The A-Z of Israel
On 22 January, Israelis will go to the polls. The world watches – but how much do we really know about the country that calls itself “the sole bastion of democracy” in the Middle East?
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K is for Kibbutz
Meaning “group” or “clustering”, the word “kibbutz” has come to describe the utopian collective communities that were founded in Israel in the early 20th century. The first such establishment, Degania Alef, was founded in 1910, on land then situated in Palestine, and was purchased with donations from the Jewish diaspora.
As anti-Semitic persecution grew in eastern Europe and Russia, a wave of immigrants followed suit – many of them members of Zionist youth movements – founding their own communities, often in previously unsettled regions, but also on terrain taken from the Palestinians during the 1940s. Kibbutz members stressed shared ownership and placed an emphasis on agriculture, both as a means of achieving self-sufficiency and in keeping with the Zionist focus on land.
As the kibbutzes matured and more were founded (there are now roughly 270 of them in Israel) new challenges arose, particularly with regard to the care and education of children. Many kibbutzes created communal children’s homes where their young ones were cared for and educated together, rather than in nuclear family units.
Increased globalisation and the growing drift towards urban areas in Israel during the 1960s and 1970s led to many kibbutzniks establishing careers outside their commu - nities. More aspects of the kibbutzim’s work were privatised and the popularity of kibbutz life waned.
This decline has reversed in recent years – working-age adults and families are attracted by the lifestyle, which helps to mitigate the impact of the ageing population – and many kibbutzes now have a waiting list.