Jewish Studies The Kibbutz
Shlomo Getz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0082


The first kibbutz was founded in 1910 and since then more and more kibbutzim were established, first in Palestine under Turkish rule, followed by British control and then in Israel. Today a total of 270 kibbutzim (plural of “kibbutz”) are found with a population of about 140,000, less than 2 percent of the total population of Israel. The size of kibbutzim varies from small kibbutzim with less than 100 members to larger ones with about 800 members and a total population of more than 1,200 inhabitants. The main values upon which the kibbutz were originally based are: (1) equality among members, creating an environment in which members receive their needs from the community and in which each contributes to it according to their ability; (2) common ownership, involving common ownership of the means of production and consumption; (3) mutual responsibility; (4) direct democracy in local governance and the practice of rotation of all officeholders; (5) Self-labor (i.e., without hired labor), deriving from the socialist ideal not to exploit hired labor. Kibbutz members had to supply all the demands of running a community with their own labor; in practice, kibbutz members receive equal budgets and special additions for individual needs, members own and operate kibbutz assets in common, working together in kibbutz-owned economic ventures, eating their meals in central dining halls, raising their children in communal centers for children that serve also as dormitories, and living in kibbutz-owned housing. The commune and the settlement are one entity: the geographical-municipal entity and the social community, the kibbutz, are congruent. Variations among kibbutzim (e.g., some of the first established kibbutzim had familial sleeping arrangements) are found. The kibbutz has never been static and has always been in a state of change. The economy of the kibbutzim was originally based on agriculture; today kibbutzim rely mostly on industry and many members (an average of 30 percent) work outside the kibbutz. The communal sleeping arrangement of children has been abolished and children stay in the homes of their parents. The method of distributing goods to members has slowly changed. Thus in the 1970s, when the economic situation of the kibbutzim was thriving, the “all-inclusive budget” replaced the small “personal budget.” Later, in many kibbutzim during the 1980s, a lump sum of money was given to members. But the most fundamental changes took place at the end of the 1980s, following an economic crisis that produced demographic and ideological crises. Changes took a new direction, leading to a deep transformation in most of the kibbutzim. The new type of kibbutz, called “renewed kibbutz,” is based on differential salaries, private ownership of kibbutz assets, and private ownership of housing. Consequently, “is the kibbutz still a kibbutz?” is a question asked by many kibbutz members and scholars.

General Overviews

The first scientific research and report about kibbutz is Landshut 2000, written by a sociologist who lived for a few months in a kibbutz to do research. Talmon 1972 is the result of the first big research project on the kibbutz of the 1950s, based on interviews of hundreds of members in twelve kibbutzim, and in which the author proposes an influenctial theory of the development of the kibbutz. Fishman 1992 studies the small religious kibbutz federation and the special problems encountered in mixing kibbutz life and religious practices. The only scientific journal focusing on the kibbutz, HaKibbutz, appeared from 1973 to 1990; thirteen issues were published. Most analyses of the kibbutz are found in edited collections of articles. Krausz 1983 is a book about the sociology of the classical kibbutz, while Paz-Yehoshua and Gorni 2006 covers a wide range of disciplines. Halamish and Tzameret 2010 presents a collection of articles written by experts in a popular and less scientific style. Palgi and Reinharz 2011 is a collection that treats not only the classical kibbutz, but also the changes and transformations that have taken place during recent years.

  • Fishman, Aryie. Judaism and Modernization on the Religious Kibbutz. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511557330

    This is a sociological study of the religious kibbutz, concerned chiefly with the religious aspects of the collective settlements. This book presents the wide range of innovations that religious kibbutzim have introduced into contemporary Judaism.

  • Hakibbutz: Bama ben-tchumit lecheker hachevra hakibbutzit.

    See issues 1 1973) to 13 (1990). Translated as “The kibbutz: Interdisciplinary review,” this journal contains dozens of articles from various fields in the social sciences and humanities. Most of the issues were dedicated to a specific subject: work and industry (no. 2), equality of the sexes in the kibbutz (nos. 3–4), development of the kibbutz federations (nos. 6–7), equality and democracy (nos. 9–10), kibbutz and Judaism (no. 12), and kibbutz and literature (no. 13).

  • Halamish, Aviva, and Zvi Tzameret, eds. Hakibbutz: Mea hashanim harishonot. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2010.

    This is a collection of short articles written by experts on kibbutz history, culture, literature, movies on kibbutz life, religious kibbutzim, architecture, education, and changes in the kibbutz. Illustrations and photos are included. Translated as “The kibbutz: The first hundred years.”

  • Krausz, Ernest, ed. The Sociology of the Kibbutz. Studies of Israeli Society 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1983.

    This is a collection of twenty-four leading articles in the sociology of the classical kibbutz. The topics include the concept and development of the kibbutz, social differentiation, family and socialization, and work and production. An appendix with statistical data is included.

  • Landshut, Siegfried. Hakvutza. Ramat Efal, Israel: Yad Tabenkin, 2000.

    This is the first sociological book (and perhaps the first research paper) published about kibbutz. It describes and analyzes the classical kibbutz of the 1940s. Originally written in German, it was published only in Hebrew translation. The book was out of print for many years and was reprinted in 2000. Originally published in 1944.

  • Palgi, Michal, and Shulamit Reinharz, eds. One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life: A Century of Crises and Reinvention. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2011.

    This is a collection of twenty original articles, organized into sections that outline the unfolding history of the contemporary kibbutz, presenting changes to the kibbutz that have led to its reinvention. The focus is on the different ways that change has occurred.

  • Paz-Yehoshua, Avigail, and Yossef Gorni, eds. Heiseg histori ve-tmurotav: Hahityshvut hakibbutzit vehamoshavit, 1991–1990. Beer-Sheva, Israel: Ben Gurion University Press, 2006.

    This is an anthology that includes articles on cooperative and settlement thought, historical perspectives, society, education and self-identity, economic activities, management, and organization. It includes a table of contents and a ten-page introduction, both in English. Translated as “Historical achievement and its evolution: The kibbutz and the moshav settlement movements, 1910–1990.”

  • Talmon, Yonina. Family and Community in the Kibbutz. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972.

    This book summarizes research conducted in twelve kibbutzim. While discussing a wide range of aspects of life in the kibbutz in the 1950s, it proposes a comprehensive theory of the development of the kibbutz from “bund” (a type of primary group) to community.

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