns, fierce attacks on the kibbutz movement appeared in the local and national media, which in turn produced widespread effects and responses in Israeli society. Subsequently, all the sides involved made efforts to improve their relations. The local residents were interested in the continued activity and development of the area enterprises as a source of employment, whose importance increased as unemployment rose. From the point of view of the kibbutzim, steps were taken to improve labor relations, to expand the possibilities for advancement for the hired workers, and to push for their participation in profits and in management. Through the initiative of the Histadrut, a program for regional cooperation was developed, which included the encouragement of social and personal connections and joint cultural activities among all the residents of the area.
The relations between the kibbutz and development towns were only one part of the striking changes in the status of the kibbutz within Israeli society as a whole in the 1980s. The most significant change was in the political sphere, when the Likud won the elections for the first time in 1977, and the Alignment (the Labor Party and Mapam), to whom the kibbutz movements were tied, entered the opposition. The quantitative expression of the decline of the political status of the kibbutz movements was in the sharp fall in the number of kibbutz members elected to the Knesset, who usually got there via the Alignment. Their number dropped from 20 in the First Knesset, to 16 in the Eighth Knesset, which was elected in 1973, and down to eight in the elections of 1977, which brought the great change in Israeli politics. This situation did not change in the Tenth Knesset, despite the improvement in the Alignment's number of seats, and in the Eleventh Knesset there were nine kibbutz members, three from Mapam, four from the Labor party, one in the Citizens' Rights Movement, and one in the Teḥiyyah party on the right.
The decline in status of the kibbutz representatives in the Knesset, as part of the general weakening of the workers' parties, was also reflected in the makeup of the government. Until the upheaval of 1977, there were always a number of ministers who were members of kibbutzim, some of them in central positions, like Yigal Allon and Yisrael Galili, Haim Gvati and Shlomo Rosen. There were no kibbutz members in the Likud governments and only one in the National Unity government. This decline in the power and representation of the kibbutz movement was to be found also in other national frameworks. However, the proportion of kibbutz members in certain areas of national leadership, such as the higher levels of command in the army, in leadership of the Histadrut, and in its Ḥevrat Ovedim economic operations, was still much higher than their proportion of the general Jewish Israeli population.
The kibbutz movement also had an influence in various social and cultural areas beyond its numerical weight. The major youth movements, such as Ha-No'ar ha-Oved ve-ha-Lomed, the Scouts, Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓair, etc., were all connected to and supported by the kibbutz movements. There were also various cultural projects, like the Tzavta clubs and various publishing enterprises which were aimed at the general public of the cities and towns.
Despite these achievements there was a definite decline in the status and prestige of the kibbutz in the eyes of the general Israeli public and a corresponding lowered self-image on the part of kibbutz members in regard to the kibbutz's contribution and role on the national level. It seemed that, in contrast to the clearly high status of the kibbutz before the establishment of the state and in its first years, there arose a lack of consensus about the role which the kibbutz was to fulfill in Israeli society and the state. In the beginning the kibbutz was seen as a pioneering body which fulfilled central tasks in the building up of the people and of the state, such as settlement, defense, and the organization and absorption of immigration, both legal and "illegal." The first changes in this role occurred with the establishment of the State of Israel when many functions previously undertaken by the kibbutzim were transferred to the responsibility of government bodies. In the period after the war of 1967, there seemed to be renewed importance in the kibbutz movement's settlement role, but, after the ascendancy of the Likud, there was an increasing tension between the Likud government's policy of almost exclusive priority to settlements in areas of Judea and Samaria with a dense Arab population and the policy of the kibbutz movements which preferred settlement within the pre-1967 area of Israel.
Certain pronouncements and actions of the Begin-led Likud governments contributed to the creation of an image for the kibbutz movement as just another special-interest group seeking to preserve and strengthen its economic and social positions. The right-wing of Israeli politics sought to minimize the defense, settlement, and social functions which the kibbutzim continued to fulfill. This negative image was reinforced as a result of the kibbutz movement's financial speculations and failures and the economic crisis which caused the United Kibbutz Movement to apply for government aid in restructuring its debts.
In addition, within the kibbutz movement itself tendencies towards isolation were pronounced in regard to activities and relations with the surrounding society, at both the regional and national level. In regard to relations with the neighboring communities, this was the response to the sometimes virulent attacks made during the elections. In the face of a weakened self-image as a pioneering leader of society and the growing perception of the kibbutz as an element that first and foremost takes care of its own needs and interests, a third direction began to take shape.
The new direction placed its emphasis on the continuing connection between the kibbutz and other sectors of Israeli society in order to strengthen the influence of egalitarian and cooperative principles which the kibbutz upheld. Some examples were the following projects, initiated and/or supported by the kibbutz movement: the establishment of "urban kibbutzim," the plan to set up a cooperative city in the Negev, efforts to reform the producer and consumer cooperatives in the city, and the attempt to support the Histadrut's program for participation of workers in the management of its industrial and commercial plants and firms. Only some of these projects bore fruit, but they were an indication of an ongoing commitment of the kibbutz to be involved in Israeli society in ways which were compatible and supportive of its own values. The "urban kibbutzim," in cities and development towns, aimed to taking part in the educational and cultural activities of the residents. The first of these attempts, Kibbutz Reshit ("Beginning") was located in the Bukhara neighborhood of Jerusalem, and its members were active in various aspects of their community's life. There were also two more urban communes, in Bet Shemesh and in Sederot.
The changes in society's view of the kibbutz and the lack of consensus about both its public and self-image were reflected in opinion polls. Between 1978 and 1983 the percent of those polled who expressed a positive attitude towards the kibbutz declined from 62% to 52%. This was not matched by a rise in those who opposed the kibbutz movement, which remained stable at 8% of those polled, but it reflected a rise in those who were indifferent to it. There was a more positive view of the kibbutz among those born in Europe or America, among the more educated and those who were older. The more those polled knew about the kibbutz, the more positive were their attitudes: however, only 44% said that they were well acquainted with the kibbutz, while 40% had never visited a kibbutz even once.
These figures demonstrated the gap between the kibbutz and large segments of the public whose views were largely based on what was said about the kibbutz in the mass media, rather than on first-hand experience. In later, unpublished polls, it seemed that positive attitudes towards the kibbutz were influenced more by people's attitudes towards the egalitarian and cooperative values embodied by the kibbutz than by the demographic characteristics described above. The changes in the attitude of Israeli society towards the kibbutz as well as the changes in the political system influenced the kibbutz movement's actions and policies.
the kibbutz movements
From the beginning of the kibbutz movement there have been many splits and amalgamations in the movement's organizational forms. Before the establishment of the state, the reasons for the existence of separate movements were mainly the different ideological, social, and economic positions regarding the desired structure of the kibbutz. With the sharpening of the political struggles over the shaping of the state's character after its establishment, the exacerbation of the political debate within the kibbutz movement caused a bitter and painful split in the largest movement at that time, Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad. A substantial minority of members and kibbutzim split off from Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad and formed, with another movement, Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot, a new movement, Iḥud ha-Kibbutzim. This split occurred in 1951, and it involved in some cases the physical splitting up into two separate kibbutzim where there had previously been one large settlement. The two separate movements also were connected to different political parties until the parties' unification and the two kibbutz movements formally became united in 1979 as the United Kibbutz Movement (ukm).
The ukm contained within it 167 kibbutzim as of 1987, with a population of 76,560. For the first time in the history of the movement there were only two large kibbutz movements, the second one being Kibbutz ha-Arẓi – Hashomer ha-Ẓa'ir. Kibbutz ha-Arẓi had 83 kibbutzim with a population of 41,500. The smaller religious kibbutz movement, Ha-kibbutz ha-Dati, had 17 kibbutzim and a population of 7,300.
In general the differences that separated the kibbutz movements in the past were decreasing, although there was still some importance attached to traditions of the past. Despite this tendency, Kibbutz ha-Arẓi maintained its own identity and organization. This was due in part to the fact that this movement went through very few splits in the first 50 years of its existence and was relatively more homogeneous. The movement's connection to its political party, the United Workers' Party (Mapam), is collective, and not personal, as in the ukm. Further, Kibbutz ha-Arẓi placed more emphasis on what it saw as the preservation of the original kibbutz values and ways of life. It more strictly opposed hired labor in the kibbutzim, resisted the transfer of various responsibilities from the kibbutz institutions to the family and upheld special educational approaches, e.g., a regional boarding school during the stage of high school education. Kibbutz ha-Arẓi invested more efforts in internal and external, i.e., ideological, activity, and officially supported the *Peace Now extra-parliamentary movement. This movement also maintained a tighter framework for mutual aid, through a "movement tax" among its kibbutzim and for direction of the individual kibbutz's activities by the movement. Although some of the differences became less marked during the 1980s, there did not seem to be any tendencies towards the surrendering of the independent existence of Kibbutz ha-Arẓi. This was reinforced by the breakup of the 20-year-old Alignment between the Labor Party and Mapam after the formation of the 1984 National Unity government, as a result of which Mapam tried to reestablish itself as an independent party in the opposition.
The two large kibbutz movements, along with the smaller religious kibbutz movement, maintained close cooperation in the framework of the Confederation of the Kibbutz Movements, which represented the kibbutz movement as a whole to outside authorities. There were also national and regional frameworks within which joint activities, economic and cultural, took place. This strengthening of cooperation among the kibbutz movements should have contributed to weakening the separate organizational movement frameworks. But with the onset of the economic crisis in the 1980s, the influence of the national movements was greatly strengthened because they were the link between the external financial sources, whether private or governmental, and the individual kibbutzim. The national movements were the means by which most funds were transferred, and, even when an individual kibbutz arranged some of its own financing, it was the financial guarantees of the movement that induced private institutions to give these loans. Finally, it was by means of the national movements that mutual aid was carried out, whereby the weaker and debt-ridden kibbutzim received help from the better-off kibbutzim or from the debt-restructuring program.
It would seem that at this stage inter-movement cooperation based more on ideological and political issues was more significant than regional inter-movement cooperation based more on pragmatic, lower-level economic and social issues.
In the 1980s there was widespread interest in the kibbutz experiment on the part of people and institutions outside of Israel. The beginning of this interest started with the rise of new forms of cooperative and communal living and work in various countries around the world in the late 1960s and the 1970s. This interest was expressed in the convening in Israel of conferences representing cooperative communities and enterprises from around the world, the exchange of delegations between the kibbutz and these different groups. There was cooperation in research on egalitarian communities in Israel and abroad, as well as on cooperative, worker-owned industrial or agricultural enterprises. A special project was established for the study of the kibbutz under the auspices of Harvard University in the U.S. There were attempts to learn from the experience of the kibbutz in its response to the challenges of the technological revolution as it might be applied in smaller productive frameworks while maintaining a priority on the quality of the working life and on environmental protection, along with participatory democracy.
The interest in the kibbutz experience from the viewpoint of its Jewish significance became another focus of interest. On the one hand the kibbutz had created a value-oriented Jewish way of life which was essentially non-religious and, on the other hand, it formed a bridge between Jewish youth in the Diaspora and Israel. Research has shown that the time spent by young people in a kibbutz contributes more to their connection to Israel than their experiences with other aspects of Israeli society. Based on these findings, new forms of short-term programs on kibbutzim for young Jews from abroad were developed, in addition to existing kibbutz ulpanim for the study of Hebrew, visits by youth groups for short periods, or programs of study in kibbutz high schools for Jewish teenagers from Europe and the Americas.
In sum, the 1980s were a period of many changes in the development of the kibbutz movement. Beginning with an accelerated growth of population and economic progress, a crisis arose in the political and economic situation facing the kibbutzim, which now found themselves in serious economic straits, which had a negative effect on many other areas of the communities' way of life.
The New Kibbutz
The severe economic crisis faced by the kibbutzim continued into the 1990s. The reasons for the crisis were many: some linked it to changes in Israeli society and the shift from collectivism to individualism; others pointed to internal problems, such as inefficiency and old-fashioned industries and farming techniques, segregation from the wider population, and demographic decline. However, the visible mark of the crisis was the difficulty individual kibbutzim and the kibbutz organizations had in paying their debts. As a consequence, money owed to the banks increased significantly, especially after the government raised interest rates to curb inflation. Despite the government's agreement to restructure the debt, many kibbutzim faced difficulties that led to a momentous change in their way of life.
Many of the kibbutzim instituted changes that distanced them from the traditional kibbutz model but helped them survive the crisis. Among those changes was the separation of industry from the kibbutz, provision of services to the nonkibbutz population (such as swimming pool facilities, apartments to let, etc.), encouraging members to find work outside the kibbutz, hiring nonkibbutz workers, differential salaries among kibbutz members, privatization of services (utilities, food, rent, etc.), new neighborhoods for nonmembers built by private contractors on kibbutz land, and less centralized administration. All these changes moved the kibbutzim from the traditional model to something resembling ordinary community life. Almost all the kibbutzim adopted some of these changes. Today there are three categories of kibbutzim: the collective kibbutz including around 30 kibbutzim that chose to preserve the traditional model; the community kibbutz including kibbutzim that instituted differential salaries; and a third group including kibbutzim still undergoing change.
The economic and social changes in many of the secular kibbutzim, which blurred political differences between the movements, led to the reunification of the United Kibbutz Movement (ukm) and Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir into the Kibbutz Movement in 2000. The new Kibbutz Movement represents 260 kibbutzim. Its aims include protecting the rights of the kibbutzim, assisting kibbutzim under change, and remaining involved in the larger Israeli society.
During the 1990s the kibbutzim faced for the first time a decline in population. In 2002 the kibbutz population comprised 1.5 percent of the overall population in Israel. From 1997 to 2002 population figures declined by 2 percent. The permanent population declined by 9%, but this figure was compensated for by temporary residents who rent apartments in the kibbutzim. This decline was reversed in 2003, when for the first time after 19 years the kibbutz population began to grow again. This growth is related to the new way of life in the kibbutzim today, which is more private and less collective. Other reasons relate to the fact that many Israelis prefer to live in a rural community with good educational facilities, so that the new kibbutz neighborhoods are an attractive option.
The decline in population was also due to the aging of the kibbutz population and a sharp decline in birth rates. From 1998 to 2002 there was drop in the number of kibbutz children from 28,606 to 24,055. While in 1998 there were 1,142 births in the kibbutzim, the figure dropped to only 730 in 2002. A major reason for this can be found in the fact that many kibbutz youngsters had left the kibbutz after their army service. Another reason has to do with the general trend toward smaller families out of economic and social considerations, enabling parents to give their children more attention and material benefits.
The decline in the child population directs attention to the main problem of the kibbutzim, namely the aging of the population. The average age of the adult kibbutz population was 55 in 2003 (it was calculated as the mean from 30 up, since most of the population under 30 are temporary residents), compared to the national average of 52. The 25–45 age group in the kibbutzim is proportionately smaller than in the overall population, while the 45+ group is proportionately higher. This means that a small group of working people is responsible for a larger group of older people. This situation is a cause of concern in the kibbutz movement and the kibbutzim invest much effort to attract younger people, e.g., by building the new neighborhood for non-members who wish to live in rural settlements.
The average kibbutz varies from 300 to 400 residents. There have been voices calling for the creation of larger communities of 1,000 to 1,500 residents. These communities will come about by uniting neighboring kibbutzim or by the absorption of newcomers.
Kibbutz agriculture is based on field crops, fruit plantations, dairy cattle, poultry, and fishery. The revenue from agriculture was quite stable between 1997 and 2002, amounting to is 5 billion in 2002, representing about a third of national farm revenue. Kibbutz agriculture accounted for 70 percent of field crops, 40 percent of livestock, and 20 percent of plantations.
Kibbutz industry includes the following: rubber and plastics; food; metal and machinery; textiles and leather; printing, paper and cardboard; electronics and electricity; construction materials; wood and furniture; and other branches. Kibbutz industry had a 7.5 percent share of the country's industry in 2002, five times its share in the population. The contribution of kibbutz industry to the gdp was 6.5 percent in 2002. The kibbutz plastics industry had a 51% share of the industry as a whole.
Industrial revenues constituted 70 percent of total kibbutz income. In 2002, kibbutz industry operated 333 factories, employing 27,600 workers and recording sales of is 17.344 billion, up 7.7% 21101. In 1997 gross profit was is 690 million, dropping to is 434 million in 1999 but rising to is 900 million in 2002.
A new source of income, in addition to agriculture and industry, was salaried work outside the kibbutz, with individuals bringing in about is 1 million in 1997 and is 1.5 million in 2002.
In 2002 75 kibbutzim earned more than is 100 million compared with 108 kibbutzim earning less than is 50 million. Thus, 30% of the kibbutzim were responsible for 47% of total kibbutz income. This demonstrates the differences between kibbutzim, some being quite wealthy while others face bankruptcy.
Figures for the last decade indicate an improvement in the economic situation of the kibbutzim. The total debt decreased from is 28 billion in 1996 to is 17 billion in 2002. The improvement can be attributed to the write-off of part of the debt by the government and the economic and social changes that many kibbutzim underwent. Nonetheless, kibbutz per capita income remained lower than the national average.
a changing way of life
Since the 1990s the kibbutzim have undergone vast changes in their way of life. The main cause of the changes was the enormous debt of the kibbutzim to the banks. The changes can be summarized under four heads: changes in the personal budgets of kibbutz members; separation of the sources of livelihood from the community; professional management; external committees.
Many kibbutzim adopted a system of differential salaries in place of equal budgets for its members. The new system gives each member a salary based on hours worked, education, experience, etc. The majority of the kibbutzim adopted the "security" model, in which pensioners and the elderly receive fixed salaries from the kibbutz, while the working population is responsible for making its own living. A different system, "the combined model," is based on quasi-differential distribution that takes into account number of years in the kibbutz and hours worked. The latter system seeks to distribute income in a more equal way. It is worth noting that 93 kibbutzim chose to maintain the traditional model, in which members receive an equal budget.
separation between sources of livelihood and the community
In this system kibbutz members become shareholders in kibbutz businesses, which are managed outside the community framework, like private enterprises anywhere.
Until the 1990s the kibbutzim were managed by an elected secretariat composed of kibbutz members. In recent years this has changed. Many kibbutzim failed to find suitable candidates from among their members and hired professionals from outside the kibbutz. The manager's job is to lead the kibbutz into a new era and successfully implement changes. Two-thirds of the kibbutzim were already operating under such management in the first years of the 21st century.
A small group of kibbutzim (28) were managed by external committees, given authority to manage the kibbutz when it faced severe crises. The external committee manages the kibbutz for up to a year in order to enable kibbutz members to assume responsibility again.
[Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
Into the 21st Century
The kibbutz at the outset of the 21st century, which had once represented for many the essence of Israel, was thus far removed from what it had once been, just as Israeli society was. Stripped of ideology, losing its special qualities, it was rapidly becoming another habitat in an environment geared to satisfy personal ambition. Its place, however, in the history of Zionist settlement was assured. Not only did it contribute the sheer muscle power that reclaimed the land, it had also created the ethos that sustained the nation. Without it the Zionist enterprise could hardly have succeeded.
general: A. Bein, The Return to the Soil (1952); Y. Baratz, A Village by the Jordan (1954); M. Weingarten, Life in a Kibbutz (1955); M.E. Spiro, Kibbutz, Venture in Utopia (1956); idem, Children of the Kibbutz (1958); H. Darin-Drabkin, The Other Society (1962); B. Bettelheim, Children of the Dream (1969); J. Blasi, The Communal Future – The Kibbutz and the Utopian Dilemma (1987); K. Bartolke, Th. Bergmann, L. Liegle (eds.), Integrated Cooperatives in the Industrial Society: The Example of the Kibbutz (1980); K. Bartolke, W. Eshwieler, D. Flechsenberg, M. Palgi, M. Rosner, Participation and Control (1985); A. Cherns (ed.), Quality of Working Life and the Kibbutz Experience (1980); M. Gherson, Family, Women and Socialization in the Kibbutz (1978): J. Gorni, Y. Oved, J. Paz (eds.), Communal Life (1987); E. Krausz, (ed.), The Sociology of the Kibbutz (1983); U. Leviatan, M. Rosner, Work and Organization in Kibbutz Industry (1980); Amia Lieblich, Kibbutz Makom (1981); Sh. Lilker, Kibbutz Judaism (1982); St. Maron, The Communal Household (1987); D. Mittelberg, Strangers in the Paradise (1988); M. Palgi, J. Blasi, M. Rosner, M. Safir (eds.), Sexual Equality – the Israeli Kibbutz Tests the Theories (1986); A. Rabin, B. Bettelheim, Twenty Years Later: Kibbutz Children (1981); P. Rayman, The Kibbutz Community and Nation Building (1981); M. Rosner, Democracy Equality and Change: The Kibbutzand Social Theory (1982); I. Shepher, The Kibbutz, an anthropological study (1983); B. Shenker, Intentional Communities (1986); Sh. Shur, B. Beit-Hallahmi, J. Blasi, A. Rabin (eds.), The Kibbutz: A Bibliography of Scientific and Professional Publications in English (1981); A. Tannenbaum, B. Kavcic, M. Rosner, M. Vianello, G. Wieser, Hierarchy in Organizations (1974); L. Tiger, J. Shepher, Women in the Kibbutz (1975); A. Zamir, Mothers and Daughters – Interviews with Kibbutz Women (1986). periodical english publications. Kibbutz Studies; Kibbutz Currents (formerly Shdemot); English publications series of the Institute for Research on the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea, University of Haifa. kibbutz arẒi: D. Leon, The Kibbutz (1964); E.H. Samuel, The Children's Community of the Hashomer Hatẓair at Mishmar Haemek (1962); L. Dror et al. (ed.), Sefer ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, 3 vols. (1956–64), passim. kibbutz dati: M. Unna, Shutafut shel Emet (1965); M. Krone, From Rodges to Yavne (1945); A. Fishman, The Religious Kibbutz Movement (1957); Bnei Akiva, The Religious Kvuẓah (1960); J. Walk, in: ylbi (1961), 236–56. add. bibliography: Kibbutz Movement Yearbook (Heb., 2003); H. Biur, "For the First Time in 19 Years: Growth in the Kibbutzim Population," in: Haaretz (July 23, 2004). website: www.kibbutz.org.il.