Kibbutz, the ever-changing Israeli “people’s commune”

The car is heading south along Israel’s Route 90, and the roadside landscape gradually transitions from a monotonous earthy desert to an oasis of stars. One by one, the kibbutz, the legendary “people’s commune”, is distributed among these greenery.

Kibbutz has the meaning of “unity” and “aggregation” in Hebrew. More than a hundred years ago, driven by Zionist ideas, a group of Jewish immigrants from Europe first established this community with socialist ideals near Lake Galilee. It is a collective farm based on public ownership, an agricultural economic entity and a social self-governing organization. It has evolved over the centuries and is still alive today.

The first kibbutz we arrived at was called “Ketura”. Nadal, who received us, claimed to be the “biggest child” here – he is 40 years old, has a long hair with artist temperament, and his eyes are plain and sincere. His parents were founding members of “Ketura”, he grew up here, and now his children are growing here. He told us that the core concept of kibbutz is sharing, creation and efficiency. All production materials and labor achievements are collectively owned, and various daily services from housing, canteen to education and medical care are provided free of charge. In the early days, even the clothes were “shared” by everyone, and they were washed and ironed in turn.

Today, Kibbutz gradually loses the nature of “community”, more like a production complex and living community, and is less attractive to young people than before. However, the contribution of this mode of production to Israel’s economic development cannot be underestimated.

Since the 1980s, in the wave of industrialization and urbanization, in the face of the rapid development of the private economy and consumerism, the impact of urban life patterns, and severe inflation, many Kibbutz debt crisis, economic benefits, welfare Expenditure has decreased, and some have even had to declare bankruptcy. The large outflow of labor force and the decline in internal cohesion have also made people who choose to stick to the urgency of reform.

The application of “Ketula” to agricultural technology and new energy is commendable. Nadal pointed to a row of solar panels telling us that Israel’s largest photovoltaic power plant is here, providing about half of the nation’s electricity supply. The adjacent seaweed farm uses optical culture dishes to improve lighting conditions, improve seaweed yield and quality, and export products overseas. In the plantation, drought-tolerant crops, date palm trees and argan trees, are growing. In addition to the already well-established drip irrigation technology, “Ketura” also cooperates with technology companies from Israel and around the world to promote various economical and practical agricultural production and energy-saving technologies.

While improving efficiency and exploring creativity, how to protect individual enthusiasm and enhance members’ sense of acquisition has become another important issue facing Kibbutz. Among them, the most core reform is the introduction of property privatization and budget system.

For example, in addition to issuing pensions to members and providing social benefits, some kibbutz allowed private housing, increased allowance quotas, allowed members to go out to work and retain part of their income, and encouraged members to improve their education; some broke the egalitarian distribution system and introduced Income differential system; some introduce a budget system, each member has a monthly budget, can exchange goods, daily necessities, etc. in the internal store; in order to avoid waste, some kibbutz cancels the free canteen, of course, the weekly collective dinner is not Or lack of community communication.

Another Kibbutz can be described as a “privatization” reform case. Located on the edge of the southern Negev Desert, the “Yotvata” was originally dry and water-poor and has harsh natural conditions. Now it has developed into one of Israel’s largest dairy farming bases and dairy producers. The creamy ice cream it sells is delicious. Israel is a household name with leading sales.

Laura, who led us to visit, said that at the beginning of the development of “Jotwata”, members did not have private property, but most of the profits created by everyone now enter the development fund to maintain community operation and reproduction, and the rest is given to members free. Dominate while allowing members to work outside to make money.

For example, Laura, an English teacher, will teach money at a school outside in addition to a 10-hour class for Kibbutz children free of charge every week. The government also subsidizes schools and teachers in Kibbutz. Calculated, with the “welfare dividends” and government subsidies, she earns more in Kibbutz than outside.

In Jotovata, housing is still allocated free of charge, but how many houses are allocated to each family and how they are allocated must be voted by a special committee. In this community of more than 700 people, more than 380 people have the right to vote. According to different occupations and specialties, these people are elected to different committees, and all important decisions are voted by the committee.

Nadal said that Kibbutz was the spiritual wealth left to his father. This is a kind of exploration and experimentation on the human survival model, which can provide some ideas for solving real problems. For example, the “Kitura” Kibbutz Environmental Research Institute focuses on sustainable development and attracts students and researchers from many Middle Eastern countries such as Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Here, we put down political differences, religious disputes, and ethnic rivalries, focusing on how to solve the common challenges facing humanity.

Laura said that many Israelis, including her mother, felt that a group of “freaks” lived in the kibbutz. However, she agrees with this concept of shared cooperation and finds a sense of well-being and belonging here.