The kibbutz or communal settlement is identified with rural life. Each unit consists of a group of people dedicated to mutual aid and social equality or progress. Property is jointly held. There is mutual cooperation in production, consumption, and the education of the young people. The number of people living in kibbutzim totals approximately 130,000, about 2.5 percent of Israel’s population. A focus of this article will be to explain the concept of a kibbutz and its strong potential for application outside of Israel.
Today’s kibbutz represents the cooperative efforts of three generations. The founders were motivated by strong values. They created a society with a unique community. Their children were born into the kibbutz framework. They worked hard to consolidate its economic, social, and organizational strengths. The present generation is applying its knowledge to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The kibbutz is both a lifestyle and an integral part of Israeli society. Before the State of Israel was created, the kibbutz assumed central functions in areas like settlement, immigration, and agriculture. When these functions were incorporated into the government, the interaction between the kibbutz and society decreased.
Children in the kibbutz grow up appreciating the high importance of work. Everyone must participate for the community to move forward. From the primary grades, the schools teach cooperation in daily life. Youngsters are assigned duties and make decisions with regard to their peers. Young children perform routine chores. Older children assume more responsible jobs in the kibbutz. By high school , youngsters devote a day each week to working in a sector of the kibbutz economy.
Kibbutz Beit Hashita is one of Israel’s largest kibbutzim, with outreach into industry and agriculture. Kibbutz Beror Hayil has extensive field crops and vegetables, citrus groves, animal husbandry, and a Deco vegetable dehydration plant. Kibbutz Dafna is a lovely green paradise in Upper Galilee adjacent to the Dan River. The fields have apple, avocado, and grapefruit orchards.
In the early 1940s, Shmuel Mestechkin became the chief architect with the planning and development department of the Kibbutz HaArtzi movement. Mestechkin introduced small private areas for kibbutz residents. He made improvements, such as multi-wing dining rooms, open courtyards, and a movable roof to consolidate different areas of the building for public events. Mestechkin understood that the dining room was an extension of the household.
A considerable number of kibbutzim run short courses for new immigrants. These classes combine intensive Hebrew language instruction with in-depth tours of the country and intensive lectures on various aspects of Israeli life. Participants who decide to stay in the kibbutz are given an opportunity to become members.
The kibbutz functions democratically. The general assembly of all its members formulates policy, elects officers, authorizes the kibbutz budget, and approves new members. It serves both as a decision-making body and a forum where members may express their views publicly.
Routine affairs are handled by elected committees. Each committee specializes in a unique area, like finance, production planning, housing, or health care. The chairpersons of some of these committees form the kibbutz executive superstructure.
Over the years, kibbutz farmers made barren lands bloom with productive crops, orchards, poultry and dairy. Today, organic agriculture is fast becoming the mainstay of the local economy.
How could the superstructure of a Kibbutz be implemented in places like the USA? First, a model community must have a charter explaining the purpose of the community, its organization, and the rights, duties, and obligations of each member.
Next, the community must be organized around a specific activity like a farm, small corporate organization, or government contract or grant. Once the work product is fully defined, then members could be engaged or trained to perform specific tasks in a communal living and working arrangement.
The United States Government owns land throughout the country. Portions of this land could be designated to form communities organized around the basic principles of the kibbutz. The land could be made available through a land lease, homestead, or direct purchase arrangement. In addition, the government has huge contracts which could be parceled out to specific communities specializing in the subject matter of the government contract. e.g. military, health, transportation, etc.
State governments, municipalities, and even the private sector could parcel out work to individual kibbutz communities. International contracts could be engaged to accomplish a similar purpose within the kibbutz communal living arrangement.
The organizational structure and establishment of the kibbutz is an idea which should be considered for implementation here in the United States. The benefit would be to provide yet another form of gainful employment outside the traditional forms of corporate organizations. In addition, implementation of the kibbutz value system could help to resolve a lack of direction in segments of American society.