The kibbutz was the largest and most successful movement of intentional community of the 20th Century. Historically, the kibbutz was an integral part of the Zionist movement – the modern movement for the renewal of the Jewish people in its ancient home. It seldom constituted more than 3% of the Jewish population in Palestine and later in Israel. In its own eyes and in the eyes of much of the surrounding society it was the Zionist aristocracy, the elite.

As a movement of intentional community, the kibbutz perceived itself as realising a value-oriented community way of life in ‘micro’, oriented to shaping the ‘macro’ of surrounding society.

From the 1970s on, the kibbutz began to founder because of a complex and fascinating interplay between internal dynamics and forces from without – the latter both from within Israel and from the West in general. In the last decades four questions have arisen regarding the sustainability of the kibbutz framework.

1. Can the kibbutz survive as a community?

2. Can the kibbutz survive as an intentional community?

3. Can the kibbutz survive as a movement of intentional community committed to impacting on surrounding society?

This presentation will outline the factors from within and without that have impacted on the kibbutzim in the last generation as well as the varied responses generated as a result. Are there tentative lessons to be gleaned from the kibbutz experience during the last generation (still very much in process) with regard to sustainable intentional community?


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