The Kibbutz Movement (1909- )

kibbutz
Figure 1.--Ramat HaShofet (רָמַת הַשּׁוֹפֵט‎‎) means the Judge Heights. It is a Kibbutz located in northern Israel on the Menashe Heights. The kibbutz was founded by two gar'ins (groups of Jews who returned together to Palestine), Mitzpe HaSharon and Shihrur. The first members were included immigrants from Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania. and Poland (November 1941). By this time the NAZIs had begun the Holocaust killing process in Europe. The Kibbutzas named after United States federal judge Julian William Mack (1866-1943). He had attended the Versailles Conference after World War I as an advocate for establishing a Zionist state in British-occupied Palestine. Mack was an American Zionist leader who served as president of the Palestine Endowment Funds, honorary president of the World Jewish Congress, president of the American Jewish Congress, Zionist Organization of America, and various other Jewish organizations. Here we see some of the children at Ramat HaShofet, some time during the 1940s, probably after World War II.

Zionist thinkers pursued many different approaches, both religious and secular and within those basic trends a wide range of ideas. Jews in many countries were primarily urban. Jews like most ancient people as is clear from the Bible were primary darmers and hearders. Medieval laws, however, restricted in both the Islamic world and Christian Europe restricted (commonly prohibited) Jews from purchasing land. Thus by modern times, Jews mostly lived in towns and villages. A strong thread which developed in Zionism, influenced often by Socialist more than Jewish religious roots, was a return to the land. Various authotrs conceived of a range of ideological constructs. One important Zionist thinker was Ber Borochov who was influenced by Moses Hess. Borochov saw Zionism as the opportunity to created a society that would be fundamentally an "inverted pyramid". He saw the "proletariat" (both Jewish and Arab) as the foundation of society. A. D. Gordon discussed similar concepts. He seems to have been more influenced by romantic volkisch nationalist concepts rather than Socialism. Gordon wanted a society based on a rural Jewish peasantry. The concept of the kibbutz flowed from these and other ofen idealistic Zionist writers. The first kibbutz was Deganiah--some times reffered to as the mother of kibbutzim. It was founded on the the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee (1909). This was the same year that other Zionist settlers founded the city of Tel Aviv. Deganiah was founded by 10 men and 2 women led by Joseph Baratz. They purchased the land from a Persian family that lived in Beirut. Actually Degania was a kvutza and not a kibbutz because of its small size. Also the children did not sleep communally, but with their parents. Many other kibbutzim followed. The kibbutz hase variously been described as a communal village or collective farm. Here newly arrived Jews from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa were taught farming and a range of manual skills.

Jews and Agriculture

Jews in most countries at the time that Zionists began settling in Palestine during the late-19th century were primarily urban. Jews like most ancient people as is clear from the Bible were primary darmers and hearders. Medieval laws, however, restricted in both the Islamic world and Christian Europe restricted (commonly prohibited) Jews from purchasing land. Thus by modern times, Jews mostly lived in towns and villages.

Zionist Thought: Return to the Land

Zionist thinkers pursued many different approaches, both religious and secular and within those basic trends a wide range of ideas. A strong thread which developed in Zionism, influenced often by Socialist more than Jewish religious roots, was a return to the land. Various authotrs conceived of a range of ideological constructs. One important Zionist thinker was Ber Borochov who was influenced by Moses Hess. Borochov saw Zionism as the opportunity to created a society that would be fundamentally an "inverted pyramid". He saw the "proletariat" (both Jewish and Arab) as the foundation of society. A. D. Gordon discussed similar concepts. He seems to have been more influenced by romantic volkisch nationalist concepts rather than Socialism. Gordon wanted a society based on a rural Jewish peasantry. The concept of the kibbutz flowed from these and other ofen idealistic Zionist writers.

First Kibbutz: Deganiah (1909)

The first kibbutz was Deganiah--some times reffered to as the mother of kibbutzim. It was founded on the the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee (1909). This was the same year that other Zionist settlers founded the city of Tel Aviv. Deganiah was founded by 10 men and 2 women led by Joseph Baratz. They purchased the land from a Persian family that lived in Beirut. Actually Degania was a kvutza and not a kibbutz because of its small size. Also the children did not sleep communally, but with their parents. While a dizzing mix of socialist and back-to-nature ideas were rife among Zionist thinkers, the creation of first Kibbutz resulted from far more practical circumstances--economic necessity. Early Zionist settlers had very limited resources. And many had no agricultural background. Thus they needed to band together. Self defense security concerns were also a factor. Many other kibbutzim followed Deganiah.

Agriculture

The Kibbutzim began as agricultural communities. The return to the land, denied to the Jewish people for centuries, was a critical part of the Zionist movement. A totally unexpected development occurred. Because Traditional agricultural skills were limited and because many Kibbutzim were founded on marginal land, some creartive thinking occurred. And as a community, a Kibbutz was able to take risks that individual farmers were unable to take. Israeli Kibbutzim helped to diversify and modernize agriculture on marginal land. As the Israelis put it, "making the desert bloom". The Kibbutzim made major contributions to a range of agricultural concerns, includung irrigation, pest control, cotton growing, dairy farming, aquaculture, tropical fruits, flower growing, and desert cultivation. The technologies developed in Israel have made important contributions to agriculture in the Third World. Compare this to the Soviet and Chinese agriculture communes as well as those formed in Eastern Europe by the Soviet installed Communist governments. Not only did agricultural production fall, but a terrible readful famine occured in both the Ukraine and China. Even more interesting is the virtual complete lack of innovation and new agricultural methods that flowed from Communist collectives.

Socialist Foundations

While Israel and the kibbutzim are stringly associated 'with Judaism, the foundatiion of both was more associated with socialism than the Jewish religion. The Zionist movement was very strongly socialist in character. The Jews who founded most of the kibbutzim wwre committed socialists, often with little or no religious committments. This whole the members set about building communities with a wide range of facilities such as schools. Rarely were synagougues built or relgious training part of the educational program. The socialist attitudes of the kibbutz members also explain why so many of the appraches communal, including child care.

Expansion

Jewish settlers founded Kibbutzim all over Palestine before the creation of Israel. The sites were often in rather desolate arid areas as well as inhospitable swamps. This of course was not ideal for agriculture. But it was often some of the few areas where land could be purchased.

War for Independence (1948-49)

The Kibbutzim played a critical role in the war for independence (1948-49). The Kibbutzim had developed self defense schemes as a result from attacks from Arab villagesafter World War I. Despite British efforts to prevent Jewish groups from arming, the Kibbutzim had accumulated a hodgepodge of small arms. They thus proved a hard target for Palestinian irregulars and even Arab armies when they invaded. The Kibbutzim were organized and armed, albeit with mostly small arms. The well-armed invading Arab armies overran several Kibbutzim, These were raised to the ground. Even those that fell played a role in Israel's victory in that theyb slowed the advance of the Arab armies, buying time for the developing Isreali Army to organize and obtain arms for battle.

Importance

The Kibbutz is strongly associated with modern Israel. It certainly plays a strong role in the ethos of modern Israel. And many Ajmnericans and Europeand believevthat a substantialm part of Israelis live on the Kibbutaim, Actually at the peak of the mocement on about 6 percent of Israelis lived on the Kibbutzim.

Industry

The limited availability of fertile land and water placed limits on agriculture. Kibbutzim developed innovative dry-land agriculture, even so the environment limits the economic potential. Thus from an early point it became obvious thst the Kibbutzim would havbe to diversify beyond traditional agriculture. The result was a large variety of industrial projects. Many were activities resulting from agricultural actyivity: irrigation methods. food processing, plastic crop coverings, wine making, and a range of other producrs. Others had no relation to agriculture. They included health care products, optics, printing, diamond-tipped tools, high-tech, high quality glass, electronics, furniture, toys, musical instruments, amd much more. The Kibbutzim thus played a role in Israel developing the most modern and diversified economy in the region. And despite the socialist roots of the Kibbutzim, this meant competing in a vibrant capitalist economy.

Description

The kibbutz hase variously been described as a communal village or collective farm. Here newly arrived Jews from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa were taught farming and a range of manual skills. The first Kibbutzim were what ever the members wanted to make them. Israel after indeopendence defined the Kibbutz legally. An Israeli Kibbutz is "an organization for settlement which maintains a collective society of members organized on the basis of general ownership of possessions. Its aims are self-labor, equality and cooperation in all areas of production, consumption and education." The Kibbutz is an autonomous economic and social entity. Although similar to an Eastern European village (except for four urban kibbutzim), they are legally a private economic entity--interesting give their socialist roots.

Child Care

The Kibbutzin founded as part of the Second Aliyah was an entirely new institution. There were some influences from Eastern European villages, but no real institutional predecesors. As the Kinnutzim members set about building a new life, the general approach to child care was communal. This reflected thge strong socialist ideology early Zionism. It also reflected the needs of the community. Women, both young women and married women, were needed to help build the Kibbutz in an often hostile enviroment. It simply was not possible for women to stay home and keep house. There was all kinds of labor needed. The system that emerged varied from kibbutz to kibbutz, but in general was to collectivize child care. This essentially put the children with their mirad problems out of the way while the adults built the Kibbutz. This eventually went beyond Soviet practices. The system developed over time. The approach in the first kibbutzim founded as part of the Second Aliyah (1905-14) the children were cared for during the day in comminal day care facilities. After work the parents would pick up the children in the afternoon and would be cared for by their parents in the evening and at night. Parents in the early Kibbutzim did not have separate houses, but rather rooms in communal facilities. The parents would then deliver the children to the day care facility in the morning. This changed after World War I with the growing influence of Socialist ideology as part of the Third Aliyah (1919-20). The children began spending the nights in communzal dormitories. [Tiger and Shepher, p. 162.] Thus as the Kibbutz Movement developed, the children from birth were raised communally. They grew up with their peers with a metapelet (caretaker) in a children's house. Interactions with parents whob were busy working was limited. Common the parents after the days work would spend 2-3 hours with them and then tuck them into bed. For some time the system was extolded, primsrily wiyhin the Socialist world. One author explains that Kibbutz child care was considered among the best in the world. A major factor was that same metapelet stayed with her infant group for 3½ - 4 years. [Marcus, p. 203.] At the time scientific studies concerning parental bonding did not exist. [Lopata] Of course the children did not know that they were part of an experiment. Some looking back describe the expeience as 'inhuman'. After World War II, a range of psychological studies determined that such separation from parents was harmful in developin well adjusted adults. As a result, Kibbutzim gradually began changing their child care practices. One respected author explains "Israeli Kibbutzim are rapidly dismantling their collective child-care centers because both the families and the community established that even a limited disassociation of children from their parents at a tender age is unacceptable". [Etzioni, p. 55.]

National Organizations

Among Kibbutzim there are varying degrees of cooperation. As the movement development, this was regularized through the foundation of national kibbutz federations and the regional councils. There was a first substantial politico-ideological differences among the different federations. .

Economic Diversification

While all Kibbutzim were founded as agricultural undertakings, the limitations og agriculture in the area has forced the various Kibbutzim to diversify their economic activities. A good example is the Kibbutz Kabri founded at the end of the War for Independence (1949). The Kibbutz today operates a banana plantation and avocado grove, a metal and wax casting factory (Cabiran), a plastics factory (Ri'on), a restaurant, regional auditorium, and a vacation village. Many Kibbutzim are similarly diversified.

Religious Kibbutzim


Archeology

Isrealis and Isreali academic instiyitions have given considerable effort to pursuing archeological studies. The country is rich in important sites to be studied. There is evidence of neolithic settlement throughout Israel. There are areas which attracted humans from earliest time. Archeologists have found evidence of human habitation dating back 16,000 years. Small tribal groups migrating out of Africa were channeled through the levant, especually coastal areas. Humans, probably following migrating heards, would have been attracted by freshwater springs or other topographical features that over time resulted in the foundation of villages or in more moder times kibbutzim. Human constructed buildings have neen dated to 10,000 years ago. As a result, many kibbutzim are located close to important archeological sites. Kibbutz members have taken an active part on the study and excavation of these sites in close cooperation with Israeli academic institutions. The kibbutz children are ecposed to the archeological sites which commonly include active digs from an early age. Many find the archeology fascinating. Some kibbutzim nearly important sites have set up museums based on the local findings.

Modern Kibbutzim

There were more than 250 Kinnutzim active in Israel (2010). This included 16 religious kibbutzim. Most of these Kibbutzim are located in peripheral areas of Israel. This includes sites from the northern tip of Israel to the far south (Arava). About 106,000 people live and work on the Kibbutzim, including nore than 20,000 children. Israel's dynamic growing economy has draw many Israelis from the Kibbutzim. This has lead to a crisis in the Kibbutz Movemrnt. Some Kibbutz leaders report a growing interest among mamy young people, both singles and young families. This includes those seeking to join Kibbutzim as both permanent members or as non-member residents. The main limitation to new trend is housing shortages.

Sources

Etzioni, Amitai. "Children of the Universe." Utne Reader (May/June 1993).

Lopata, Peg. "Mothering: The infant daycare experiment," (Winter 1993).

Marcus, Joseph. Ed. Growing up in Groups, The Russian Day Care Center and The Israeli Kibbutz (1972).

Tiger, Lionel and Joseph Shepher. Women in the Kibbutz (1975).






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Created: 4:10 PM 2/18/2011
Last updated: 7:01 PM 2/20/2011