(An Important Experience)
A unique social and economic framework, the kibbutz grew out of the pioneering society of the early 20th century and developed into a permanent rural way of life based on egalitarian and communal principles. It set up a prosperous economy and distinguished itself with its members contributions to the establishment and building of the state. In the pre-state period and during the early years of statehood, the kibbutz assumed central functions in settlement, immigration, defense and agriculture, but when these were
transferred to the government, interaction between the kibbutz and the Israeli mainstream decreased. Its centrality as a vanguard for social and institutional development diminished, and since the 1970s, its political strength, which in the early days had resulted in over representation, has declined. However, the share of the kibbutzim in the national product has continued to be significantly greater than their proportion of the population.
In recent decades, the basic values of the kibbutz have been somewhat modified, reflecting changes in the country's political, demographic and ethnic composition as well as in the kibbutz itself. Kibbutz society has become gradually more introspective, emphasizing individual achievement, social cohesiveness and economic growth. The job market for kibbutz members has become fluid: increasing numbers are employed outside the kibbutz, with their salary going to the kibbutz. At the same time, the taboo on hired labor in the kibbutz has weakened, and greater numbers of non-member paid workers are being employed.
Today's kibbutz is the achievement of four generations. The founders, motivated by strong convictions and a distinct ideology, formed a society with a unique way of life. Their children, born into an existing social structure, worked hard to consolidate the economic, social and administrative basis of their community. The present generation, which grew up in an established and prosperous society, faces the challenges of modern life. Some fear that in adjusting to changing circumstances the kibbutz is moving dangerously far from its original principles: Others believe that this ability to compromise and adapt is the key to its survival. All along, part of the kibbutz's success has been its pragmatism and ability to adapt to the changing needs of its members and of the surrounding society. Thus, in recent years discussion has focused on the nature of the relationship and mutual responsibility between the individual and the kibbutz community and the ramifications of developments in technology and communications. Although the terminology and concepts used by the kibbutz change with the times, the goal of creating an open, pluralistic community remains constant.