The kibbutz movement began, over 100 years ago, when a handful of young Zionist pioneers grew fed up with the manager of the Kinnereth training farm where they were working and decided, rather than continue to be exploited, that they would start their own community based on an economy of mutual aid.
This past weekend, more than 120,000 Israelis took to the streets, in cities throughout the country, to protest from a similar sense of injustice. What began as a student-led pushback and tent encampment against high rents and food prices has swollen into a nation-wide uprising and demand for “social justice”. This time around, kibbutzniks have little to do with the mass protest. Privatization in the kibbutz movement has dimmed its political influence, and their rural enclaves on the nation’s periphery have been largely untouched by the spiralling house and rental prices in Israeli’s urban centres. (In fact, many kibbutzes have built subdivisions to cash in on outsiders looking for affordable homes.)
But, as this short report from the movement’s Givat Haviva Institute makes clear, the growing protest movement springs from the same desire to create a just society rather than simply compete within a dog-eat-dog free market. The signs of the protesters (as reported by the blogging and tweeting journalists of the essential +972 Magazine) make this sentiment clear: “The answer to privatization. Re-vo-lu-tion,” “The market is free and we are slaves,” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask why it’s robbing you,” and “The people want social justice.”
Now, if only the popular uprisings of the Middle East’s so-called “Arab Spring” would blow their way across the Atlantic and shake up the me-first-and-me-last neo-conservativism of the U.S. Tea Party and the fire-sale dogmas of Harperland….
The kibbutz is dead, long live kibbutzism.
UPDATE: This excellent editorial from author and activist (and, if there’s any justice in the world, future Nobel Prize for Literature winner) Amos Oz makes a very similar (though more eloquent) point.