Israel-Hamas war: What is a kibbutz?


Several kibbutzim have been targeted by Hamas militants following the group’s surprise attack on Israel. However, many people may not be familiar with what a kibbutz is.

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Here is what you need to know:

What is a kibbutz?

A kibbutz is a commune or a collective based around an agrarian lifestyle, The Washington Post reported. The plural form of kibbutz is kibbutzim.

The communities were started about a century ago. Some still adhere to the full communal way of living while others have been privatized, the Post reported. Their willingness to evolve and change has allowed kibbutzim to survive, professor David Leach said, according to the newspaper.

Where does the term ‘kibbutz’ come from?

The word “kibbutz” evolved from the Hebrew word for “gathering” or “grouping” according to Kibbutz Ulpan.

The first kibbutz was Deganya Aleph, or Kibbutz Degania, which was founded south of the Sea of Galilee in 1910, according to Tourist Israel. It is in the Jordan Valley and over more than 100 years has grown and modernized, though it “still retains the quaint feel that makes it so special,” according to Tourist Israel.

How does it work?

People work together in a collective where all income generated by the group goes into a common pool that is used to run the kibbutz, make investments and make sure that everyone is supported equally, depending on family size. For some kibbutzim, it does not matter what the person’s job or position is, everyone makes the same amount of money, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The Kibbutz Ulpan said, “people voluntarily live and work together on a noncompetitive basis” in a kibbutz.

But there are some kibbutzim that use a pay scale, depending on what service people provide, though everyone is guaranteed a minimum income level.

Is it just agriculture?

No. The kibbutz also provides education and cultural and social life to residents, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel. All children start out at the same level and are given equal opportunities.

They also produce different things.

The HaGoshrim kibbutz in northern Israel makes a woman’s hair removal tool, the Post reported.

Be’eri, which was targeted by Hamas on Saturday, has a printing company, according to the newspaper.

How is it run?

A kibbutz is “a system of direct participatory democracy,” according to The Jewish Agency for Israel. The group said individuals can “influence issues and events in the community.”

Most members work to support a kibbutz’s economy or perform maintenance while routine jobs, such a dining room duties, are shared, according to Kibbutz Ulpan. When there are not enough people to perform a job, outside workers can be hired. They are either paid or get room and board on the kibbutz.

How many members are there in a kibbutz?

The number can vary, with some having as few as 100 members and others having as many as 1,000, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel. Kibbutz Ulpan said there could be more than 2,000 people in a kibbutz. Older groups include several generations, from the founders to successors, and even new members.

How many kibbutzim are there currently?

There are about 250 kibbutzim in Israel comprised of about 125,000 people. Most of them are secular, but there are about 20 that are based in either conservative or reform religious beliefs.

Is everyone on a kibbutz from Israel?

No. Kibbutz Ulpan said that some people who might be on a kibbutz are considered “olim,” or immigrants, from the U.S., Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Russia and several European countries. They might not have Hebrew as their native language, but all can speak it, since it is the primary language of Israel.

Kibbutz Ulpan “is a five-month multilevel language program sponsored by Masa Israel Journey.” It is open to people from the age of 18 to 35 who are either single or married but without children.

There are other kibbutzim that have people of different ages and even educational requirements. They are participants, not full members, of the kibbutz and are there temporarily and considered guests.

A “chaver” is a full member of the kibbutz and has voting privileges and full use of the entire kibbutz. Participants do not, according to Kibbutz Ulpan.

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