A type of community in Israel where the residents work cooperatively and share responsibilities, including child-rearing.
A kibbutz is an Israeli rural community in which the residents share equally in the work and profits. Kibbutzim are self-governing under a system of direct participatory democracy. Elected officers are responsible for the day-to-day operations.
When they were first established in the early 1900s, kibbutzim were agricultural collectives. Adults had separate sleeping quarters, but children by and large lived in a communal area and were raised by the group. Now most children live with their parents at least until the age of 13 or 14, when they move into the dormitories.
Today there are more than 200 kibbutzim in Israel, with several hundred members in each. The nature of
Equal education for all is a hallmark of kibbutz life. Although major educational decisions are made by the general assembly, instruction is now conducted by professional teachers, child care workers, and psychologists. Group child care begins early in the kibbutz child's life. The newborn stays with her mother for one to two months and then moves into the babies' house during the day. The mother returns to work on a part-time basis initially so that she can still feed and bathe her infant. However, by the time the child celebrates her first birthday, the mother is working full-time again. Between the ages of three and four, the child enters kindergarten. Many parents visit their young children once or twice during the day.
At the age of six, formal education begins. Although a few kibbutzim still run their own elementary schools, none of them operates an independent high school. In most cases, the children attend a regional consolidated school in which the kibbutz is a partner. The school curriculum is guided by the Israeli Ministry of Education. Kibbutz children spend one day of each school week working on the kibbutz, usually on the children's farm or zoo, occasionally in the kitchen or dining hall. By the time they graduate from high school, each student has achieved proficiency in at least one aspect of kibbutz operations. All Israeli students enter the Army after high school. Men serve for three years; women for two.
When kibbutzim were first established, young adults were expected to return to work the kibbutz after military service. University education was not an option. Over the years, this has changed, primarily due to pressure from the younger generations. Now most kibbutzim provide tuition for a university education after the military requirement has been satisfied. Many kibbutzim also offer adult education opportunities.
Kibbutzim offer short residential programs for under-privileged children and Jewish children living outside Israel. These are usually work-study programs for adolescents that last from two weeks to one year. Participants work on the kibbutz during their stay.
Lavi, Zvi. Kibbutz Members Study Kibbutz Children. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
Spiro, Melford E. Children of the Kibbutz. Cambridge, MA: Harard University Press, 1975.
Kibbutz Program Center
Address: 110 East 59th Street, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10022
Telephone: (212) 318-6130
FAX: (212) 832-2597
The Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education
Young Kibbutz Movement
Address: 27 W. 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Telephone: (212) 675-1168