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In his intro­duc­tory arti­cle, Michael Livni (Max Langer) set a base­line of the 1970’s for exam­in­ing his per­sonal under­stand­ing of devel­op­ments in the kib­butz move­ment dur­ing the past gen­er­a­tion. The event which prompted his arti­cle in the Novem­ber 1979 issue of the JEWISH FRONTIER was the merger of Ichud Hakvut­zot Vehak­ib­butzim and Hak­ib­butz Hameuchad into Hat­nuah Hak­ib­butzit Hameuchedet (“Hatakam”) – the United Kib­butz Move­ment (UKM). In that 1979 arti­cle he had ven­tured the opin­ion that, in fact, the kib­butz move­ment was stag­nat­ing. Would the merger cre­ate a new dynamic?

At the time, I was not alone in my gen­eral per­spec­tive. Among oth­ers, the late Stan­ley Maron of Kib­butz Maayan Tzvi bemoaned the “ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia” of the kib­butz. How­ever, those sound­ing the alarm were in a very small minor­ity. The polit­i­cal turn­about of 1977 which brought the Likud to power was seen by many as a tem­po­rary aber­ra­tion. In the very same issue of the FRONTIER in which my arti­cle appeared, the late David Twer­sky wrote from Israel: “To Likud: Enough! Be Gone!” But there was no magic wand to wave the Likud away. The inabil­ity to inter­nal­ize the sig­nif­i­cance of the socio-political sea changes in Israeli soci­ety char­ac­ter­ized (still char­ac­ter­ize!) the Israeli Left.

Behind Stan­ley Maron’s term, “ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia”, loomed a somber impli­ca­tion. After all, ide­ol­ogy is but a map of ideas and ideals with an action pro­gram for their real­iza­tion. Ide­ol­ogy expresses pur­pose. In ori­gin, the kib­butz had seen itself as embody­ing “in micro” the “in macro” val­ues of the future Jew­ish state. Deter­min­ing the “cul­tural fate” (Berl) of that embry­onic state was its orig­i­nal mis­sion. That was the chal­lenge with which the kib­butz was meant to contend.

True. The kib­butz took on func­tions of set­tle­ment and defense for the Zion­ist enter­prise as a whole. It did so gladly – but that was not the cen­tral pur­pose of the kib­butz. “Ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia” really meant the loss of Zion­ist ide­o­log­i­cal pur­pose in the indi­vid­ual kib­butz and in the kib­butz move­ment as a whole.In 1979 the kib­butzim were still COLLECTIVE com­mu­ni­ties. How­ever, in ret­ro­spect they had largely ceased to be INTENTIONAL communities.

The term “inten­tional com­mu­nity” did not exist in 1979 – it was coined by the Fed­er­a­tion of Inten­tional Com­mu­ni­ties of North Amer­ica in the 1980’s. The late Geoff Kozeny, a leader in the North Amer­i­can Fel­low­ship for Inten­tional Com­mu­nity defined inten­tional com­mu­nity as “a group of peo­ple who have cho­sen to live together with a com­mon pur­pose, work­ing coop­er­a­tively to cre­ate a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values.”

The kib­butz loss of pur­pose, of “inten­tion”, was, in fact, symp­to­matic of the demise of pur­pose­ful Labor Zion­ism in Israel as a whole.


In ret­ro­spect, a corol­lary to the loss of inten­tion, the loss of ide­o­log­i­cal pur­pose, was that the kib­butz could no longer serve as a venue for self-realization (hagshama atzmit). The sim­plis­tic asso­ci­a­tion of the term, self-realization, as aliya to the kib­butz is super­fi­cial and inad­e­quate. Self-realization as a core value-concept of the cha­lutz(pio­neer­ing) ethos has to be reex­am­ined. This neces­si­tates dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing the con­cept of self-realization from that of self-fulfillment (mimush atzmi).

It was A. D. Gor­don who set down the con­cep­tual basis for the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion between Life of the Hour, Chayei Sha’ah, self ful­fill­ment and Life Eter­nal, Chayei Olam, self-realization. Life of the Hour is essen­tial – but sec­ondary. Life Eter­nal, a life of mean­ing and pur­pose is primary.

Self-fulfillment can be under­stood in terms of Maslow’s Hier­ar­chy of Needs. Phys­i­o­log­i­cal needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs (sta­tus). All these lead to what Maslow called self-actualization, syn­ony­mous with self-fulfillment. A par­al­lel per­spec­tive would be the pre­am­ble to the U.S. Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence — “Life, Lib­erty and the Pur­suit of Happiness.”

Self-realization means adding a dimen­sion of mean­ing to the con­cept of self-fulfillment. Gor­don insisted that the cha­lutzim (the pio­neers) must find finite self-fulfillment in their daily lives – in their life of the hour (chayei sh’ah). He negated the idea that the cha­lutzim should sac­ri­fice their present lives on the altar of the future redemp­tion of the peo­ple. His demand was the inte­gra­tion of Life of the Hour with infi­nite pur­pose of Life Eter­nal (chayei olam). Only thus could there be a life of mean­ing in Eretz Yis­rael. Prac­ti­cally, this meant a life­time of com­mit­ment to the Labor Zion­ist vision – Hebrew land, Hebrew labor, Hebrew lan­guage, social jus­tice. This was the cha­lutz expres­sion of Jewish-Zionist identity.

We will return to this ques­tion in later arti­cles where we track and explain changes in the out­looks, in the atti­tude to life, of the gen­er­a­tions who grew up on the kib­butz. How­ever, in our next arti­cle we must nec­es­sar­ily focus on the imme­di­ate causes of the eco­nomic cri­sis in Israel and its imme­di­ate impact on the kib­butz movement.