For decades now, Israel’s experiment with collective farming has remained free of dogma, repression, or, let’s face it, cultist stuff that scares our pants off when the word “commune” comes up.
It turns out that in the last years, most of the kibbutz have been transformed into profit-making, capitalist co-operatives.
Today, many kibbutzim not only have thriving businesses – including in the tourism industry – that operate exactly like other private enterprises, but some have even decided to embrace the capital market: 22 kibbutz companies are currently listed on stock exchanges in Tel Aviv, New York and London. With annual sales worth Shk37bn ($10bn, €7bn, £6bn), the kibbutz companies account for about 10 per cent of Israel’s industrial production.
A shift from agriculture to heavy industries switched the lights on, and the community self-corrected. Unfortunately, the Communist bloc did not get the memo.
[T]he shift to industry that started in the 1960s and 1970s was an important factor in persuading the kibbutzim to change their ways: they realised that a factory, unlike a farm, is hard to run along egalitarian lines. Someone, in short, had to manage, and someone had to stand at the assembly line.
Much of the change in ethos also came from an increasingly rich country in general.
As the country began to prosper during the 1980s, Israelis increasingly turned away from the frugal socialist ethos that had dominated the state’s early years.