Oct 21

Life in Israel – Israeli Culture – The Kibbutz

Kibbutz is the Hebrew word for communal settlement.  In Israel it is a unique socio-economic rural community originally agricultural, however over the years Kibbutzim have branched out to include industrial enterprises and hi-tech projects.

The Kibbutz has gone through a number of changes over the years but the original ideology of a society that is committed to social justice, mutual aid, the principle of joint property ownership,  all receiving an equal education and all members having a home and all it implies according to their needs still remains in many kibbutzim.

It is 100 years since the first Kibbutz (named Degania) was set up near the shores of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) by a group of young East European immigrants motivated by the ideals of Zionism and socialism.

Even though there have been many setbacks, both economic and idealogical, the kibbutz has become the largest community based movement in the world with 268 Kibbutz communities stretching from the Negev in the South to the Golan Heights in the North of Israel and a membership in excess of one hundred and seventeen thousand people.

80% of the Kibbutzim came into being prior to 1948 when the State of Israel was established. Each kibbutz is run autonomously by its members both economically and socially but the strong bonds that exist between them has been formalized into national federations that co-ordinate with each other and share many activities.

A Kibbutz is not a village as no public roads runs through it and it is legally a completely private area. The economy is based on communal finances and economic and social activities are shared.  There is a community kitchen with meals served in a communal dining room. Some Kibbutzim have tried sending food to members’ houses but the general consensus seems to be that members prefer communal dining facilities.

There have been many changes in the way the Kibbutz was run in the past and the way a number of kibbutzim are run today. Originally members joining a kibbutz were expected to transfer any assets that they had to the kibbutz.  Now total equality has ceased and the concept of equality is provided mainly through food, health care and education. Children’s houses no longer exist and families live as a unit. Self management has been replaced with representatives elected by ballot. There are a number of other differences in various kibbutz movements but generally the kibbutz movement carries on. Many Kibbutzim also have hotel style guest houses for visitors and tourists to stay at while traveling around Israel.

Many people from around the world travel to Israel to volunteer on a kibbutz for a few months where they work in exchange for food and housing and get to experience the uniqueness of this way of life. Many Kibbutzim also have guest houses for visitors and tourists to stay at while traveling around Israel.