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.


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