What is a Kibbutz, Anyways?
Updated: May 30
The Kibbutz Movement: Creating Community
What do Jerry Seinfeld, Bernie Sanders, and Sacha Baron Cohen all have in common? No, it's not their funny way of speaking or even the fact that they're all Jewish. These three, along with many other celebrities, all share a unique experience - working on a kibbutz in Israel!
Kibbutz - meaning "communal settlement" - is a unique type of community that began in Israel, dedicated to social justice, equality, responsibility, and growth. Living on a kibbutz means sharing your land, home, and everything you own with your neighbors. It is the fulfillment of the ideal "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". On a kibbutz, hard work is a core value, making even the most menial job seem important and meaningful.
After years of disillusionment and distrust of government, many early Zionists and Israeli settlers joined the Kibbutz Movement in the hopes of creating a community they could trust and rely on, as well as share in its ideals.
The first kibbutz founded was Dagania, located just south of the Kinneret. The beginning was not easy: the first settlers faced harsh environmental conditions, as well as deprivation and scarcity of resources. Even so, they succeeded in developing thriving communities, lasting to this day! Throughout the years, the Kibbutz Movement in Israel has established itself as an integral part of Israel's agricultural and industrial development, bringing in over $2 billion in sales for Israel’s economy.
Daily life on a kibbutz today is very different than it used to be. Initially, all income generated by the Kibbutz and its members went into a common pool, from which the kibbutz made investments, ran its businesses, and paid its members. Kibbutz members would make almost no independent economic decisions, such as where to send their kids to school or whether to go on a vacation. Imagine having those things put up to vote for the entire community!
Nowadays, many kibbutzim have become privatized, and while these communities still hold the name “kibbutz,” the kibbutznikim no longer share money or receive salaries based on need.
Family life has changed as well. During the initial years, kibbutzim practiced raising children in communal houses, apart from their parents. Although this may sound controversial, this type of independent living fostered a spirited and hard-working breed of Israeli youth. Today children live with their parents, but there's no denying that the ideals instilled in children on a kibbutz have led many of them to greatly impact Israeli society, from high-ranking generals in the IDF, Knesset members, singers, and performers.
Kibbutzim are also a main source of innovation and international businesses. Kibbutz Hazerim’s Netafim company develops and sells one of the world’s leading drip irrigation and water treatment systems, and Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic!
Although kibbutzim today are different than they were originally, the core principles, such as the sense of community, remain. Many kibbutzim offer programs for new immigrants, run many cultural and educational activities for youth movements, and are known to be intriguing tourist attractions.
The Kibbutz Movement is unique and special to Israel, one that we are very proud of!