I’ve always been a sucker and romanticized kibbutz life, probably because I’ve never lived it. But I have enduring admiration for the kibbutz pioneer types, whether of the present or yesteryear, whether they’re building plastic pipe fittings, growing algae or creating alternative educational centers.
That said, things have been changing in the kibbutz for some time, and probably for the better. In fact, it’s really a matter of seeing what works in the new century of cooperative living rather than holding on to what used to work.
So here’s some interesting kibbutz research from the University of Haifa. According to their recent surveys, some 72% of all kibbutzim are now converted to the ‘renewing kibbutz’ model, which means members are paid differential wages. Over the course of the last year, five more kibbutzim converted to the model, and, Dr. Shlomo Getz, head of the Institute for the Research of the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea, believes that by the end of 2012, there will be more kibbutzim switching to some alternative model.
Just to review, there are three kibbutz compensation models these days. The collective kibbutz/kibbutz shitufi, in which members are compensated equally, regardless of what work each member does; the mixed model kibbutz/kibbutz meshulav, in which each member is given a small percentage of his salary along with a basic component given equally to all kibbutz members; and the renewing kibbutz/kibbutz mithadesh, in which a member’s income is solely comprised of his individual income from his work and sometimes includes income from other kibbutz sources. You can call that the capitalist kibbutz.
Since the end of last year, 188 kibbutzim (72% of all kibbutzim) have become renewing kibbutzim, while just 9 are mixed model and 65 still maintain the original, familiar model. But there are changes taking place even in the old, familiar collective kibbutzim. Eighteen of them offer different forms of payment for work carried out beyond the members’ regular jobs, such as rotation duty in the dining room or kibbutz services on Shabbat. And on some of the collective kibbutzum, members have partial ownership of kibbutz businesses or their homes. Finally, in at least half of the collective kibbutzim, members must pay to eat in the central dining room.
(That must mean much less schnitzel eaten on a regular basis. Then again, I would pay to eat kibbutz schnitzel.)