A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel. It is traditionally around agriculture where everyone works, childcare is centralized, everyone gets a house and is fed regardless of how many of productive hours are contributed. Basically, think of a weird version of a communist village. It’s definitely an….interesting concept to say the least. We visited one of the richest kibbutz in Israel considering they own a company that is listed on the NASDAQ – Caesarstone, a company that makes quartz countertops, flooring, walls, etc. While a PE bought a part of the company several years ago and has expanded it internationally, it is still largely owned by the kibbutz. It’s definitely an interesting idea considering how we also learned this week that Israel is technically a socialist society. I find it interesting that socialism still needs capitalism to exist. Out of the 300 or so kibbutz that originally existed, only 10 exist today and they all own successful businesses. A kibbutz cannot survive without owning a profitable business as there are always more expenditures than whatever “income” each person can bring in.
I also find it an interesting balance between old and new. The kibbutz was an idea that existed and worked a hundred years ago, but does not necessarily make sense in the 21st century. Our kibbutz guide feels that even though he grew up in the kibbutz and is a proud member, the kibbutz lifestyle should have died out 50 years ago. Frankly, it just isn’t sustainable. It is something that will always bleed more cash than it is able to generate just purely based on labor from its members without a big business. Additionally, as the younger generations begin to move towards the general focus on individualism, the collective lifestyle doesn’t work properly with the rewards systems of the modern day either.
I feel that this is a theme in Israel in general. There are so many different groups pulling the country in different directions and opinions. With orthodox Jews living so closely with secular Jews and Arabs and Palestinians, this is definitely a complicated country. It seems to be one that is steeped so deeply in the history of its land, yet pulling the rest of the world forward with its innovation and start-up nation. It’s definitely difficult to find a balance somewhere in between.
– Teresa Lee ’16, Chazen Israel Group B