One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life
A Century of Crises and Reinvention
The years 1909-2009 mark a century of kibbutz life—one hundred years of achievements, failures, and challenges. It is undeniable that the impact of kibbutzim on Israeli society has been substantial. During its one hundred years of existence, the kibbutz as a concept and as a reality underwent many changes, as did Israel as a whole both before its establishment in 1948 and since then.
One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life describes a host of changes that have occurred and describes their meaning. The kibbutz population has increased in terms of demography and capital, a point that frequently is overlooked in the debate about the institution’s viability. The kibbutz has become a very attractive place for young people who want community life. Like the founders who tried to establish a particular society grounded in certain principles, so too, newcomers to the kibbutz want to establish a new idealistic society with specific social and economic arrangements.
The combined voices of the contributors to this volume discuss the ideals, hopes, frustrations, disappointments, and reconstruction efforts that brought a few solutions to the fading kibbutz ideals. These solutions are not always popular among kibbutz members, but they demonstrate growth and development of the kibbutz. Through the inclusion of a variety of studies, this book clarifies the role of this dynamic institution.
"This marvelous Collection examines the causes, processes, and paths of change that led to a transformation of kibbutz society in a quickly evolving, new nation-state… [T]here is much well-presented information on re-establishment of the nuclear family, the kibbutz as a bedroom community rather than an integrated work commune, the rise of materialism, outside and foreign workers in the agricultural/industrial sphere, eco-Zionism, shifting ideologies, etc. Clearly, the kibbutz is alive and well and… different. This is currently the best source to learn about it… Essential."
—L. D. Loeb, CHOICE
“This collection of papers by Israeli academics examines the kibbutz, its contributions to Israeli society, and its evolution. They cover issues such as the Kibbutz Crisis of 1980, the privatization of the kibbutz, spousal relations on the kibbutz and the moshav, and aging on the kibbutz. They also look at the changes that have occurred in kibbutz life over the years. These include the use of international workers, the development of urban kibbutzim, and the influence of eco-Zionism and ecology. The depiction of the kibbutz in literature and film, and the culture of the kibbutz appear as well. This broad range of topics offers interesting material for study and discussion. The book will be a valuable addition to academic library collections supporting graduate programs in the social sciences, history, and Jewish studies.”
—Barbara M. Bibel, Jewish Book World
“The kibbutz is alive and well according to this anthology, even though there are major changes in the organization of the kibbutz. “The history of the kibbutzim shows that they are moving from a welfare society to a market society.” Current trends include urban kibbutzim and the eco-kibbutz movement. The essays in the anthology, which give a view of the kibbutz in the past and the current direction, are written by professors of sociology, psychology and other disciplines. There is a fascinating essay on the portrayal of the kibbutz life in movies… Recommended for specialized libraries and researchers interested in sociology, education, psychology, and environmental studies.”
“The year 2009 saw the centenary of the kibbutz. This unique Israeli invention was perceived worldwide as symbolizing the idealism and the utopian horizons that marked Zionism at its inception. The kibbutz was seen as the antithesis to the totalitarianism that became identified with the communist regime and which gave socialism its bad name.
One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life does not dwell on the idealistic and heroic past of the kibbutz. Its point of departure is the last twenty years, a period of deep crisis and of rejuvenation of the kibbutz. This sociological study describes and analyzes the decline of the old kibbutz norms, and the changing of the collectivist ethos in favor of individualism. . . .
It deconstructs the accepted wisdom that the kibbutz was the ideal place to grow up in, and the ideal place where to grow old. It presents the criticism of the communal education system, and also the growing anxiety of the older generation in the eighties, when the economic collapse of the kibbutz aroused doubts as to its economic ability to sustain the elderly.
This is also a book that describes the transformation and the reinvention of the kibbutz: how the crisis was also the opportunity to change attitudes, to find new approaches that would allow young and individualistic people to find their place in the kibbutz. The price of the transformation was the loss of the egalitarianism. . . .
This is a sociological study, which presents the most up-to-date analysis of the kibbutz, its role in Israeli society and its mission. Well-written, it is user friendly, and can be read by both the specialist and the general reader.”
—Anita Shapira, head, The Chaim Weitzman Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel; professor of modern Jewish history (Tel Aviv University); director of the Yitzchak Rabin Center