CHANGES-Kfar Hanassi ~
Kibbutz or Community Village?

Article written by George Ney outlying the radical changes that are taking place on Kfar Hanassi and many other Kibbutzim in Israel. Now updated 08/03/07.

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Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PART ONE

To tell you about the changes that have taken place on the kibbutz over the years, I ought to tell you a bit about how things used to be.

When the kibbutz was founded, it was on two basic ideas. The first was Zionism, meaning the establishment and building of a Jewish State. The second was that all people are of equal value, a value which is not affected by any mental, physical or economic factor. It's this second idea that concerns us here.

It was carried out, on the organizational level, by everyone having an equal right to express an opinion and an equal vote in the body that governed the kibbutz, the General Assembly. Obviously, the hundreds of minor day-to-day matters that came up all the time couldn't be brought to the General Assembly - from the menu in the dining hall, or what the theme of the Purim party would be this year, to whether Shula needed new spectacles. Dozens of committees were elected to deal with every aspect of life - literally from birth to burial - with as many people as possible involved. Committee members were replaced every year or two, and kibbutz officials - Secretary, Treasurer, Manager, Work Organiser, etc. - were elected, also for only two years at a time, to avoid creating any governing class or allowing any individual to acquire power. All committees and officials were answerable to the General Assembly, any major decision had to be ratified by the Assembly, and any member could appeal to the Assembly against any of their decisions.

On the practical or economic level, basically you worked as hard as you could, and got whatever you needed from the kibbutz in return. Housing, food, health needs, cultural activities, child care and education and such were provided directly, according to demand - which was assumed to be the same as need. Items that not everyone needed were paid for in the same way: bus fares if you worked outside the kibbutz, house repairs, and many others. Some items were supplied as a cash credit, according to budgets decided on by the Assembly every year. If you didn't need the item, you didn't get the allowance. Only the sick were provided with medicines, only parents were given an allowance for their children's birthday presents, only smokers were given cigarettes, legless people got no shoe allowance. Lastly, there was an allowance which you could spend as you liked, but was mainly for holiday expenses. Everyone got the same basic allowances, the strong and the weak, the young and the old, the clever and the stupid, the worker and the shirker, the sick and the well, the Manager and the person who cleaned the toilets.

It never worked perfectly, but this utopian form of equality worked fairly well for years.