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Encyclopedia > Kibbutzim

A kibbutz קיבוץ (Hebrew, pl. kibbutzim) is a communal living arrangement that is organized through a form of town hall-style democracy. The kibbutz is a phenomenon unique to Israel and is strongly linked to Zionist and socialist ideologies.

Kibbutz members are not paid salaries, but their kibbutz is expected to provide for their material needs. Collective child care is common. Some kibbutzim also have military functions.



The word kibbutz originated from the Classical Hebrew word kvutza, meaning "group". Kibbutzim is the Hebrew plural.


The kibbutz is a phenomenon particular to the state of Israel. The first kibbutzim settlements were founded by idealistic Jews motivated by Zionism and socialism to establish communal agricultural settlements in Ottoman Palestine. They were primarily funded by donations from American Jews.

The first kibbutzim were founded in 1909 around the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The first kibbutz, Degania, trained new settlers in agriculture and in the construction of new settlements. Among the famous people who were trained in Kinneret was the Israeli poet Rachel (רחל).

In the following years, more and more kibbutzim were established, mainly in the Galilee and nearby Jezrael valley.

In the 1940s, new kibbutzim were established in the northern part of the Negev desert and, after the founding of the state of Israel, in Arava, the south-eastern part of the Negev, an area offered by the British for the establishment of the new state.

Psychological aspects

Social scientists attempted to study the question: What are the effects of life without private property? One such study was made in 1969 by the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. He noted that children brought up in that communal environment seem to experience greater difficulty in making strong emotional commitments thereafter, such as falling in love or forming a lasting friendship. On the other hand, they appear to find it easier to have a large number of less-involved friendships, and a more active social life.

Bettelheim also wrote: "Nowhere more than in the kibbutz did I realize the degree to which private property, in the deep layers of the mind, relates to private emotions. If one is absent, the other tends to be absent as well". This line of argument, however, raises many questions. For example, are there similar psychological effects in other communities which have abolished private property? Or, if some emotions are linked to private property, and if private property is itself the creation of civilization, subsequent to all the pre-civilized operation of natural selection upon the human genome, then how did these emotions develop in the first place?

Other researchers came to a conclusion that children growing up in these tightly knit communities tend to see the other children around them as ersatz siblings and prefer to seek mates outside the community when they reach maturity. As a result, they often abandon kibbutz life as adults.

Fears for the future of the kibbutz movement

There is some skepticism about the future prospects of the kibbutzim. Agricultural life is certainly not very attractive to many modern Israelis. In addition, the growing political instability of the region poses a long-term threat. The kibbutz movement has also relied on financial bailouts by the government in order to survive. Many kibbutzim have moved away from their original ideals and have become capitalist enterprises which rely on hired labourers to do much of the work. The kibbutz movement has also suffered from the fact that a large percentage of children born and raised on the kibbutz leave when the become adults and far fewer new members are joining the kibbutzim from abroad then in the first decades of the movement. Kibbutzim, however, are an integral part of Israel's defence apparatus, particularly those kibbutzim which lie in border areas so it is likely that the Israeli government will continue to support them for military as well as political and historical reasons.

List of famous kibbutzim

  • Beit ha-Shita
  • Dafna
  • Degania (1910)
  • Givat Brenner
  • Ginosar (1937)
  • Grofit (1966)
  • Heftziba (1922)
  • Hulda (1930)
  • Kinneret (kibbutz) (1909)
  • Maale ha-Hamisha (1938)
  • Manara
  • Megiddo
  • Migdal (1910)
  • Mishmar ha-Emek
  • Mishmar ha-Negev
  • Mishmar ha-Shlosha (1937)
  • Netzer Serenee (1961)
  • Sajera a.k.a Kfar Tavor
  • Sde-Boker
  • Shfaim (1935)
  • Tirat Tzvi (1937)
  • Yad Mordechai
  • Yotvata

See also

  Results from FactBites:
The Kibbutz (2222 words)
The first kibbutzim (plural of “kibbutz”) were founded some 40 years before the establishment of the State of Israel (1948).
The contribution of the kibbutzim to the country's production, both in agriculture (33 percent of farm produce) and in industry (6.3 percent of manufactured goods) is far greater than their share of the population (2.5 percent).
Although management positions are increasingly professionalized, the kibbutzim have adopted various methods of administration and organization to adapt their economic structure to the needs of the times without losing a sense of mutual responsibility and equality of work.
Kibbutzim Fall, Settlements Rise -- and Israel Loses (989 words)
Although they were always a minority population, until the early 1980s the kibbutzim and their members were perceived to be the vanguard of Israeli society in agriculture, politics and the military.
The kibbutzim used to be focused on agriculture.
Many kibbutzim are privatizing and modernizing, experimenting with ways to hold on to their original mission of a more caring community while accepting global realities.
  More results at FactBites »



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