Moshav or Moshav Ovedim

views updated


MOSHAV (Heb. מוֹשָׁב) or MOSHAV OVEDIM (Heb. עוֹבְדִים מוֹשַׁב, "workers settlement"), cooperative smallholders' village in Ereẓ Israel combining some of the features of both cooperative and private farming. The idea was evolved during World War i in the quest for a form of settlement that would not only express national and social aspirations on the basis of collective principles like the kibbutz, but also provide scope for individual initiative and independent farm management. The idea was mooted in articles published in various periodicals and was given definite shape in a pamphlet Yissud Moshevei Ovedim ("The Establishment of Workers' Villages," 1919) by Eliezer *Joffe, who formulated the social and economic principles on which the moshav should be based: nationally owned land, mutual aid, cooperative purchasing and marketing, and the family as the fundamental unit. These principles were further developed in the writings of Yiẓḥak Vilkanski (*Elazari-Volcani), the agronomist, who dealt with the economic structure desirable for the moshav and regarded it as the appropriate answer to the needs of mass settlement. This evaluation was fully vindicated after the establishment of the State of Israel, when tens of thousands of new immigrant families were settled on the land in hundreds of moshavim.

At first the moshav economy was based on mixed farming, which, it was expected, would supply most of the farmer's needs and give him greater stamina to withstand agricultural fluctuations and crises than the single-crop farm. It would also permit the work to be spread out evenly over the year, a point of particular importance since the settler and his family had to cultivate the farm by themselves without the aid of hired seasonal labor.

Milestones of Moshav Settlement

The first two moshavim were founded in 1921, *Nahalal in September in the northern Jezreel Valley and *Kefar Yeḥezkel in December in the eastern part. Most of the members had formerly lived in kibbutzim (Deganyah, Kinneret, Ḥuldah, and Merḥavyah). Within ten years another eight moshavim were founded, most of them in the Jezreel Valley. At the beginning of the 1930s, the movement was given a new impetus by widespread settlement in the Ḥefer Plain by the Hityashvut ha-Elef scheme, intended to settle 1,000 families on the land in the Sharon and Judea, and by the establishment of the first moshavim in the south. The landholdings were small compared with those of the first moshavim, as it was assumed that incomes would be supplemented and the farms consolidated by work outside the moshav in fruit groves and construction projects. During the Arab rebellion of 1936–39, more moshavim were established all over the country, especially in the valleys and in the south, as *Stockade and Watchtower settlements. At the end of World War ii, a number of moshavim were established by demobilized soldiers from the *Jewish Brigade and other Jewish units in the British army. In 1948, when the State of Israel was established, there were 58 moshavim in the country.

Most of the new immigrants who arrived in large numbers immediately after the establishment of the state differed in many respects from the pioneers who had settled on the land after spending years in training and preparation. They consisted mainly of families with many children, elderly persons, even entire communities brought over en masse. The moshav ovedim, with its family structure, was felt to be the only medium of settling these immigrants on the land. Hundreds of veterans from the older moshavim came forward to recruit new immigrants for settlements, to set up moshavim, and particularly to instruct and guide the new settlers. In the period 1949–56, 250 new moshavim were established, with a population that approached 100,000 in 1970.

The Moshav Movement

The moshav movement (Tenu'at ha-Moshavim) was founded in the mid-1930s to cope with the problems of the existing moshavim, to mold and preserve their social structure, and to help establish more moshavim. The movement developed a series of economic, financial, and service institutions to advance these purposes. These include: Keren ha-Moshavim, a mutual assistance fund; the Ein Ḥai Bank; Tagmulim la-Moshavim, a savings and pension fund for members; Bittu'aḥ Hadadi, a mutual insurance company; Matam (Mishkei Tenu'at ha-Moshavim – Moshav Movement Farms), which provides low-priced, high-quality products; Bank le-Mashkanta'ot (Mortgage Bank), which provides loans for private and public building in the moshavim; and regional purchasing organizations, with some 30 to 50 moshavim in each, to organize marketing and supplies. The latter have set up enterprises, in cooperation with local councils, to lower the cost of services and supplies, and improve production facilities. Examples of these enterprises are citrus-canning plants, fodder plants, slaughterhouses, fruit-packing plants, egg-sorting warehouses, and cold storage plants. The movement has departments for education, culture, social activities, internal arbitration, advice and training in farming and organization, and absorption of new settlers. It also has a youth section with 15,000 teenagers and it publishes periodicals.

In 1970 there were 212 moshavim, with a total population of 75,000, affiliated to Tenu'at ha-Moshavim. Other moshav movements were: the Union of Religious Cooperative Movements of *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, with 56 moshavim and a membership of 24,000; the Farmers' Union (Ha-Iḥud ha-Ḥakla'i), with 32 villages and 10,000 people; and the cooperative Agricultural Center of the *Ḥerut Movement and *Betar, with eight moshavim and 1,500 people. There were also 13 moshavim with 4,000 people affiliated to *Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni; nine, with 2,500, to *Po'alei Agudat Israel and *Agudat Israel; six, with 1,600, to the *Farmers' Federation (Hitaḥdut ha-Ikkarim); two with 370 to *Mapam; and eight unaffiliated moshavim, with 3,400 people; making a total of 346 moshavim with a combined population of about 122,000–95,600 living in 269 moshavim founded after the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and 26,500 living in 77 veteran moshavim. Since that time the moshav population has grown more slowly than the urban population, reaching around 230,000 in 2004, with 206,500 affiliated to the moshavim of Tenu'at ha-Moshavim.

Organization of the Moshav

Each moshav is organized as a cooperative society for agricultural settlement and constitutes a unit of local government administered by the management of the society. The moshav operates in accordance with the Cooperative Societies Ordinance, 1933, under the authority of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies; its accounts are audited by the audit unions for agricultural cooperation. Its activities are governed by a general set of regulations which serve as a pattern for those of the individual moshavim. At an annual assembly of members, each moshav elects its management, which comprises a managing committee, a control board, and committees for economic, social, educational, and cultural activities. Disputes between members or between a member and the management are submitted for arbitration and decision to the social committee or a judicial committee of the parent movement. The moshav helps its members to obtain credit, purchase seed, fertilizer, and fodder, and to market their produce. It maintains farming equipment and vehicles (sometimes together with neighboring moshavim), workshops, cooperative stores, etc. It provides members' children with primary and post-primary education in local or regional schools, and fosters cultural activities; members receive medical care in local clinics.

The society erects all the public buildings and installations including pumping installations, central irrigation network, supply stores, dairies, refrigeration and sorting plants, schools, clinics, and sports facilities. It finances its investments partly by direct taxation of members and partly by loans based on a general mutual guarantee by the members. The general assembly decides on the annual budget, composed of the local government budget (covered by direct taxes) and the administrative budget (covered partly by taxes and partly by levies on items of income and on various types of production outlays). In the 1960s the moshav set itself new goals: securing production rights in nationally planned branches of agriculture (dairy farming, poultry farming, orchards, etc.); the encouragement of new crops, notably for export purposes; and the protection of members' interests in taxation and social security. The expansion and social development of the moshavim at the time gave rise to the hope that they would continue to develop as an efficient and healthy unit of the national economy and society, and a measure of prosperity did indeed continue into the 1970s. However, with unmanageable debts piling up in the inflationary 1980s, many farms were liquidated, and with the younger generation leaving, some of the moshavim, especially those located near large population concentrations in central Israel, began to build new neighborhoods and absorb newcomers, mainly urbanites, in order to sustain the settlement. Moshavim also began renting land for commercial purposes and many farmers, especially in northern Israel, developed guest facilities and were occupied in tourism in addition to agriculture. Thus the moshav, like the kibbutz, found itself forced to adapt to changing realities and alter its economic and social base in the last decades of the 20th century.

The Moshav as an Example to Developing Countries

The moshav and its way of life attracted the interest of some leaders and many students from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Thousands of them came Israel to study the methods of the moshav, which they regarded as a possible solution to the problems of organizing agriculture in their own countries. The moshav movement played host to students and organized study courses for them. It also provided Israel's technical assistance program (see State of Israel, Foreign *Policy) with many instructors to establish and advise settlements of the moshav type in these countries. Scores of such settlements were established in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with moshav members from Israel as instructors. The moshav movement, together with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also established a volunteer movement for foreign service, and many young men from moshavim served as volunteers in developing countries, living and working with the local population.


H. Viteles, A History of the Cooperative Movement in Israel, 4 (1968), incl. bibl.; I.M. Klayman, The Moshav in Israel (1970); D. Weintraub, M. Lissak, and Y. Azmon, Moshava, Kibbutz and Moshav … (1969); R. Tamsma, De Moshav Ovdiem (Dutch, 1966), English summary; ibid., 342–91, incl. bibl.; H. Darin-Drabkin, Patterns of Cooperative Agriculture in Israel (1962); S. Dayan, Man and the Soil (1965); E. Meyer, Der Moshav 1948–1963 (1967); E. Joffe, Ketavim, 2 vols. (1947); idem, Yissud Moshevei Ovedim (1919); A. Assaf, Moshevei ha-Ovedim be-Yisrael (1954); Y. Uri, Bi-Netivei Moshav ha-Ovedim (1950); I. Korn, Kibbutz ha-Galuyyot be-Hitnaḥaluto (1964); R. Weitz, Darkenu ba-Ḥakla'ut u-va-Hityashevut (1959); Y. Shapira (ed.), Nahalal … (1947); Kefar Yeḥezkel (Heb. anthol., 1948); E. Labes, Handbook of the Moshav (1959); D. Weintraub, Immigration and Social Change (1971).

[Uzi Finerman /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]