• An article by JAMES GRANT-ROSENHEAD, a member of Kibbutz Mishol, describing the new communities in Israel that are co-operating to create a new Kibbutz Movement. First written in 2003, and then updated in 2012, here is the all new 2015 version..

    A New Kibbutz Movement, Revisited

    By James Grant-Rosenhead, February 2015 / Shvat 5775

     

    Every now and again I am surprised to see that the article 'A New Kibbutz Movement', which I wrote way back in 2003, is still online and getting hits. I wrote then about the possibility of the 'Ma'agal HaKvutzot' (Circle of Groups) uniting various new 'kvutzot shitufiot' (cooperative groups) such as urban kibbutzim and 'Tnuot Bogrim' (adult graduates movements) under it's umbrella as some kind of new kibbutz movement.

    Looking back now, not only has that article been completely out of date for years, but it was also from the outset overly simplistic regarding the potential of Ma'agal HaKvutzot as a unifying movement. The reality is that whilst that particular umbrella for inter-group contact has indeed grown and developed to become some kind of new kibbutz movement, it is just one small network amongst six new kibbutz movements, all of which are growing in parallel. Furthermore, these six new kibbutz movements exist within a wider context of some eight thousand members of intentional, activist communities from fourteen national movements and networks which together have formed 'M.A.K.O.M.' – the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Council of Communities for Social Action.

  • The following was culled and translated from leaflets produced by Deganya and from the special 90th Anniversary Issue of the journal, Hakibbutz.

    "On the 25th of Tishrei. 5671 (October 28, 1910), we, ten men and two women comrades, came to Um Juni, and received the inventory from the `pioneering group'. We proceeded to establish an independent settlement of Hebrew workers on national land. A cooperative community without exploiters or exploited - a commune."



    The early days of Deganya (by courtesy of the Deganya A. Archives)

    That was the beginning of the kibbutz movement. The uniqueness of the move was the fact that it intended to realize a social vision as a way of life, through working the land and permanent settlement in the Land of Israel. Two years later, the group moved to its permanent site, next to the outlet of the Jordan from the Sea of Galilee, on land purchased for the Jewish National Fund from its Persian landowners.

    Long discussions after work slowly crystallized the principles of "the beautiful life".

    • Equality of the different kinds of work, between people, in consumption.
    • Freedom of the individual from material worries.
    • Democracy. No managers and no underlings. The abolition of all hierarchy and rank.


    Many were the doubts, taking into account the difficult conditions then prevailing: the seering climate, the plagues of nature, diseases, relations with the neighbors and a hostile alien regime. Despite the problems and the sacrifices, their spirit did not waver. And there were happy events as well: families were established, children were born, years of blessing in agriculture came, which proved their economic ability and the justice of the idea.

    With the outbreak of the War of Independence, Deganya stood courageously against a Syrian tank attack and forced it back.

    With the passing of the years, Deganya underwent a surge of social and economic development: a stable economy was gradually built up, based on agricultural know-how and advanced, technology. Much later, an industrial enterprise was created, against strong opposition by agriculturally-minded members.

    The seed planted in "Um Juni" laid the foundation for the national cooperative settlement on the Land of Israel.

    Some Facts About Deganya

    • The name Deganya was derived from the Hebrew word "dagan" meaning "grain", because of the five species that grew there: wheat, barley, oats, corn and sorghum.
    • The children of Deganya never slept in children's houses.
    • Today Deganya has 359 members, with a total population of 509.
    • 17 descendants of the founders live in Deganya. The fifth generation has got off to a good start with 3 great-great- grandchildren!
    • The sophisticated diamond-tipped tool-making factory constitutes the major part (70%) of the kibbutz economy.


    A Few Milestones Of Deganya
    1910 - Deganya founded.
    1913 - The first child in Deganya born. The first member killed by Arab bandits.
    1916 - Decision in principle: cooperative care and education for the children.
    1919 - A. D. Gordon the founder of the "Religion of Labour", arrived.
    1920 - The land divided, to form Deganya 'B'. A group leaves to found the first moshav (cooperative settlement).
    1927 - The founding of a joint regional school.
    1932 - Electricity connected to Deganya.
    1948 - The War of Independence; the Syrian attack repulsed.
    1968 - The establishment of "Toolgal Degania" - the first industrial project in Deganya.

    Some Gems from Deganya's Past

    • There were no watches. Instead there was a bell, hanging from a tree near the old dining room, which the night watchman used to ring to wake people up. But no fixed hour had been decided. Two of the veteran members would sniff the air to determine when the hour was ripe to go to work.
    • The poetess Rachel, in one of her poems, told how she tried to explain futurism to members of Deganya. A leading veteran asked, "What's that got to do with wheat?" Everyone continued the discussion - on wheat, instead of on modern art.
    • When one of the women veterans returned from a mission abroad, she enthused about the "new" artificial insemination of cows. One of the children - later the commander of Israel's air force " asked, "Why don't humans use it?" Her reply was that.... ( her husband) prefers the old system.
    • In the twenties, a visitor asked what Deganya does to a member who doesn't work. The answer was, "We wouldn't love him!"
    • In the twenties and thirties: "Democracy? The system was patriarchal. Without this, we wouldn't have achieved what we have. The veteran members were something special. You could express different opinions, but...things were decided not by the number of people but by their weight.
    • In the twenties, Albert Einstein and his wife visited Deganya. In the dining room, Mrs. Einstein asked if the macaroni is always cooked with raisins. The cook waved her hand and all the "raisins" flew away.
    • When the manager of the factory, in his pursuit for markets, bought a business suit, the accounting department agreed to pay for only the jacket. The reason: "You'll also wear the trousers on the eve of the Sabbath".


    Recollections the Early Days of Communal Education

    • One of the first children recalls: "It never occurred to me that I could have an orange and not share it with all the children. I miss the togetherness and the mutual concern for one another.... Studies were nothing special. When tomatoes had to be planted, we small children would be woken at three in the morning."
    • "We were raised with perpetual guilty consciences. We were made to feel responsible, not only for ourselves but for society, for the whole world."
    • "We had to read books, prepare lessons, go to all the celebrations, even to eat. The problem was that everyone had to like the same things. The other children hated spinach, but I liked it - so I was boycotted. On the other hand, we had a great deal of freedom. "


    Deganya Alef - February, 2006

    A recent kibbutz event drew the attention of the international news media! 97-year old Deganya Alef, the "Mother of the Kibbutzim", decided by a vast majority to go over to "graded salaries", while maintaining a generous Social Security network for its weaker members. Some of the media regarded the event like the breakup of the USSR! - despite the fact that many other kibbutzim have made similar privatization decisions. (I'm enclosing a couple press reactions. Not that I agree with all their content, of course, but you should find them of at least partial interest.) In a nutshell, they've gone over to the classic definition of socialism - not communism - "From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution". Thus Deganya will remain far more communal than most ICs.

    Their decision was taken from a very strong economic position. Ironically, their close neighbour, Deganya Bet, which is somewhat worse off financially, has recently decided against such a change. This runs against the conventional view that lack of economic success is a big factor encouraging privatization.

    A Hundred Years of Kibbutz (Almost)

    The following is the response of journalist Yael Paz-Melamed, a daughter of Deganya Alef, to the privatization decision.

    "Deganya Alef are we, all the world knows,
    For without us, the world would not exist."

    Thus I sang from my parched throat during my whole childhood, which couldn't possibly have been happier. That is what I really thought throughout my whole childhood. That without us, the world would not exist. Because we were Deganya Alef. The very best. The elite of the elite. For the rightest of reasons, we had earned this title. We were the grandchildren of those who first conceived and then carried out the noble idea called kibbutz.

    We were privileged to meet only a few of them, and we considered it a great honour to meet those we did. We were proud to meet those who, as children aged 17 and 18, left their parents, their home, their homelands, and settled alone on the soil of Um Juni, in order to create a new society on the basis of everyone giving what he can and receiving according to his needs. At no time since, has a movement arisen with more lofty ideals than this principle.

    My grandmother and grandfather arrived in Deganya when everything was already crystallized. One tiny woman, ultra-religious, and one big-bodied man, an atheist. She had arrived from the USA, he from Russia. My mother was born into a society where the community was sacred and work was holy. The children had to manage by themselves. And they did. Nature was their home, the fields, the Jordan, the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). No one worried about them because, surrounded by all that beauty, there was no cause for concern. I myself was born into the most protected society that one could ever find. We, the children of the sixties, were "wrapped up" on all sides. That we should eat, that we wouldn't be cold, that we would be happy. And we were. And above all, the adamant spirit of the elders was always hovering. The same children that left everything didn't know that one day, as the years would go by, everybody would leave them. That they would sink into the abyss of forgetfulness of a state which sends its pioneers and builders to die alone, not in the snow, but in the blazing sun.

    And now, privatization. No longer will everyone give what he can and receive according to his needs. Almost 100 years after the founding of the first kibbutz in the world (1910), the way was found to keep it alive by means of an artificial heart. Another chapter has ended and nothing remains but to ask that those brave-hearted trail-blazers be remembered. But no way! Who will remember them?

    And I, who also left my home many years ago, know that by so doing, I contributed my bit to the ending of this chapter. One day I sat with my parents in our home above the shore of the Kinneret, the exact spot where the Jordan flows out of it. When, with down cast eyes, I announced to them that I would not continue in their path, I placed a little stone on the grave of the kibbutz. All my life, I long for the low-stemmed palm- tree near our home, for the fields now turning green, to the hidden beauty spots of the Jordan. But I left, like so many others of my comrades, to search of a different future. And thus, we all contributed to the downfall of this beloved place.

    Fare you well, Deganya Alef, my beloved! And thank you for all the moments of bliss and for all the days, months and years that fill my heart with joy to this very day. A great privilege was granted me to be born and grow up in Kibbutz Deganya Alef, which this week announced that it would no longer be a kibbutz.

    Translated from the kibbutz weekly, "Hadaf Hayarok", 22.2. 2007.

     

     

    First kibbutz Degania celebrates 100 years

    By Ban Hartman

    Jerusalem Post 04/01/10

    The Kibbutz Movement has a lot to contribute, and we’re not done,” says 3rd-generation resident.

    Hundreds of members of the Kibbutz Movement (Hatnua Hakibbutzit) from across the country gathered at Kvutza Degania Aleph on the Kinneret on Wednesday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first kibbutz.
    The event in the courtyard of the Founders House, one of the first buildings erected at Degania, was attended by President Shimon Peres and MKs Haim Oron (Meretz), who joined Kibbutz Lahav after the army, and Shai Hermesh (Kadima), who became a member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza after his military service.
    Ze’ev Shor, head of the Kibbutz Movement, which was formed in 1999 by a partial merger of the United Kibbutz Movement and Kibbutz Artzi, spoke of the contributions of kibbutzim to the agriculture and defense of the state.
    “We must remind ourselves and others that building the land, defining and defending its borders are not empty words or clichés,” he said.
    Despite changes that have taken place over the years in Israel, kibbutzniks “hold our heads up high” for their contribution to Israeli society, Shor said.
    Peres also addressed the crowd, reminiscing over the old days in Israel and the simple joys of living on a kibbutz. Peres, who lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years as a young man and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot, said that Israel “wouldn’t be what it is today without all of the security and social achievements of the Kibbutz Movement.”
    Wednesday’s event included a celebration for five kibbutz members celebrating their 100th birthdays.
    Founded by immigrants from Russia and Ukraine in 1910, Degania has loomed large in Zionist lore for many years, partly due to its role in stopping the Syrian advance during the War of Independence. On May 20, 1948, during the Battles of the Kinnerot Valley, Degania Aleph and Degania Bet repelled a Syrian attack. Outside the main gate of Degania Aleph, a Syrian tank still stands, testament to the kibbutz’s role in defending the earliest borders of the state.
    The kibbutz on the southern shore of Lake Kinneret was also the birthplace of legendary IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Dayan, and was home to a number of prominent residents of the nascent state. The poet Rachel, the “prophet of labor” A.D. Gordon and Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor all worked at Degania Aleph.
    Tamar Gal-Sarai, the cultural director of Degania Aleph, said celebrating the 100th anniversary “means a lot of pride, as simple as that. It’s one thing to be an entity for 100 years, it’s another thing for a living thing to be around for 100 years.”
    Gal-Sarai, 49, a third-generation resident whose grandparents were the first family on the kibbutz, said that despite the changes in Israel and those adopted by the movement, the role of the kibbutz remained “to be the light, the torch leading the camp.”
    She described the Kibbutz Movement as “always on the periphery,” always on the front line of contribution to the state. She said that for her, being a kibbutznik meant “we make the choice that we aren’t only going to take, that we’re giving a lot and making a choice to perform extra service.”
    “The Kibbutz Movement has a lot to contribute, and we’re not done,” Gal-Sarai said.

     

    You can find another article about Degania here.

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    Exiting the RAMC, in British Army, I was sent to Jerusalem for a year's study at the 'Machon,' the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad in 1954-55. All the 72 students, from some 10 different countries, contracted to finish the year and then do 2 years Movement Work in the various Zionist Youth Movements around the world. Ours was HaBonim.

    We studied hard for six months. Hebrew every day. Jewish History. Geography. The Arab/Israel Conflict. Zionist History. Community Organisation. Scout craft and Camping. And Handicrafts. After six months study we all moved to kibbutzim, all over the country, and spent our time working half days, picking oranges and studying Hebrew in the afternoons. We all came back for the Final Month in Jerusalem, speaking Hebrew fairly fluently.

    The girl sitting next to me in class was to become my wife. When we got back to The UK we got married and worked in The Movement for two years, in London and Dublin. We made 'Aliyah' and got back to Kibbutz Amiad in 1957. My wife was seven months pregnant with our first of three sons, Yonatan.

     

  • Dror Israel is an educational movement, social and cooperative that was established in 2006.The movement includes children and teens, youngsters and adults that come from over the country. Since its establishment the movement makes has various activities that are designed to promote equality, peace and the democracy among the people, and create an open dialogue that is based on respect, attentiveness and understanding all the parties that exist in the society.

    Through its many and varied activities, raising awareness and the support it gives, the movement believes that it will be possible to create a better society that fights against the violence and racism.

     

    Most of the movement members live in a new unique collaborative model- Urban Educators Kibbutz – it is about a renewal of Kibbutz idea, which played a key role in the establishing of the state of Israel, while modifying to the 21st century. Educators Kibbutzes work in autonomous small cells and the movement provides an additional safety net for the kibbutzes. The educators Kibbutzes are located within the cities and many members are engaged in educational activities at schools and the activities' scope reach hundreds of thousands of children and teens a year.

    3 groups that operate for the peace, the equality and the democracy

    During the 80's and 90's to the present the state of Israel has had accelerated privatization processes. This policy has led to the wide gaps in the Israeli society and even to poverty. Even the various factories in the labor movement have changed the faces and the people were afraid that there will be no place for the socialist Zionist idea in the Israeli society.

    Out of these changes Dror Israel movement has grown: The members of the youth worker and learner movement that grew up and wanted to keep and educate and experience a cooperative way of life, established thousands of continued frames that will allow to thousands of young people and adults to renew the cooperative idea and set up dozens of unique educational frameworks.

    Dror Israel on-line

    Dror Israel movement is active on-line, making information and participation approachable. The movement keeps an open channel of communication via its Facebook page. The page keeps followers up to date about activates, workshops on writing and composing and more. Dror Israel also post photos, videos of varies events.

    More information about Dror Israel can be found on kvutzot.net, kolzchut.org.il and calcalist.co.il.

    Dror Israel works with over 200,000 young people from different backgrounds in order to increase tolerance, equality and democracy in Israeli society.

  • The old socialist model gets a modern twist as intentional communities make educational and social inroads in underprivileged Israeli neighborhoods.

    Members of Kibbutz Mishol in Nazareth Illit

    Guy Gardi, a founding member of 25-year-old urban Kibbutz Beit Yisrael in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo Aleph, doesn’t consider himself a pioneer like the founders of the nearly 100-year-old Kibbutz Ein Harod in the Jezreel Valley, where he grew up.

    Those original egalitarian communes (kibbutz means “gathering” or “collective”) struggled to establish fertile farms in long-barren soil, while today’s urban kibbutz is an intentional community working to improve quality of life and education in underserved neighborhoods. It’s a different kind of pioneering.

    “The unique idea of an urban kibbutz is to take the old idea of a kibbutz — a group of people living together and sharing their resources to help each other accomplish a mission – and apply it to a social environment rather than an agricultural environment,” explains Gardi.

     Five secular and religious families started Kibbutz Beit Yisrael in 1993. They moved into a former immigrant absorption center in a rundown part of Gilo and extended a hand to residents of the surrounding public-housing projects.

     “We’re working with amazing people who happen to have a lot of troubles. To understand them we have to live among them, respect them and build trust. The connection has to influence both sides,” Gardi tells ISRAEL21c. “Of all the things I do, the most important is just to live there and be a caring friend and neighbor.”

    Members founded the Kvutzat Reut nonprofit as a vehicle to promote social action and religious pluralism in Gilo Aleph.Guy Gardi, center, speaking at an event in the community garden built by members of Kibbutz Beit Yisrael for local residents.Kvutzat Reut-Kibbutz Beit Yisrael offers informal education programs for all ages; revitalizes public preschools and elementary schools with declining enrollment; and founded Mechinat Beit Yisrael, a pre-army leadership, study and local volunteering program that attracts students from Israel and abroad.

    “Kibbutz Beit Yisrael was one of the first to invent this model and a lot of people have come here to learn about it in the past 25 years,” says longtime member Omer Lefkowitz. “Israel is full of people looking for vision, for a life of meaning. Mission-driven communities give them a way to do that.”

    A new social movement

    Nomika Zion, founder of urban Kibbutz Migvan in the blue-collar southern town of Sderot, estimates that more than 200 urban kibbutzim or similar intentional communities exist across Israel. More are springing up all the time.

    “It’s a new social movement,” she says.

    This movement includes Garin Torani communities of religious young families; student volunteer villages of the grassroots Ayalim Association in the Negev and Galilee; and non-Jewish (including Druze) intentional communities.

    Nomika Zion, founder of urban Kibbutz Migvan in Sderot. Photo by Yossi Oren“What they have in common is that they are extremely involved in their city or town’s social welfare and education,” Zion tells ISRAEL21c. “Most don’t have a sharing economy like classic kibbutzim but they often work and live together.”

    Zion frequently hosts foreign visitors, reporters and university students wishing to understand the phenomenon. She starts with her own story as a third-generation kibbutznik.

    “Israel is full of people looking for vision, for a life of meaning. Mission-driven communities give them a way to do that.”

    “I was raised on social values of equality, but nearby there was a development town of North African immigrants we never met. I wanted to break down the metaphorical wall,” Zion says. “I wanted to bring the kibbutz into the city and share my life with people of different backgrounds, and try to build relationships not based on patronizing anyone.”

    Six young pioneers followed Zion to Sderot in 1987. At that time, many children of the town’s original Moroccan immigrants were growing up and taking leadership roles to improve life in Sderot.

    “There were exciting changes happening and we wanted to be part of that,” says Zion. “When we started we got no support from the Kibbutz Movement or the government. But we wanted to create a new kind of communal model in Israel.”

    Kibbutz Migvan members lived in public housing for 14 years before buying land and building their own houses and community center.

    They established the first high-tech company in Sderot. The owners from the kibbutz and the workers from town earned equal salaries and made management decisions democratically.

    In 1994, they founded the Gvanim Association to provide equal employment and education opportunities for Israelis with special needs. In 2008, they built houses for about 20 people witMembers of Kibbutz Migvan in Sderot built their own neighborhood within the city.h physical disabilities to live among them.

    Today, the high-tech company and Gvanim are independently run. Many of Kibbutz Migvan’s 100 members are involved in these enterprises but are free to work wherever they choose.

    Without sacrificing shared activities such as meals, childcare, holiday celebrations and educational seminars, the economic and social structure has become more flexible just as it has on many of the 250 traditional kibbutzim across Israel.

    “Over the years many families joined us but didn’t want to have a shared economy, so today only six families are in that shared economy and the rest are not,” Zion explains. “Everyone is very close to one another despite their differences. People contribute in different ways.”

    Four generations of the Simon family, all Kibbutz Beit Yisrael members, on the steps of their communal home in Jerusalem. Photo: courtesy

    A similar shift has taken place at Kibbutz Beit Yisrael in Jerusalem. Its 10 core families are supplemented by an economically independent group of 60 to 80 families who help carry out Kvutzat Reut’s programs. Mechinat Beit Yisrael currently has 60 men and women in the first year and 25 in the second year.

    Lefkowitz, now 40, graduated from the first class of Mechinat Beit Yisrael and came back after the army in 2002 to join the urban kibbutz. He teaches at the academy and directs the activities of alumni who have so far started six similar urban kibbutzim around Israel.

    Many of the at-risk neighborhood kids who benefited from Kvutzat Reut programs also come back after the army and become partners in improving the neighborhood.

    “The social projects we do touch more and more people,” Lefkowitz says. “It’s not a project; it’s life. You need people that see it as a mission.”

    Building Israeli society together

    In an impoverished neighborhood of the northern town of Nazareth Illit, 150 members of urban Kibbutz Mishol — half of them children – reside in an eight-story former immigrant absorption center.

    About 20 percent of their neighbors are senior citizens. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Arab Muslims and Christians are the predominant populations groups here.

    The former immigrant absorption center that houses Kibbutz Mishol in Nazareth Illit.

    “We started about 20 years ago,” says founding member James Grant Rosenhead, 44, a 1999 immigrant from the UK. “We work with all the populations together, in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of racism, and bring kids to an ability to build Israeli society together.”

    Members of Kibbutz Mishol run and staff the local elementary school, the flagship project of its NGO, Tikkun, whose projects also include children’s afterschool programs and a drop-in youth center. They will build an educational greenhouse at the school this year.

    Kibbutz Mishol founding member James Grant Rosenhead.

    Tikkun took over HaMahanot HaOlim, a national youth movement founded in 1929 to help establish agricultural kibbutzim, to prepare young Israelis from its 50 branches to found intentional urban communities.

    “We now have a network of six activist kibbutzim – ours in addition to kibbutzim in Rishon LeZion, Eilat, Migdal HaEmek, Haifa and the Jordan Valley,” Rosenhead tells ISRAEL21c. “We help them establish educational and social projects in their neighborhoods.”

    Eighty percent of adult Kibbutz Mishol members choose to work in Tikkun projects locally and nationwide. Rosenhead, formerly the joint CEO of Tikkun, recently retrained as a computer programmer to work in the kibbutz’s database development startup.

    Hazon, the US-based Jewish Lab for Sustainability, is launching a project to introduce potential diaspora intentional communities to existing Israeli ones. Rosenhead will be a guide for these visits.

    “People think human beings don’t share and cooperate well, but it turns out that it is possible to compromise, cooperate and form an intensive community life,” says Rosenhead.

    Adds Zion, from Kibbutz Migvan: “When you create a new social model for life, it’s very romantic. Then you meet reality and there are many compromises and disappointments. And yet, I couldn’t have dreamed 33 years ago that the reality would be better than the dream.”

  • Communal Living In Israel

    Altogether there are 265 rural kibbutzim, plus 5 urban kibbutzim, 12 communal villages,over 100 city communes and various other intentional communities.

    Some 115,600 souls live on kibbutzim, almost 2% of the population. In no other country is there such a high percentage of commune dwellers. The largest kibbutz has 626 members, with a total population of 1254.

    Unlike communes elsewhere, the kibbutzim are, and always have been very much an integral part of the national liberation movement and then of the state itself. They played a major role in almost all facets of the upbuilding of the Jewish homeland, and in the Labour movement, but their impact has gradually been eroded with time. Nevertheless, there are 3 kibbutz members in the Knesset (Parliament), including a woman deputy-minister. A former Prime Minister was born and educated on a kibbutz, and a former Chief of Staff is a member of a kibbutz. In addition, the kibbutz contribution to the cultural and economic life of the country is far beyond their proportion of the population. For more details about kibbutzim and the kibbutz movement, click here.

    Being part and parcel of Israeli society, it should be no surprise that the egoistic, anti-ideological materialism now current in the country is taking its toll on the kibbutzim. Other major factors contributing to the present crisis are serious economic problems (partially stemming from past severe inflation) and the lack of clear objectives. All these, and other factors, have created in many kibbutzim a lack of confidence in the future of the kibbutz way of life. The result is a strong move towards changes in the direction of less communal living, and many kibbutzim are in a state of crisis. (For more details about the changing kibbutz, press here.) The recent unification of the two largest kibbutz movements hasn't affected this trend. Indeed some kibbutzim are about to relinquish their communal lifestyle almost completely.

    Nevertheless, kibbutz members continue to contribute considerably in almost all spheres of life: culture, agriculture, industry, sport, defence, immigrant absorption, politics, social work, environment, etc. etc..

    As for urban kibbutzim, there are four recognized as such by the kibbutz movement (and one more, Kibbutz Mish-ol in Nazareth Illit, which although not part of the kibbutz movement, is registered legally as an urban kibbutz). Two are in Jerusalem: Kibbutz Reshit (with an orthodox religious lifestyle) and Kibbutz Bet Israel (with a mix of religious and non-religious members). The other two non-religious urban kibbutzim are in "development towns": Kibbutz Migvan in Shderot and Kibbutz Tamuz in Bet Shemesh.

    Several young rural kibbutzim (Ravid, Eshbal, Na'aran and Pelech) have similar ideas and are concentrating on educational activities.

    The 12 communal villages, in Hebrew "moshav shitufi", with a total population of some 4000, have a less collective set-up than kibbutzim. Five of them are affiliated to the largest kibbutz federation, and seven to the workers settlement movement.

    An interesting and very positive development over the past few years is the emergence of a new type of city commune. This is definitely an original Israeli invention, since they are made up of former leaders of youth movements, who have finished their military service and wish to live together and contribute to society, mainly through formal and informal educational work. Over 100 of these urban communes exist.The largest and oldest of these is made up of 8 communes in the northern city of Nazareth Illit, which includes Kvutsat Yovel, a commune of immigrants from English-speaking countries. All of the above have the intention to contribute (through educational and social work) to their surroundings, which are in need of plenty of help. Many of their members are former kibbutzniks or sons and daughters of kibbutzim.

    Some explanation is called for. In Israel, as well as in Jewish communities around the world, there exist various Zionist youth movements. These resemble vaguely the Boy Scouts, but are youth led, with mixed boy-girl membership and with a strong informal educational/ideological/cultural bias. They encourage their members to work in various ways for the Jewish people (and other good causes) and some of their graduates join kibbutzim. In recent years, some of the Israeli movement leaders have formed city communes to carry on their positive activities after their army service. (Boys do at least 3 years military service and girls do 2 - unless they are married or religious.)

    In addition, there are a variety of other communes and intentional communities around the country. Do contact us, if you belong to one of these or have any relevant information.

    The vast number of books, publications and articles about kibbutz reflects the wide-ranging interest in the subject. In Israel, most of the publications on the subject are available at the library of Yad Tabenkin at Seminar Efal, the staff of which is always ready to be of assistance. Alternative sources are the libraries of Givat Chaviva, of the University of Haifa (with its Institute for Research on the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea) and those of the other universities. In other countries too, the university libraries no doubt include many such publications.

    Unfortunately, we have had to limit ourselves only to those books in English which are somehow connected with this site.

    Bibliography

    • Avrahami, E., Kibbutz - An Evolving Community, Yad Tabenkin, 1992.
    • Avrahami, E., The Changing Kibbutz, Yad Tabenkin, 2000
    • Fedler, Jon: KIBBUTZ, What, When, When, Where, Israel Information Center: Focus on Israel, Jerusalem, 2002. (Available from Israeli diplomatic missions and on
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    • Gelb, Saadia, Almost One Hundred Years of Togetherness, Shmuel Press, Tel Aviv, 1994
    • Horrox, J. (2009): A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement, Oakland, CA; Edinburgh: AK Press
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    • Maron, S., Kibbutz in a Market Society, Yad Tabenkin, 1993
    • Mort, J. and Brenner, G. (2003): Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today’s Israel? Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press
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    • Tyldesley, Michael - No Heavenly Delusion? - A Comparative Study of Three Communal Movements, Liverpool University Press, 2003.
  • I recently attended the Hakhel Jewish Intentional Communities Retreat, a special initiative to connect and inspire Jewish “intentional communities” around the world with each other. Included in the mix of communities were French, Russians, Australians, Canadians, and of course, the Israelis.

    While all the other worldly communities had much to say and show, it was the Israelis who led the way, showing me what it means to create deep, creative communities that bind us to one another.

    Twenty Israelis descended into the bucolic campgrounds of Potomac, Maryland for the Hakhel retreat from multiple, distinct Israeli communities, under an umbrella organization for Israeli intentional communities called “Makom Pioneers”.

    When the conference began, I conversed mainly with other American community-makers. I learned what they did and they heard what I did. It seemed reasonably productive enough, though nothing profoundly inspirational or life-changing.

    Until I walked into a session on Israeli intentional communities, and the tone and atmosphere shifted dramatically. As the main speaker introduced Makom and gave a video and overview of the different approaches within the system, my heart leapt.

    “We are working on building a better society,” she began, and I nodded vigorously along with her, lapping it in like water in the middle of the Negev desert, “Yes, yes,” I agreed silently. “This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

    Her words indicated not just a fastidious dedication to “keeping Jews Jewish” or “connecting Jews to each other” or “getting a group of Jewish bodies together to do Jewish culture”.

    It was bigger. It was smaller. It was everything. It was detailed, deep, and most of all, intimate.

    Her words and tone illustrated the large gap between what Jews in the Diaspora seemed to be doing with their bodies and what Israelis were doing with their hearts.

    Beyond just wanting people to feel better, or to just have enough food, clothes, access to good education and upward mobility in society. Beyond just the arts or the culture,inclusion or acceptance, these Israeli intentional communities seemed to dig deeper for want of everything, to reach a life in which everyone was deeply connected

    As each member of Makom Pioneers got up to speak, I sensed it more; the feeling that their intentional societies saw each other as a see-saw; you move, I move, you hurt, I hurt. So let’s build and climb together.

    The next night of the retreat, I sat with two wonderful Makom Israelis who, for the last thirteen years, have created an intentional arts community. With a socialist focus, they have- for the last thirteen years and counting- lived together, sharing food, projects, and lives.

    They told me about all the amazing things they were doing: setting up an arts space in the middle of a dilapidated market that many people were afraid to go into before they arrived, a bright oasis for the community that was not deterred by crime of the area. They put on shows and help the community in a plethora of ways.

    But again, it wasn’t just the big, dramatic things they were doing that blew me away. It was the way in which they spoke about it. Their feet were on the ground, too connected to one another to let their egos exalt themselves. Instead, they beamed from the inside out. It was the small approach to their lifestyle and approach that had me thinking, “How can I incorporate that into my life and organization?” rather than the big things.

    They presented it to me as if their intentional community was their life, but not in a workaholic sense. It felt like it encompassed their life in that they had enough space in their bodies, hearts, and minds, to open up all their moments and days to all the people they wanted to work together with and welcome in.

    Even though they were busy, their arms and legs weren’t blocking away others, too busy and too stressed. Instead, their bodies were open and connected. They were like one body, involved and interested in all of the details, large and small.

    If I were to capture their approach in words, I would sum up their lifestyle approach as “We can walk slowly together”. If I attempted to capture it in bodily sensations, I would say it is akin to two hearts, connected by heartstrings layered one over the other.

    “And you shall bind your heart…”

    This is the way in which they spoke with each other; more intimately, more on the ground, more connected.

    Their lives were an ebb and flow with each other. What can I provide for you? What can you provide for me? Let’s do it.

    These Israelis taught me what it means in an actualized sense to live as if “we are one people with one heart”.

    We will never become one just because of what we do, though the doing is important. We will return to oneness when we allow ourselves to build a society together because we understand on a deep level our interconnection.

    When that happens, our society will be made up of not just one leader and many followers, but a true society where everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower, as we contribute together.

    The familial feeling we get at Jews when visiting the Holy Land no doubt comes from the holy energy and the feeling of connectivity from our shared heritage. But if we listen closely to the ways in which the Jews there have figured out a way to meld hearts together, if we allow those who are taking it even further and building intentional communities to reflect and strengthen their binded hearts, we will learn so much about the small, intimate, deep ways we can bring energy from that elevated place all the way back to distribute around the world as well.

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