Glimpses of Israel - Kibbutz Life

by Joseph Hunting

Different countries develop varying lifestyles that are adapted to suit the local environment or economic life. Israel has developed a unique communal settlement known as a Kibbutz, meaning in Hebrew 'a group'.

The first kibbutz was established in 1909 just south of the Sea of Galilee and named Degania which is Hebrew for 'cornflower'. In the pioneering days life was a grim struggle against malarial infection, poverty and hostile Arab attacks. There is no struggle for existence in the rusty Syrian tank mounted as a monument to the bravery of its defenders in the War of Independence in 1949.

After seventy years most kibbutzim have developed a sophisticated way of life with a standard of living comparable to middle class city dwellers. For instance, the communal centre of an established kibbutz is usually the dining hall. This often serves not only as a comfortable dining room, but also as movie theatre and venue for orchestral concerts and weekly general meetings. The kitchens are ultra modern with stainless steel modern appliances. Perhaps there is no more democratic society than that developed in the kibbutzim. One may be astonished to see a well-known Member of the Knesset doing his stint serving on tables in the dining hall.

As a general rule children in the kibbutzim live in dormitories and form the nucleus of the kibbutz movement. They live together, eat together during the day-time under the expert supervision of teachers dedicated to the task. From about 4 o'clock in the afternoon the children are with their parents. Many feel that this system relieves mothers of the strain associated with modern society.

'Kibbutzniks' are free to come and go as membership is voluntary. In some cases there have been those who left the kibbutz for city life. Yet there are few ways of life that offer the same guarantee as the kibbutz from birth to the grave with social security, education, medical care and housing, irrespective of natural ability or technical skill.