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As a kibbutz ( Hebrew קִבּוּץ Qibbūz also Ḳibbūz ; Plene : קיבוץ; literally: gathering, gathering, commune; Plural: kibbutzim ) denotes a rural collective settlement in Israel with common property and grassroots democratic structures.


The word kibbutz comes from Hebrew. It is a pi'el formation to the rootקבץ"Gather". Shoshana Feingold-Studnik undertakes an extended derivation of the term in her dissertation published in 2002: “The term» kibbutz «is derived from the Hebrew word» kwuza «, which translates as» intimate communitarian assembly «and» group «; in the twenties the "kwuza" was replaced by the "kibbutz" [...]. "Kibbutz" also means "assembly" in its translation, but differs from the former "Kwuza" in that it has a higher number of members. In the meantime, the term “kibbutz” has been agreed to denote a »planned, collective rural settlement in Israel, today often with affiliated commercial enterprises« [..]. The plural for Kwuza (also Kwutza ) is Kwuzot .

In the literature, the terms kwuza and kibbutz are mostly used as synonyms . Just as Feingold-Studnik refers to a differentiation based on the number of members in the previous quote, there are also differentiations that are based on seeing a kwuza as the forerunner of a kibbutz, which can also be based on a spin-off: “Kwuza : ([Plural: kwuzot] lit.: assembly, group) forerunner of the kibbutz. The term kibbutz is generally used in the relevant literature for collective settlements with a larger number of members, while small cooperative groups are referred to as kwuzot. In the following parts of the work no distinction is made between the terms kwuza and kibbutz and mainly the term kibbutz is used. ”In its narrower meaning as a group , the term kwuza is also used as an organizational unit in Jewish youth work.


In 2014 there were still 272 of these settlements with a size of up to 2000 inhabitants. There have hardly been any start-ups since 1999. At the time the State of Israel was founded, around 8% of Israelis lived in a kibbutz; in 2014 it was around 1.8%. There has been emigration since the 1990s, especially among young people, which could only be partially absorbed by immigration from abroad, for example from the USA, Canada and Europe. The general downward trend has therefore also continued since 2010, as most young people, at the latest after completing their military service, perceive the focus of their life interests outside the kibbutzim and no longer return.

Affiliated are so far 256 kibbutzim in the secular Kibbutz Movement ( Kibbutz Movement ), 16 more against it in the religious kibbutz movement ( Religious Kibbutz Movement ).

The member of a kibbutz is called a Chawer , ("comrade", plural Chawerim ) or in the female form Chawera (plural Chawerot ) or also as a kibbutznik (plural Kibbutznikim ).

Other forms of agricultural settlement are the more numerous (around 400) moshavim , which are organized as cooperatives , as well as various mixed forms of kibbutz and moshaw. Finally, another variant is the (significantly less than 100) moshavot , which are comparable to European villages and were created through private initiatives from the start.

The kibbutz idea

The idea of ​​the kibbutz was a cooperative settlement of equal members, in which there was no private property and daily life was to be organized collectively. This can also be connected with socialism in the original sense. Hence, the term communism is often applied to kibbutzim. Equating it with collective settlements in the former real socialism in Eastern Europe or in real socialist states such as North Korea that still exist today is misleading, however. B. Kolkhozes in the former Soviet Union were almost always based on state coercion.

A general distinction can be made between secular kibbutzim, which no longer regarded the Jewish religious traditions so strictly, and religious kibbutzim, which cultivate religious traditions in different directions and regard them as binding for their members. Nevertheless, traditional Jewish festivals were celebrated in all kibbutzim.

The ideas of the kibbutz founders were socialist and Zionist . There were two main reasons for this orientation:

  • the experience of oppression ( anti-Semitism , pogroms ) in the former “host countries” in the diaspora , which the newly immigrated generation of founders brought with them to Israel
  • the rejection of the patriarchal society of the Eastern European shtetl

These two reasons were crucial for the kibbutz founders. They wanted to build a Jewish workers' state on their own soil. The aim was to create a classless society with an emphasis on equality and community according to the quote from Karl Marx "Everyone according to their abilities, everyone according to their needs!"

Historical development of the kibbutz

The first kibbutzim

Degania was the first kibbutz to be founded on October 28, 1910 by a Zionist group from Belarus . Degania A , the headquarters, is located at the southern end of the Sea of ​​Galilee , soon followed by other kibbutzim (see table below). The term was coined by Jehuda Ja'ari , a Jewish poet from Tarnobrzeg in Galicia .

The kibbutzim played a crucial role in the Jewish settlement of Israel . One advantage of the kibbutzim, especially in the early days, was that (defensive) settlements could be established more easily in areas that were previously hardly developed (possibly against the will of Arabs living in surrounding villages ) than in more densely populated parts of the country. The land on which the kibbutzim were founded was usually owned by the Jewish National Fund .

There were also in Europe, even in Germany, settlements in the form of a kibbutz in order to prepare for a life in Palestine, later Israel, within the framework of the Hachshara .

It is usually not known that the socialist founders of the first kibbutz did not experience a radicalization of their attitudes, but rather a - slight - "bourgeoisisation", as they had previously often traveled through Palestine as a labor brigade, e.g. B. built streets, and in the process refused permanent residences and any property (including that of a group) because this would again create bourgeois dependencies and hinder the revolutionary dynamic: "The beginnings of the kibbutz movement were rather anarchist."

Nevertheless, in the first few decades the everyday life of the kibbutz members, the Chawerim, was strongly influenced by socialist principles. Decisions were made in the general assembly on a grassroots basis . The individual chaverim did not own any property, but they did their work free of charge for the collective . In return, the kibbutz provided housing, clothing, food and medical care. The equality also included a rotation in all important offices and in the filling of jobs.

Equality should also apply to women. Because of this, many household chores were offered as services within the kibbutz. There were central laundries, tailoring, and a common dining room (the "Chadar Ochel"); the dining room was at the same time the focal point of communal life, both for dining and for parties and gatherings.

In the kibbutzim, the patriarchal nuclear family was dissolved and child rearing was also centralized. Depending on the kibbutz, the children were brought up from birth in their own children's house with their peers, so the siblings each lived in a different group of children. Each group was led by its own teacher , the so-called Metapelet (plural: Metaplot ). Due to the contact with several Metaplot and the short-term daily contact with the parents, the young kibbutzniks were strongly fixated on their age group. After a certain period of time - about a year - there was a change to another metapelet. Despite the upbringing outside of traditional family structures, hospitalism was unknown, and a healthy personality development was common. The strict orientation towards upbringing in the children's home slowly dissolved in the following decades in the direction of kindergartens and day-care centers .

Development after the founding of the state (1948–1999)

At the time of establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there was a wave of start-ups (see. Table). At the same time, the kibbutzim, some of which were built in the 1930s as tower and palisade settlements, lost central tasks of the early days in the area of settlement and defense , which were transferred to the newly founded state. The first decades after the founding of the state are considered to be the heyday of the kibbutz movement, although never more than six percent of the country's Jews lived in a kibbutz. Nevertheless, a life in a kibbutz was for a long time the epitome of exemplary lifestyle.

Kibbutzniks had determined the boundaries of the future state through their settlements. They took in refugees from Europe, Asia and North Africa, whom they successfully integrated into society. They were considered a small, influential elite that dominated the Knesset, government and army.

The image began to crumble as the coffers emptied. When the Likud first replaced the Labor Party in government in 1977 , subsidies were cut. In addition, the economic crisis and inflation in the 1980s put many kibbutzim in dire financial straits, and mismanagement drove some to final ruin.

The changes in the following decades were even more extensive:

  • The role of the family became more important; the collective consciousness decreased. An important consequence was the extensive abolition of children's houses (women also took on a traditional female and mother role again). Another consequence was the increasing disintegration of the kibbutz. Privatization began in "small doses".
  • Due to increasing economic problems, many kibbutzim were dependent on opening up new areas of business (especially in industry and tourism ). On some sites there are shopping centers, hotels are operated and paying "tenants" who are not kibbutz members are permitted. Other kibbutzim employ migrant workers from the Far East at low wages in their factories or on their plantations.
  • Compared to the private market economy environment, the kibbutz lost its attractiveness. The Israelis have become more individualistic, consumer and profit oriented. An ascetic lifestyle was no longer enough.

The consequence of these changes was an increasing departure from the old principles and gradually a convergence with the surrounding market economy.

Developments in the 21st Century

The developments described accelerated further at the beginning of the 21st century. Many kibbutzim are under economic and ideological pressure. In addition, there is the problem of increasing aging, because the young generation is leaving the kibbutz to move to cities.

Many kibbutzim have tried to face the challenges. The central services were often reduced or abandoned. Private property is now a matter of course; most chaverim receive a salary they can dispose of. The children's homes have mostly become kindergartens. In summary, one can speak of a clear development of many kibbutzim towards a “normal” village, and “socialist” settlements are rarely mentioned. A further dissolution of the kibbutzim and their original ideals in the future seems inevitable for economic reasons.

However, there are even attempts at resuscitation. Younger Israelis, for example, set up city kibbutzim or communities on the outskirts. These new pioneers often include dropouts from the high-tech industry who, after years of hectic work, are looking for a more contemplative and at the same time meaningful lifestyle.

In this phase of upheaval, the kibbutzim are divided into 4 groups (depending on the degree of the changes adopted), which are also important for Israeli government policy (e.g. taxes):

  • The “collective kibbutz” (Kibbutz Schitufi) : Here the classic kibbutz model is continued with small corrections. Collective ownership and uniform salaries with comprehensive care by the kibbutz describe the principle of “collective ownership of possession”.
  • The “city kibbutz” (Kibbutz Ironi) : Here, in the sense of the classic ideals, an attempt is made to transfer the basic idea of ​​the kibbutz to urban environments (examples: Tamuz and Migwan ).
  • The “renewing kibbutz” (Kibbutz Mitchadesch) : Here the principle of “collective partnership in possession” generally applies, ie private ownership is permitted on a larger scale and, above all, different salaries are paid (based on performance). But there are above-average social benefits (e.g. free care in old people's homes for older kibbutzniks) and cooperative cooperation. Almost 75% of the kibbutzim have chosen this model, which has little to do with the classic kibbutz.
  • The “Kibbutz of Connection” (Kibbutz Meshulaw) : Here there is the same basic salary, but the other part of the salary is paid according to performance.

Volunteers from all over the world

Already in the War of Independence of 1948/49, volunteers from many countries helped under the name " Machal " (abbreviation for: "Volunteers from abroad"), sometimes as soldiers.

After the consolidation of the State of Israel, an international mix of volunteers (Hebrew Mitnadev (m), Mitnadevet (f), pl. Mitnadvim) came from the 1950s, mainly to work in the developing agriculture of the kibbutzim, but also in the other areas of life (garden, kitchen, children's home, old people's home, factory, tourism, etc.). They usually stayed for half a year or a whole year, sometimes only four weeks. The first German Mitnadvim came around 1960. The time in the kibbutz became a formative experience for many young people, which is also reflected in the diverse literature.

Due to the economic crisis of the kibbutzim with a surplus of labor and the mechanization of agriculture, the demand fell sharply. Nevertheless, a volunteer assignment is still possible after 2010, especially in economically successful kibbutzim z. B. with tourist facilities.

List of kibbutzim

The list of kibbutzim contains more detailed information on the individual kibbutzim .

Number of kibbutzim and their inhabitants

year population Number of kibbutzim
1910 10 1
1920 805 12
1930 3900 29
1940 26,554 82
1950 * 67,550 214
1960 77,950 229
1970 85.110 229
1980 111,200 255
1990 125,100 270
2000 117,300 268
* After the War of Independence, 50 new kibbutzim were founded in 1949 .

See also


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • E. Avrahami: Kibbutz. To evolving community. Yad Tabenkin, 1992.
  • E. Avrahami: The Changing Kibbutz. Yad Tabenkin, 2000.
  • Claus Stefan Becker: Kibbutz, moshav and voluntary services (= jobs and internships. Volume 6). Interconnections, Freiburg im Breisgau 1997, ISBN 3-86040-010-X .
  • Bruno Bettelheim : The Children of the Dream . Simon & Schuster, New York 1969/2001, ISBN 0-7432-1795-0 ; German: The children of the future: Community education as a way of a new pedagogy . Translated by Ilse Winger. Molden
    • Vienna 1971.
    • dtv 888. Munich, 1st edition: 1973. (2nd edition: 1975, ISBN 3-423-00888-1 )
  • Shmuel Burmil, Ruth Enis: The changing landscape of a utopia. The landscape and gardens of the kibbutz, past and present . (= Green series. Sources and research on garden art. 29). Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 2011, ISBN 978-3-88462-284-1 .
  • Christiane Busch-Lüty : Living and Working in the Kibbutz. Current lessons from an eighty-year experiment . Cologne 1989, ISBN 3-7663-3008-X .
  • Jon Fedler: Kibbutz, What, When, When, Where. ( Memento of February 7, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) Israel Information Center, Focus on Israel, Jerusalem 2002.
  • Shoshana Feingold-Studnik: The Kibbutz in Transition: Economic and Political Foundations. Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2002, ISBN 978-3-8244-0672-2 .
  • Daniel Gavron: The Kibbutz Awakening from Utopia . Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham 2000, ISBN 0-8476-9526-3 .
  • Saadia Yellow: Almost One Hundred Years of Togetherness . Shmuel Press, Tel Aviv 1994.
  • Gunnar Heinsohn (ed.): The kibbutz model. Inventory of an alternative way of life after seven decades . (= Edition Suhrkamp. 998). Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-518-10998-7 .
  • Kibbutz Trends (quarterly). Ramat Efal, Yad Tabenkin, 1991– (formerly Kibbutz Currents and Kibbutz Studies ).
  • David Leichman, Idit Paz (Ed.): Kibbutz - An Alternative Lifestyle . Yad Tabenkin, 1997, ISBN 965-282-045-8 .
  • Mathias Lindenau: Requiem for a dream? Transformation and Future of the Kibbutzim in Israeli Society. (= Politica et ars. 11). With a foreword by Herfried Münkler. Lit, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8258-0237-0 . (also dissertation at the Humboldt University in Berlin 2006)
  • Ari Lipinski : Kibbutz specifically 88 . Interconnections, Freiburg 1988, ISBN 3-924586-25-X . (on-line)
  • S. Maron: Kibbutz in a Market Society . Yad Tabenkin, 1993.
  • Hermann Meier-Cronemeyer : Kibbutzim. History, spirit and shape . Publishing house for literature and current affairs, Hannover 1969. (Dissertation)
  • H. Near: The Kibbutz Movement - A History. Volume 1: Origins and Growth, 1909-1939 ; Volume 2: Crisis and Achievement, 1939-1995. Oxford Univ. Press, 1992/1997.
  • Franz Oppenheimer : The settlement cooperative. 1st edition. Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1896.
  • Chaim Seeligmann , Gabi Madar: Kibbutz: an overview . Ramat Efal, Yad Tabenkin, 2000.
  • Amos Oz : Another place (= Süddeutsche Zeitung Library. No. 71). Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-86615-521-3 .
  • Michael Tyldesley: No Heavenly Delusion? - A Comparative Study of Three Communal Movements . Liverpool University Press, 2003.

Web links

Wiktionary: Kibbutz  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Kibbutzim  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Official information of the kibbutz movement:

Christian volunteer programs from Germany:

Individual evidence

  1. Shoshana Feingold-Studnik: Der Kibbutz im Wandel , p. IX (preface)
  2. Position of women and the family in the change of the kibbutz: 1. Theoretical foundations of the kibbutz
  3. The rest of the world. What Israel, a tram and my youth in the Kwuza have in common
  4. z. B. Into the desert with Marx. In: The time. 50/2009, p. 102.
  5. Mordecai Naor : Eretz Israel. Könemann, Cologne 1998, ISBN 3-89508-594-4 , p. 51.
  6. The city of Hameln and its Jews.
  7. Michael Wolffsohn, Douglas Bokovoy: Israel. History, politics, society, economy. 4th edition. Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-8100-1310-2 , p. 344.
  8. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi: Collective education and personality development: results of the kibbutz experiment. In: Werner Fölling, Maria Fölling-Albers (Ed.): Life in the Kibbutz. Giessen 2002, pp. 41-55.
  9. Information on the city kibbutz Tamuz near Bet Shemesh