The first of the Kibbutzim, Degania, was founded a little more than 100 years ago in 1909 by a group of pioneers, in Hebrew Halutzim, and they flourished during the 20th century to cover the whole state of Israel from north to south.
A kibbutz translated to English means gathering, clustering and the plural is kibbutzim. This was established as a collective community that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high tech enterprises. The Kibbutz began as Utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism. A member of a kibbutz is called a kibbutznik.
Kibbutz Degania Alef on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
The History of the Kibbutz
During the first years of the 20th century pogroms flared up in Russia and in most of the soviet republics riots took place by peasant mobs accusing the Jews of all kind of libels. Also the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 led to more persecution. Jews started to immigrate to Palestine and many of the founders of the kibbutz are part of this Second Aliyah (immigration to Israel). The first Aliyah was at the end of the 19th century.
These first settlers were real socialists in the pure meaning of the word and wanted to farm the land themselves and not use Arab labor. The group settlement or Kibbutz came to a solution, since they couldn’t farm the land individually and succeed.
Fish Restaurant at Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shore of the Kineret
Enduring Backbreaking labor
At this time Palestine was in Ottoman hands and environment couldn’t be harsher. The Galilee was full of swamps, the Judean Hills rocky and bare and in the south of the country the Negev Desert. There were many maladies like malaria, typhus and cholera. And above all they had many enemies in the form of Bedouins raiding the farms, obstructing the irrigation canals and burning the crops.
The founders of Degania endured backbreaking labor. At times half of the kibbutz members could not report for work and many left. Despite the difficulties, by 1914, Degania had fifty members. Other kibbutz were founded around the Sea of Galilee and the nearby Jezreel Valley.
Volunteers from all over the world come to work at the Kibbutz
In the past 40 years, 400,000 youngsters from all five continents have spent some of the most memorable days of their lives as volunteers in a Kibbutz in Israel. Hundreds of them have stayed on the Kibbutz and are now proud members.
At present we believe there are around 250 kibbutzim located all over the country. During two decades of an economical and social crisis the population of kibbutzim decreased substantially. Today many Kibbutz have been privatized, meaning that the members o in Hebrew chaverim keep living there paying a maintenance fee but their income is no longer passed to the kibbutz.
This is actually much more complex than this explanation, but I wanted to state that the kibbutz of 2018 are very different to those founded during the 1900s.
Today many kibbutz are very far from the original concept. Some are extremely rich due to different enterprises that started from scratch and are today enormous conglomerates. Some have sold those businesses and divided millions of dollars among the members.
One important venture of the kibbutzim is the Kibbutz Hotels better described in my article about Kibbutz Hotels.
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