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In this series, Michael Livni has been deal­ing with the under­ly­ing causes, in Israel and in the kib­butz move­ment, that resulted in the “ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia” respon­si­ble for the kib­butz move­ments vul­ner­a­bil­ity to finan­cial cri­sis. In this arti­cle, Livni dis­cusses the dilemma of lead­er­ship within the move­ment as a fur­ther exac­er­bat­ing factor.

The nature of the lead­er­ship in the kib­butz move­ment was an addi­tional con­trib­u­tory fac­tor to its inabil­ity in relat­ing to the unfold­ing real­ity – includ­ing the inter­nal real­ity that had devel­oped in the kib­butzim as a result of the par­a­digm of the gen­er­a­tions and the ascen­dancy of post-modernity described pre­vi­ously. A sum­mary dis­cus­sion of kib­butz lead­er­ship is com­plex and prob­lem­atic as it involves his­tor­i­cal sensitivities.


In two of the three major his­toric kib­butz move­ments, the Kib­butz Hameuchad and in par­tic­u­lar in the Kib­butz Haartzi –Hashomer Hartzi , lead­er­ship was based on a “his­toric lead­er­ship”. The author­ity of this lead­er­ship was akin to that of the Has­sidic Mas­ters in East­ern Europe.

This his­toric lead­er­ship had an emas­cu­lat­ing effect on the inter­nal devel­op­ment of alter­na­tive lead­er­ship in those movements


As dis­tinct from Hak­ib­butz Hameuchad and Hak­ib­butz Ha’artzi the third move­ment, Ichud Hakvut­zot Vehak­ib­butzim had no his­toric lead­er­ship. In gen­eral, it was asso­ci­ated with Mapai. The Ichud played a sig­nif­i­cant role in Mapai but in no way dom­i­nated it. The prag­ma­tism of the Ichud (as dis­tinct from dog­ma­tism of the other move­ments) reflected the prag­ma­tism of Mapai. It was no coin­ci­dence that inno­va­tions such as Lina Mish­pachtit (chil­dren sleep­ing in their par­ents’ home) began in the Ichudwhere it first received (grudg­ing) recog­ni­tion in 1967. It was no coin­ci­dence that it in addi­tion to send­ing shlichim to Habonim, it was the Ichud which sent shlichim to Young Judaea and even­tu­ally to the Reform movement.

It was the Ichud which gave insti­tu­tional sup­port to Chug Shde­mot, the Shde­mot (= fields) cir­cle, com­posed of young kib­butz intel­lec­tu­als from all the move­ments. The cir­cle emerged in the early 1960’s. They founded the quar­terly, Shde­mot which con­tin­ued pub­li­ca­tion for 30 years. In the 1970’s an Eng­lish ver­sion of Shde­motappeared – a par­tial repli­cate of the Hebrew – edited by David Twer­sky, z”l.

Great hopes were pinned on Chug Shde­mot but they remained unful­filled at that time. The mem­bers were mostly edu­ca­tors – not suited for polit­i­cal lead­er­ship in a time of cri­sis. Muki Tzur, Shde­mot activist did become Sec­re­tary of the Takam in the late 1980’s. Some mem­bers of this group did have an impor­tant influ­ence on the 21stCen­tury renais­sance of com­mu­nal groups – a story which will be dealt with later in this series.


It was no coin­ci­dence that it was in the Ichud that a young charis­matic per­son­al­ity emerged that might have had a deci­sive effect on the kib­butz move­ment — Musa Charif of Kib­butz Tzora, graphic artist and architect.

In the 1950’s he served as sec­re­tary of the Hanoar Halomed youth move­ment and united it with Hanoar Haoved to form Hanoar Haoved Velomed youth move­ment, the “sis­ter move­ment” of Habonim in Israel.

In 1976 Charif became Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Ichud. Charif was a ris­ing star in the Labor party. There is no doubt that his inter­fac­ing with Dias­pora youth and Habonim grad­u­ates on Kib­butz Tzora (South African and Aus­tralian Habonim) had an influ­ence on him. In the wake of the Labor rever­sal in 1977, he real­ized imme­di­ately that the Labor move­ment in gen­eral and the kib­butz move­ment in par­tic­u­lar would have to develop a proac­tive pol­icy in the devel­op­ment towns in their regions. He under­stood that the Labor deba­cle of 1977 made it imper­a­tive to seek new allies not only in Israel but also in the Dias­pora. In 1978, on the ini­tia­tive of then shali­ach of the Ichud to the Reform move­ment, Gidon Elad of Chatzerim, Charif vis­ited Amer­ica. His visit was focused mainly on the Reform move­ment. It was Musa Charif who was the mov­ing force behind the merger of the Kib­butz Hameuchad and the Ichud which prompted my essay in the Novem­ber 1979 issue of the JEWISH FRONTIER referred to at the out­set of this series.

Musa Charif was killed in a traf­fic acci­dent in Jan­u­ary 1982. Could he have made a dif­fer­ence? We will never know. It is sim­i­lar to the ques­tion of what might have been if Yitzchak Rabin had not been assas­si­nated. What is cer­tain is that no lead­er­ship emerged to con­tend with the eco­nomic cri­sis that unfolded shortly after Charif’s death.

The land­mark events of the cri­sis in the kib­butz move­ment dur­ing the past twenty years, the process of redefin­ing the term kib­butz in the Coop­er­a­tive Soci­eties Reg­u­la­tions and the emer­gence of the city kib­butzim and com­munes will be the sub­ject of the next arti­cles in this series