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Neg­a­tive inter­nal dynam­ics within the kib­butz con­tributed sig­nif­i­cantly to their loss of ide­ol­ogy and pur­pose. A key to under­stand­ing those dynam­ics and the result­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the kib­butz to the eco­nomic and social changes tak­ing place in Israel, lies in changes and changes of out­look of the gen­er­a­tions that fol­lowed the found­ing gen­er­a­tion of the kibbutzim.


The par­a­digm of our mythic patri­archs – Abra­ham, Isaac and Jacob – pro­vides a use­ful descrip­tion of kib­butz gen­er­a­tions. It is a par­a­digm that illus­trates the dynam­ics by which “ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia” devel­oped in the kib­butzim as well as the Labor Zion­ist move­ment in general.

The found­ing gen­er­a­tion, the gen­er­a­tion of Abra­ham, Dor Avra­ham, (think: David Ben Gurion, Berl Katzenel­son, A. D. Gor­don) made a delib­er­ate and rad­i­cal break from its sur­round­ings in order to start anew.

The Divine said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you’.” Gen. 12: 1. Abra­ham was the first emis­sary, the first shali­ach. He was aware that his path would devi­ate from the norms of his sur­round­ing soci­ety. He was able to con­tend with ide­o­log­i­cal con­fronta­tion. He was pre­pared to dis­pute with the Divine itself as shown in his argu­ment with It regard­ing the destruc­tion of Sodom.

For Dor Avra­ham, self-realization meant link­ing per­sonal self-fulfillment in life with a Labor Zion­ist social vision of what the Jew­ish state in embryo should become. It embod­ied the idea of self-realization dis­cussed in the sec­ond arti­cle in this series .

Mau­rice Samuel (1895 – 1972), Anglo-American Zion­ist pub­li­cist and inti­mate of Chaim Weitz­man, was a major for­ma­tive influ­ence on the Jewish-Zionist out­look I devel­oped as a young man in the 1950’s. In his book, Level Sun­light (1953), Samuel recounted his encoun­ters with the cha­lutzim in East­ern Europe prepar­ing to make Aliya in the early 1920’s – the future Third Aliya.

They were caught up in the fever of a great mis­sion; they were going forth to show that a Jew­ish life could be built in Pales­tine cleansed of the par­tic­u­lar curse of Jew­ish home­less­ness and of the gen­eral all-human curse of an exploita­tive economy…It was alto­gether extra­or­di­nary to encounter in them an equal pas­sion for the Bible and Karl Marx… They con­ceived of the land they were going to build as the expres­sion of the Jew­ish and world future.”

In the words of Avra­ham Shlon­sky (1900 – 1970), poet of the Third Aliya :

At the cross­roads of the gen­er­a­tions between night and dawn

We dared to cre­ate a new begin­ning ‚for we came here to con­tinue the way”.

(Eileh veEileh, 1930).



The Isaac gen­er­a­tion, Dor Yitzchak – think: Moshe Dayan, Yigal Alon, Yitzchak Rabin — did not have to con­tend with ide­o­log­i­cal chal­lenges stem­ming from major alter­na­tives within its imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment. It came to matu­rity before and dur­ing the War of Inde­pen­dence. Abra­ham was pre­pared to sac­ri­fice Isaac to ensure his covenant with the Divine. Sim­i­larly, the found­ing gen­er­a­tion had to sac­ri­fice much of the cream ofDor Itzchak on the altar of state­hood in the War of Inde­pen­dence. (More recently, for many of us, the assas­si­na­tion of Yitzchak Rabin res­onated as the ulti­mate tragic con­sum­ma­tion of the fate of Dor Yitzchak.)

Dor Yitzchak matured in the shadow of the founders. The lat­ter sup­plied the inspi­ra­tion, the ide­ol­ogy and the frame­work. Dor Yitzchak car­ried out the prac­ti­cal work. They were crit­i­cal of exces­sive ide­o­log­i­cal dis­cus­sions. They were there to act. Nor was the Bib­li­cal Isaac an ide­o­log­i­cal pio­neer. Ide­o­log­i­cally, he acted within the para­me­ters inher­ited from his father. Isaac was the one who set­tled and built in the land. He never left. He was enjoined by the Divine: “…Do not go down to Egypt…Reside in this land and I will be with you and bless you” (Gen.26: 2–3).

Like Isaac, Dor Yitzchak was rooted in the land. An impor­tant part of its cul­ture wasYidiat Ha’aretz – knowl­edge of the Land. This was not only a mat­ter of aca­d­e­mic knowl­edge. The Hebrew term ladaat, to know, implies a physical-emotional rela­tion­ship as in the Bib­li­cal ladaat Isha, to know a woman.

The self-realization of Dor Yitzchak lay pri­mar­ily in inte­grat­ing (and often sac­ri­fic­ing) their per­sonal life his­tory with the prac­ti­cal Zion­ist tasks of the state in embryo – set­tle­ment, defense, ille­gal immi­gra­tion. It did not have to deal with the ide­o­log­i­cal chal­lenges faced by their par­ents nor with the chal­lenges that were to face their chil­dren. Ulti­mately, the edu­ca­tors of the Isaac gen­er­a­tion were not equipped to incul­cate a com­pre­hen­sive, cog­ni­tive world view of val­ues to the next gen­er­a­tion – the gen­er­a­tion of Jacob, Dor Yaakov.

The dilemma of the Jacob gen­er­a­tion on the kib­butz (and in Israel) will be the sub­ject of my next article.