Israelis Continue to Join Kibbutzim in Large Numbers

By Jake Bengelsdorf

Kibbutz Nir David near Beit She’an. Photo: Menachem Lederman/Flash90

As of this year, Israel ranks the 7th highest for cost of living, and faces ever increasing population density in major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, ranking among the highest density of developed nations. Coupled with the isolation of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Israelis have been confined to tiny apartments at an exorbitant cost. These conditions have rekindled a mass movement of Israelis out to the countryside. To settle the land, and work in a collective community, called a kibbutz.

The kibbutz movement began as a Zionist socialist project; a way for early immigrants to Israel to be productive in mostly agricultural efforts on a communal plot of land. Recently, kibbutzim have evolved with the modern area, diversifying into industries such as technology, military production, and tourism. Kibbutzim offer an escape from the crowded cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, mainly located in rural communities with agriculture and community amenities like pools, dining halls, auditoriums and playgrounds. Many have erroneously predicted the demise of the kibbutz, deeming it an outdated socialist prospect that takes up land more fit for land settlement and agriculture. However, Kibbutzim have thrived, and the open areas and heavy socialization and reliance on other members offered a stark contrast to the COVID-19 lockdowns of the cities. Israeli citizens have continually flocked to Kibbutzim from their urban lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a boom in membership not seen in the last 30 years. Hundreds of Israelis sit in queue to join the movement, and strong numbers remain even well after Israel’s last lockdown in 2021. However, the process of joining a Kibbutz in Israel is not an easy task. After screening, potential members will have to live on the Kibbutz for a test year to expose the potential kibbutznik to what daily life is like, an experience quite different from the private life of an average Tel Avivian. Sharing living spaces, amenities, dining halls, and cars can prove quite difficult for newcomers.

Robotic Bee Hives in Kibbutz Beit Haemek. Photo: Techxplore

However, after a successful test year, the committee board of the Kibbutz will vote whether to accept or reject the newcomer, and most are accepted. Additionally, the data from Israel serves as a testament to the explosive growth of the Kibbutz movement in Israel. Current membership has reached 140,000, an all time high for Israel. This is a 21% jump from 2004’s numbers, where public opinion was that the Kibbutz movement was doomed to fall.

As units, Kibbutzim have seen incredible success as they have ventured into new industries. For example, Kibbutz Sdot Yam created Caesarstone designs, which supplies stone working for various modern buildings. The Kibbutz sold the majority of their company for $260 million, which by the socialist structure of the Kibbutz, split the incredible sum of money between members. Other famed stories include drip irrigation technologies sold by Kibbutz Hazerim’s Netafim, creating a thriving company with many international manufacturing facilities. From developing pool cleaning robots at Kibbutz Yizre’el, to robotic bee hives in Kibbutz Beit Haemek, the Kibbutz movement has seen massive success in the past few years. Through a combination of industrial innovation, change in governing structures, and growing need for outdoor space after the Covid lockdowns, Kibbutzim have boomed. What was once at the forefront of Israeli culture, the Kibbutz movement has been a testament to the pioneering Israeli spirit, and the burgeoning start up industry characterizing modern Israel.

The Kibbutz movement has seen massive success in the past few years, through a combination of industrial innovation, change in governing structures, and growing need for outdoor space after the COVID lockdowns. What was once at the forefront of Israeli culture, the Kibbutz movement has been a testament to the pioneering Israeli spirit, and the burgeoning start up industry characterizing modern Israel.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
The Israel Journal at NYU

The Israel Journal at NYU is an explanatory journal dedicated to clearing up the conversation around Israel.