Kibbutz Reshafim, 10905, Israel -

Why?

1999: Quite a few people are asking this question today. Nobody seems to have a really good answer anymore, and those who do keep it to themselves.
Theodor Herzl -Click picture for Bio But if you want to blame anybody, let me introduce the two main culprits. The one responsible for the why here? is Theodor Herzl.
  • Born in Budapest in 1860
  • Studied law at Vienna University
  • Became aware of his Jewish roots due to the Dreyfus Process
  • Wrote 1896 "Der Judenstaat" (The state of the Jews) and became a founder of modern Zionism.
  • Described his vision of the Jewish state in his book "Altneuland" (1902).
  • Died 1904 in Austria.
A number of attempts were made by Jews to improve their lot by emigrating to countries, where discrimination might be less. South Africa, Argentina and the US were countries of preference. But by immigrating to an existing country they would never be able to decide their own destiny. For a while Uganda was proposed as a possible site for a Jewish State, but Palestine, the historical homeland of the Jewish people was eventually chosen by the Zionist1 majority.

After growing up in the antisemitic 1930's in Eastern Europe and escaping the Holocaust by hair's breadth, it is no wonder that many Jews, the founders of Kibbutz Reshafim among them, became fervent Zionists. The fact that of the famous saying "A country without people for a people without country" only the second part was correct, didn't escape members of the Hashomer Hatzair Movement, who favoured the creation of a bi-national state in Palestine. It didn't work out that way, and during the War of Independence in 1948 many Palestinian communities were displaced. A number of kibbutzim and moshavim (another form of cooperative agricultural settlement) were founded and populated by refugees and olim2 from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Karl Marx-Click picture for Bio The why thus? is Karl Marx' doing.
  • Born 1818 in Trier, Germany.
  • Studied History, Philosophy and Political Sciences at Bonn and Berlin University.
  • Became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842
  • and a socialist the following year while in Paris.
  • Collaborating with Engels, he wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848.
  • Was opposed to Bakunin's Anarchism.
  • Died 1883 in London.

 

Socialism in all its forms was immensely popular in the 30's (as were the variants of Fascism). Its aim in those days was not just the economic betterment of the working class, but the creation of a new, more humane society and a new man to go with it. The kibbutzim were to serve as a model for this revolution. They were the proletarian vanguard, and much admired for it.

Even if quite a few of the founding members considered Stalin to be the epitome of human endeavour and mourned his (I'd say long overdue - but who am I) passing on, they never adopted his policies of proletarian dictatureship. Decisions were made by a democratic show of hands. But there was quite a bit of pressure on those black sheep who wouldn't accept majority rule - which, after all, is how democracy works.

2014: So, where do we stand now on those issues, people left the kibbutz for, because either they were implemented too strictly - or not strictly enough? The means of production still belong to the co-operative, as do the public buildings. There is a support scheme for members in financial trouble, but on the whole people are now economically independent. They have to pay for all the services the kibbutz provides, insure themselves and provide for their old age. Members own their flat, new members have to buy or build one.

But why oh why would people nowadays join a kibbutz, which has ceased to be a kibbutz? And they do. Most kibbutzim have seen a significant increase in their membership, since they went capitalist, and so has Reshafim. But there's nothing about building a better society. Aspirations are very low key and can mostly be summed up as quality of life.


1 Zionist: From Zion, Jerusalem. Jewish national movement
2 Olim (plural of oleh): Jewish immigrants to Israel. Hebrew for someone who ascends as opposed to Yored, a Jew who leaves the homeland, literally descends. Alyah: Jewish immigration to Israel

 

  • Out of focus: May Day 2000
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