I’m finally getting a little free time to sort through some recent (and not so recent) news items about the kibbutz movement and reflect on the ongoing changes there. Here are a few that caught my eye and are worth a second look:
- West Bank settlers who have decided to move to an abandoned kibbutz in the Negev—a hopeful trend (if you can call it that), if you believe that the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories is the major obstacle to peace in the region. Plus, it suggests that the (largely) right-wing settlers can still take a little impetus from the (largely) left-wing kibbutz movement, which has always been more interested in settling the empty regions beyond the Green Line rather than the contested (and densely populated) areas within what many consider the future state of Palestine.
- a good little article, on the centenary of Kibbutz Degania, about the Hadera Commune and Umm Juni and the site that would become the first kibbutz (described, in a bit of hyperbole, as an “ideological Taj Mahal”). As the article says, it’s not about the architecture that was built there, but the ideas that sprang from the soil. I remember seeing that famous black and white photo of the founders outside the dining hall at Degania, and an old woman’s eyes misting over as she pointed out her father to us.
- A conflict between the Kibbutz Movement and the Israel Land Authority about what (mostly what not) kibbutzim are allowed to use their lands for, as the nation increasingly privatizes its vast public land holdings. Kibbutzim that are trying to profit (or just survive) by building subdivisions non-members, or sell services like daycare or elder-care to non-outsiders are finding themselves afoul of the ILA’s regulations. As the articles says, many kibbutniks “feel the ILA has rebranded them from hard-working farming pioneers into greedy real estate sharks.”
- And then there is another article that looks briefly at just these kinds of expansions and entrepreneurial ventures that different kibbutzim are undertaking in an attempt to maintain their membership and economic viability, as they move away from agriculture and even heavy-industry as their major sources of income, and look to attract new members seeking to escape the hurly-burly of urban life.