The Israeli Kibbutz is an attraction for many visitors due to its completely unique style of communal living. While you’re visiting Israel, we definitely recommend visiting one of the many Kibbutzim to get a better understanding of this different way of living. The name itself, Kibbutz, means “gathering” or “clustering” in Hebrew, as it was a place for people to gather together. Aside from offering an alternative lifestyle, Kibbutzim are intrinsically important to the history of Israel as a country. Before taking a Kibbutz tour, here is a short background to help you understand their importance and place in Israeli society.
History of the Kibbutz
The first Kibbutz, Degania, was established in 1909 by pioneers. It sits just south of the Sea of Galilee and was originally focused on agriculture. The Jews who created this Kibbutz worked on draining nearby swamps in order to establish agriculture and make the land more inhabitable. Once Degania Kibbutz was officially established, many other similar community settlements popped up around the country.
By 1920, there were approximately a dozen Kibbutzim in Israel, with more popping up regularly. Due to the escalating conflict, the Kibbutzim took on a more military purpose, with some of them manufacturing or purchasing weapons for defense. In fact, the location and economies of the Kibbutzim became important to the country’s establishment as well as to its military strategy:
“The planning and development of pioneering Zionist were from the start at least partly determined by politico-strategic needs. The choice of the location of the settlements, for instance, was influenced not only by considerations of economic viability but also and even chiefly by the needs of local defense, overall settlement strategy, and by the role such blocks of settlements might play in some future, perhaps decisive all-out struggle. Accordingly, land was purchased, or more often reclaimed, in remote parts of the country.” – Yigal Alon, Israeli soldier & statesman
As you’ll notice on your Kibbutz tour, these communities place a high importance on agriculture. In fact, this was their main industry when they were first established. In the original Kibbutzim, many members worked in the fields, or did other necessary jobs such as working in the kitchens or schools.
Today, the Kibbutzim have branched out to several other industries. You’ll find Kibbutzim with economies based on tourism, public services, and manufacturing industries.
The economy on Kibbutzim works with social values. All income from the community and its members are put into a common pool. Then, this money is used for multiple purposes: to continue running the Kibbutz, offer aid to its members, and make investments. This money is also divided equally between families based on their size, however the alloted budgets are never based on job titles or positions.
The Kibbutz ideology is fairly simple, but it took a lot of thought to create an integrated community that functions still to this day on shared values. Let’s take a look at some of the main factors that contribute to the unique style of living found on a Kibbutz.
Children were raised in communal environments, where their parents were not the only ones responsible for raising and educating them. Historically, there were children’s houses, where kids would spend most of their days. Here, they would learn, play, and sleep, under the supervision of trained nurses. The children then spend the afternoon with their parents once they were done with work. The environment fostered by these children’s houses were made to promote creativity, individuality, and trust. In this way, it was not only up to each parent to raise their children, but also to the whole community to raise the children together.
The education is tied closely to the children’s houses, with children receiving education from a young age according to their age group, just like in a regular elementary or high school. Since the Kibbutzim were originally based on agriculture, higher education was not seen as a necessity. However, and more specific industry developed on Kibbutzim, there was a need for skilled workers, and university education became more popular. In keeping with the communal model, the Kibbutz would often pay partially or in full for a member’s university education.
In order to establish their vision for a Utopian society, it was important that there were no gender gaps within this communal settlement. Therefore, women and men were seen as equal. The children’s houses allowed women to continue to work instead of focusing entirely on raising them and running a household. At the beginning, even marriage on a Kibbutz was different. A man and a women would request a room together, and that would be enough to consider them “married.” This was in order to avoid a patriarchal society with male and femlae roles. Many women worked in the same or similar positions as men on the Kibbutz. However, today the system is more modernized. Women can choose to be officially married and even to stay home and raise their children if they wish.
Where to Visit on Your Kibbutz Tour
Now that you have some background on the history and ideology of the Kibbutz, you may be wondering where to go visit! At this point, there are around 270 Kibbutzim in Israel, each one unique and interesting. Here are our picks for the best ones to visit for a Kibbutz tour:
As the original Kibbutz, this is a popular choice for those looking for a Kibbutz tour. There are two on-site museums that showcase the history of the place and its development over the last 100 years.
Kibbutz Sde Boker is another popular destination on a Kibbutz tour. It is famous for being the home of influential Israel prime minister, David Ben Gurion. Located in the Negev desert, this Kibbutz is unique for its geographical location, and desert terrain. It is important as it was paramount to Ben Gurion’s dream of seeing Israel’s “desert bloom.”
Located on the Mediterranean coast, this Kibbutz is one of the largest in Israel, with approximately 2,000 members. This Kibbutz is unique for being a place where many new immigrants go. It is especially popular as a place to learn Hebrew in a communal setting once they arrive to the country.
As you can see, there are so many interesting facets to the Kibbutz way of life. Once established out of necessity to grow and protect the land, Kibbutzim today offer a sustainable alternative to city life. Your Kibbutz tour will show you exactly how these communities function and why they are so important to Israeli society.
Contact us today to start planning your Kibbutz Tour!