The magazine from Haaretz published a long and fascinating, if a little depressing, feature article about the strife at Kibbutz Hanaton. The kibbutz was founded in 1984 by American immigrants of Conservative Judaism background. (For those who don’t know, Conservative is “medium” on the spectrum of religious Judaism—with Reform on the “mild” end and ultra-Orthodox on the “spicy”… or maybe vice versa. You get the point.)

Like many kibbutzim, Hanaton fell on hard economic times and its membership dwindled. The kibbutz took in young men and women from a secular youth movement—but then voted against letting them become full members. The divide became ideological: The new youth-group members wanted the kibbutz to remain collective and become a centre for socially progressive education. The older members wanted the kibbutz to privatize—i.e., to become a “renewed kibbutz”—and maintain its character and vision as a bridge between secular and religious Judaism. (Interestingly, the situation at Hanaton goes against the trend that religious kibbutzim have tended to stay more communal than the secular kibbutzim.)

Now, the two sides apparently barely speak, and the older Conservative members are trying to expel the younger secular idealists. In the end, nobody’s vision of equality and cooperation has succeeded, not once they were pitted again each other. As the kibbutz rabbi lamented in the article:

“Kibbutz Hanaton was founded with the aim of becoming an influential voice, of instilling more connectedness in Israeli society. … They founded a school here that was supposed to be the place where the dichotomy in Israeli society between the religious person and the secular person was broken. But what’s happened is that this place that was supposed to be a meeting point became a scene of total lack of understanding, of anger and hot tempers.”