Join Our Mailing List

Sponsor Us!

The Kibbutz & Moshav:
Then & Now

by Jon Fidler - Kibbutz Beit Ha'emek


Kibbutz: Table of Contents | History & Overview | Kibbutz Festivals


Print Friendly and PDF

Sources of Income

THEN:

Kibbutz economy was based entirely on agriculture at first; later, on agriculture plus industry.

NOW:

Kibbutz agriculture is still significant in a national context, but its relative internal importance has shrunk.

Today, only about 15 percent of members work in agriculture. Industry's contribution has stabilized.

In recent years, the number of members working off the kibbutz in white-collar professions has grown.

Also, increasing numbers of kibbutzim run commercial services, such as laundries, restaurants, kindergarten facilities and swimming pools.

They have become centers for commercial tourism, weekend shopping and recreation.

Equality

THEN:

For several decades kibbutzim strove for individual equality, based on the idea "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." The kibbutz provided a complete spectrum of services to its members, ranging from toothpaste to housing and from honey-moons to financial aid for dependents living outside. In return, new members were expected to transfer all their assets, other than personal effects, to the kibbutz.

NOW:

Total equality, as an absolute principle, is almost extinct. Kibbutzim generally strive to minimize inequality in terms of communal services offered to members, e.g. food, health care and education. But there is little control over the main sources of inequality: members' private income, such as rent from urban apartments, or money inherited.

Wages and Income

THEN:

Members received a monthly allowance (depending on family size), no matter what work they did. Allocations were made for spending solely on specific items like clothing, newspapers and holidays. (see BASIC NEEDS below)

NOW:

A small but growing number of kibbutzim has already adopted – or is investigating – a differential wage system, until recently considered heresy.

The new proposals usually set minimum wages, but higher pay for veteran members and those with responsible jobs, or for off-kibbutz work with high salaries. Members' budgets have been expanded, allowing more consumer choice, e.g. cooking at home or subsidized meals in the dining hall.

Labor

THEN:

In the workplace: do-it-yourself; refrain from employing hired labor! Under a system of "rotation," branch managers were elected for a fixed tenure, then replaced; they were considered on a par with workers, though in charge of work schedules. The only off-kibbutz work permitted was in the kibbutz movement.

NOW:

In general, members now have a right of refusal as far as workplaces in the kibbutz are concerned. They may work off the kibbutz and there is no limitation on hired – even imported – labor. At present, members make up only 40 percent of the kibbutz industries' work-force. "Rotation" is almost extinct.

Basic Needs

THEN:

The practice of mutual responsibility and aid within the community: taking care of all the basic needs of the individual, including employment, housing, food, clothing, transport, health care, education.

NOW:

These principles remain largely intact, though substantially reduced in scope. Kibbutz contribution towards bills for food, energy, clothing, transport, housing-maintenance, extra-curricular education and certain non-essential medical expenses is defined, with members paying for those in excess.0

Democracy

THEN:

Self-management, epitomized by the members' general meeting, which decided major issues, and directly elected committees and office bearers.

NOW:

Many kibbutzim still hold general meetings. But direct participation democracy has been replaced by representative bodies and ballot voting.

Communal Ownership

THEN:

Common ownership of all assets and common control over the means of production. Important decisions concerning branches were taken by the general meeting in which all members could participate.

NOW:

All kibbutz assets are still communally owned. But control by members of the means of production has been substantially reduced. This is an inevitable result of industrial growth and the growing number of joint ventures in manufacturing, farming and tourism, with private companies. Other factors are the increasing number of non-kibbutz members appointed as directors and managers of factories.

Family Life

THEN:

As part of the ideology of communal education, children were brought up in children's houses with sleeping quarters, play and study rooms. Parents spent time with their children only after work.

NOW:

Since the 1970s, kibbutz life has become "family-centered" with all children raised by their parents and living at home.

Social and Cultural Life

THEN:

In the pre-state days, when kibbutzim were smaller, social and cultural life was characterized by togetherness and being "one big family." This found expression in the high involvement of members in planning, organizing and carrying out activities, which ranged from campfires and nature walks to choirs and folk dancing. Each kibbutz appointed a cultural director to plan and coordinate events. The secular kibbutzim adapted the ceremonies for Jewish holidays to suit their beliefs, especially those with an agricultural aspect, e.g. Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Since the establishment of the State, celebration of Independence Day and observance of Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day have been added to the calendar.

NOW:

With the advent of cable and satellite television, videos and personal computers, entertainment has become more home- and family-centered.

Parallel to this trend, several regional councils now provide a wide spectrum of organized entertainment for both kibbutzim and other communities under their jurisdiction. In general, the secular kibbutzim continue to celebrate Jewish festivals and bar- and bat-mitzvahs together. Weddings have become more family-oriented, with only selected guests invited. This is due partly to the decline in the feeling of "togetherness" and partly to the diminishing contribution of the kibbutz to wedding costs.


Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry

Back to Top