Kibbutz, Then and Now
by Lili Eylon
The first kibbutz, a voluntary collective community, sprang up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee almost a hundred years ago. It was formed by a group of young Jewish men and women from Eastern Europe fired by Zionist and socialist ideals.
These pioneers conceived their new home on the principle of common ownership of all assets and on responsibility of one for all and all for one. Each member worked according to his or her ability and each received according to his or her needs.
The result was a unique society which, with some inevitable changes, is still a vital part of Israel. Today some 120,000 people live in 269 kibbutzim across the country.
An Evolving Ideology
The central concept of this socioeconomic model was that of equality. The individual was part of a collective group sharing equally what the kibbutz had to offer.
Part of the ideology was communal education, in which children were brought up in separate children's houses with sleeping quarters, playrooms, and study rooms. Parents spent time with their children only after work. In a dramatic change, kibbutz life since the 1970s has become family centered, with all children raised by their parents and living at home.
At one time, the kibbutz provided a complete spectrum of services to its members, ranging from toothpaste to housing and from honeymoons to financial aid for dependents living on the outside. In return, new members were expected to transfer all their assets, other than personal effects, to the kibbutz.
A new seafront neighborhood in the kibbutz Maagan Michael, designed by Nili Portugali, faces the Mediterranean.
Photo: Amit Geron
Unlike in older kibbutzim, these houses were designed with input from individual occupants.
Photo: Amit Geron
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