The previous article in this series began to examine ultimate causes rather than proximate causes of the crisis faced by the kibbutz movement in the 1980’s. Utilizing the paradigm of our mythic forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Michael Livni discussed the fundamental differences between the founders and their sons and daughters, Dor Yitzchak. This article focuses on the effect of these changes on the third generation, the generation of Jacob, Dor Yaakov.


The emergence of the Jacob generation on the kibbutz marks the disconnect between personal self-fulfillment and self-realization which had , in the past, been an identifying feature of kibbutz society as previously outlined in the second article in this series.

The disconnect of the Jacob generation was already apparent in the 1970’s. In her essay, “The Youth Movements in the Current Social Reality in Israel,” which appeared in the 1979 Annual of the Seminar Hakibbutzim (teachers seminary) in Tel Aviv, Zippora Efrat wrote:

“Strangely, our learned sociologists (discuss) the ‘crisis in the youth movements’ in isolation from social developments in Israel…Shmuel Eisenstadt, in his book,Education and Youth (1965), pointed out that in the past ‘the revolt of youth aimed at full integration between personal future with the future of society’ …The youth movement member who cared perceived the problems of the collective as an integral part of his/her personal life…. What happened to the collective identity in the 1960’s and the 1970’s – actually since the establishment of the state? Simply put, that (collective) identity consciously detached itself from the values and social aims of Zionism in a general process of erosion of values.”

Already in 1979, Zippora Efrat was correctly describing the early effects of the ideological vacuum on the youth movements. However, more specifically, that crisis reflected the “ideological anemia” of the youth movements’ mentors in the kibbutz movement. The latter were now the Jacob generation of youth leaders and kibbutz members.


In the Biblical narrative and in the contemporary context, the generation of Jacob faced a crisis of identity. After attaining Esau’s birthright (his older brother) by trickery, Jacob was forced to flee to his kinsman, Laban, in Haran to escape Esau’s wrath. Twenty years of fortune and misfortune transformed him. The final pivotal event symbolizing his new identity occurred on his way back to Canaan from Haran at the ford of the River Yabbok.

“Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn…Then (the man) said: ‘Let me go for dawn is breaking’. But (Jacob) answered, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ Said the other…’Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings Divine and human, and have prevailed’.” (Gen. 32: 25 – 28).

The generation of Jacob in the kibbutzim matured against the backdrop of sea changes taking place in the society around them at the end of the 1960’s and the 1970’s. The Six Day War. Economic Development (in part because of the occupied territories). Television (introduced in 1968). Young volunteers from the West inundating the kibbutzim. The Yom Kippur War. The rise of the Right and the “Second Israel” – the end of Labor hegemony. The generation of Abraham had passed from the scene. As noted above, the generation of Isaac (Dor Yitzchak) did not have the ability to transmit a cognitive ideological map to Dor Yaakov.

The Jacob generation was set adrift without a map, without the ability to synthesize an ideological transformation in order to contend with the far-reaching changes in its surroundings. Worse. The generation of Jacob (as distinct from the Biblical Jacob) was scarcely motivated to grapple with either the Divine or the surrounding human (social) environment in order to crystallize a new outlook/identity – let alone an action program. (Think: Ehud Barak). As Zippora Efrat had pointed out, they already reflected the changes in Israeli society.

It was precisely the Jacob generation, graduates of the youth movements and kibbutz born young adults in their thirties and forties who were to contend with the economic crisis that struck the kibbutz in the 1980’s.

What was less apparent to all of us a generation ago was the fact that we had also become an inseparable part of a global change – the emergence of post-modernity.Dor Yaakov on the kibbutz (and in the Labor movement) had to contend not only with economic crisis. It was faced by the challenge of post-modernity.

The impact and implications of post-modernity on Israel and the kibbutzim will be the subject of the next article in this series.


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