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Thread: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

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    Senior Member Aliyah1995's Avatar
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    Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    I decided, in lieu of the topic of Kibbutzim coming up on another thread, to start a thread especially for the topic of Kibbutzim. The goal of this thread is to discuss whether or not the Kibbutz movement has been a success or failure in terms of their goal (i.e. living a collective, communal lifestyle). I am aware that there are different types of Kibbutzim (from ultra-left to right-wing of the national religious type, from anti-religious to national religious, etc.). That is not what I want to concentrate so much on in this thread. I am more interested in whether or not the Kibbutz movement is still relevant, is there a future for it or are they on the verge of extinction, how they served their purpose up until now (if they have no future), or what will be their purpose from now on (if they have a future). Also, if people can talk about their experiences with Kibbutzim (whether growing up on one, living on one for a period of time, volunteering on one, or if you have family members who live on one, etc.)

    For my part, my experience with the Kibbutz is limited. During my first year living here, I volunteered on a religious Kibbutz called Maaleh Gilboah (near Beit Shean) for about 2 months:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma'ale_Gilboa

    It was in July-September 1995. My job was to run after tractors carrying pipes, unload them, and connect them so that the sprinklers would work when watering the fields as well as disconnecting them and loading them back onto the tractors so they could be carried to another field to be watered. It was HARD work, but I am glad I did it and while I decided that Kibbutz life was not for me, I will always be thankful that I got a taste of Kibbutz life. Kibbutz Maaleh Gilboah is beautiful and boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in Israel. After a hard day of work nothing beated taking a walk around the Kibbutz in the evening and feeling the nice breeze at night and seeing all the lights in the distance in Beit Shean, Jordan, Jenine, etc.

    Anyway what are your opinions/experiences regarding Kibbutzim?
    "Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and G-d's management of it." - RaMBaM (Maimonides), Guide For The Perplexed

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    I think the Kibbutz was and still is a wonderful idea with some flaws in the implementation.
    I think the Kibbutz is the most successful implementation of the communist ideal. Perhaps the ideal is best suited to this size of community.
    This is because Communism demands total commitment and total faith from its followers, and so does the Kibbutz from its members. As long as the level of commitment remained high, the Kibbutz was very successful.

    The Kibbutz was more than a successful communist community. The ideals of the Kibbutz included settling of remote and desolated areas, and participating (and leading) in absorbing Jewish immigrants. and indeed, in the beginning, the Kibbutzim were the epitome of pioneering, of volunteering, of humanistic ideals, and most of all - of equality.

    As Israeli society grew more western (i.e. more American), and the fall of the Communist block, the prestige of the Kibbutz began to diminish. The commitment of the Kibbutz members also diminished. I think it is sad.

    I believe that now, after the 2008 crisis exposed the dangers of extreme capitalism, there is a place for renewal of the "classic" kibbutz as an alternative to capitalism...

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    My understanding is that the Kibbutzim began to collapse during Israel's lost decade, i.e. before the fall of the USSR.

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    Economically untenable: unable to cope with automation, with knowledge based workeforce, with workforce attrition; with non related workers (assumption is Jews are related, so a lot of kibutz experience is the experience covered theoretically under things like "kin selection", or nepotism... essentially blood being thicker than water); resource integration with the rest of the economy.

    In principle, things like the Soviet Kolhoz, which the kibutz was contemporary with and was in part derived from (some people where even the same), was a far bigger "success". It had more people participating and more product (however inefficiently) made. That said, the kibbutz was based on idealism. The kolhoz was built on that + a bed of bones. Rampant starvation (corn diet anyone?), annihilation of the middle-class, etc.

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    In all fairness, one must give credit where credit is due. In the early days, the Kibutzim produced the best and most idealistic Israelis and Israeli leaders.

    However, as time marched on, the generational effects that Pelsar described on the other thread, started to take effect. Idealism waned and gradually many of the youngsters began deserting the Kibutzim in order to realise their own personal ambitions rather than the ambitions of "the collective". As I said on that earlier thread too, that is just human nature.
    Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.
    Author: John Galsworthy 1867-1933, British Novelist, Playwright

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    In all fairness Reffo I support a lot of my family too, and in the past they supported me... Inversely, I did my stint in Kibutz Ruchama, I hated the chicken detail, and being an oleh hadash in the 90's, I had no means to effect my rotation like the card carrying kibutznicks, so I cleaned chicken crap all day long. Not that I minded being the firar for a month or two, it was good to see Jewish kids around and I felt part of the family there.

    ....so the framework, IMHO, in the socialist garb, is tertiary at best regarding the efficacy of the Kibbutz. For me, and I believe for most kibutz contributors (other than foreigners out for adventure), it's the connections bedafka socialism, that made us come and do stuff in the kibutz. If anything it's closer to charity than anything. Charities work best in communities that are grassroots I find, dont you? I personally care about people around my block in NY than people in the Everglades for instance. Just because I know them better. Lucky for us Jews is that the roots are not only geographic, they are propagated through our culture and our very blood.

    In the Soviet Union, on the otherhand, same basic format: the Kolhoz, was *only* about who ran it, who got kickbacks from it, and who's brother and sister moved into the good positions in it. Same as any socialist enterprise, large or small. Unfortunately for the homo sovieticus, in the Kolhoz, he is a figment of some Communists party aparachnik, there is no affinity between disparite people from all over the empire, only real politik. Russians, Estonians, Jews, Uzbeks, Chechens and so on couldn't give a rats ass about each other. Add to that collectivist proclivity for mismanagement, personal greed and raw ambition, and voila, mass death, and abject failure.

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    Senior Member Aliyah1995's Avatar
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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    Bararallu, what year did you make aliyah? Which year did you leave for the States? I am just curious.

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Interesting replies....
    "Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and G-d's management of it." - RaMBaM (Maimonides), Guide For The Perplexed

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    I"ll get back to this later...but my wife is from a very successful kibbutz (maagan michael) and her family still lives there with deep deep roots to the factory-past and present.

    bascially the kibbutz was very conservative with their money, probably because the factory was started with loans from the members families, you know that thing called responsibility. The short story is that they kept the kibbituz ideals of socialism out of the factory, which was run along capitalistic lines, hired only those who could produce and avoided the classic kibbutz mistake of "hidden unemployment" thats where you give people jobs they are not qualified for, but it makes them feel good.

    Generation one, argued about if the tea kettle a member receives is personal or for the collective.

    Generation two demanded real jobs, that would take them outside of the kibbutz

    Generation three...left the kibbutz, and only until when there some serious changes about private property and real freedom to choose ones profession did the kibbutz retain its younger members.

    (One example of how it being rich helps, is that the members could buy their own cars, in order to prevent this, the kibbutz has an huge huge fleet of cars with an efficient modern garage to make sure anyone who wants to use a car will always have one available.)
    _____________

    more about this later.....the kibbutz enterprise in all of its variations was an incredible idea and gave israel far more than it took, in terms of people, ideals, etc....but its time is no longer, except for the very rich few, they all have collapsed and privatized. There is an Urban Kibbutz in Sederot, with a "factory" that designs software (Migvan) but i don't really know its financial state and know just one of its members, Eric Yellin), but they are generation one.
    Last edited by pelsar; 01-30-2013 at 08:17 AM.

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    Quote Originally Posted by wat0n View Post
    My understanding is that the Kibbutzim began to collapse during Israel's lost decade, i.e. before the fall of the USSR.
    Looking at Wikipedia, it seems the Kibbutzim were always in crisis success stories notwithdtanding:

    The historical background of the crisis

    The Kibbutz crisis during the 1980s was not the first financial crisis of the kibbutzim. It was preceded by many crises, which were followed by many debts settlements as well. The first debt settlement took place in 1924 and since then, debt settlements have been carried out about once a decade.

    In the 1950s, following a deep crisis in the kibbutz movement, a new department was established in the Ministry of Agriculture whose main purpose was to make a recovery program in the kibbutzim. This department developed in 1958 a concentrated credit plan, according to which each kibbutz was assigned to one of three banks. The three banks were Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and the Agriculture Bank. As part of this settlement many of the debts of each kibbutz were deleted, while the other part of the debt was re-distributed, and these banks were responsible for giving the kibbutzim the credit for their development.

    During all those years, a recognition formed among the Israeli governments, the banks and the kibbutz movement, that the Israeli governments are supposed to guarantee the kibbutzim's debt, and that they would keep on making the payments for the kibbutzim's debt in one way or another. This realization crystallized during the period when the Israeli government completely controlled the capital market, and allocated credit to selected favored destinations - according to its own priorities.

    The role of banks in the system was technical: they were used as a mean for the government to transfer credit, without actually carrying out financial risk management as needed in a free market system.

    In addition to receiving credit from the banks, the kibbutzim also received additional credit from kibbutz movement funds and from regional and national shopping organizations. As part of this credit guarantees were made according to which each kibbutz had a guarantee to the debts of the kibbutz movement funds, and through this mechanism to all the kibbutzim's debt. These credit guarantees gave the financial systems in the kibbutzim and in the banks the false feeling that they would be capable of overcoming any financial crisis in the future.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz_crisis

    Does anyone have more information about this?

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    Quote Originally Posted by Aliyah1995 View Post
    Bararallu, what year did you make aliyah? Which year did you leave for the States? I am just curious.

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. Interesting replies....
    Sure: '96. 4 years straight, but really I live in both places part time now days. I have an apartment in Israel, I pay taxes in both places . I've also spent most summers there since '87.

    Most of my family is in Israel, immediate and distant. The immediate ones, mind you came to the US in the 70's via HIAS/NYANA immigration from the USSR, and I brought most of them over to Israel in mid 2000s. Much of the expended family went directly to Israel though, from Romania in the 40's and 60's and from USSR in the 70's; some few in the late 80's. And earlier distant relatives still in the 2nd Yishuv. Probably the same as most?

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    Quote Originally Posted by bar-arallu View Post
    Sure: '96. 4 years straight, but really I live in both places part time now days. I have an apartment in Israel, I pay taxes in both places . I've also spent most summers there since '87.

    Most of my family is in Israel, immediate and distant. The immediate ones, mind you came to the US in the 70's via HIAS/NYANA immigration from the USSR, and I brought most of them over to Israel in mid 2000s. Much of the expended family went directly to Israel though, from Romania in the 40's and 60's and from USSR in the 70's; some few in the late 80's. And earlier distant relatives still in the 2nd Yishuv. Probably the same as most?
    Cool. Well, except for the paying taxes in both countries part
    "Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and G-d's management of it." - RaMBaM (Maimonides), Guide For The Perplexed

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    It's ok I guess for now, but I think all of us olim from the 1st world (at least) will be hit with it.

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    What I gather from this thread so far is that the Kibbutz movement contributed VERY MUCH to the State of Israel, especially in the earlier years with (like Sharonbn says above) settling remote lands, absorbing Jewish immigrants, producing some of the most idealistic Israelis/Zionists, etc. Ok, AGREED I can also understand the appeal of the community/family like atmosphere of the Kibbutz (at least in the beginning) that all members of the Kibbutz are in it together (kind of like "kol yehudim me'uravim zeh be' zeh"), all members are equal, everyone carries their fair share of the burden (at least in principle) and everyone gets their fair share in return (at least in principle).

    However, it seems like the TRUE Kibbutz experience is more nostalgic at this point and, ironically and tragically (depending on how you look at it), the Kibbutzim that are surviving are the ones who are becoming more capitalistic in their outlook, are exercising more flexibility with allowing their members to work off the Kibbutz (while using outside labor - a big percentage being foreign and tourist volunteers - to do work on the Kibbutz), not making their members ask permission from the Kibbutz to buy a car (or even a TV for that matter), to travel overseas, and so on.

    Whether this is due to the American influence, the fall of the USSR, a combination thereof, or other factors, the bottom line is Kibbutzim in the truest sense of the word are mostly a thing of the past. There is no turning back the clock. Kids want to go to college (many times overseas), people are not going to go back to asking permission to buy an IPAD or smartphone, and people want to work at Amdocs or Intel. So, IMHO the Kibbutzim of the early variety are something to relish, but that is about it.

    I do believe we should teach our children about them and how they contributed to the State of Israel though. Perhaps, even a course in the schools on Kibbutzim should be given (or at least a portion of the civics course should be dedicated to the history and evolution of the Kibbutz movement and how it contributed to Israel).
    "Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and G-d's management of it." - RaMBaM (Maimonides), Guide For The Perplexed

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    how great of you to share your experiences. very interesting and educational
    Pray for the peace of Israel

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    Re: Kibbutz - Success Or Failure

    No problem Madeline....Your wish is my command....
    "Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and G-d's management of it." - RaMBaM (Maimonides), Guide For The Perplexed

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