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 GENERATIONS OF THE KIBBUTZ
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
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.