The Changing Kibbutz

The 20th century, which in effect began with the assassination of the Austrian Granducke at Sarajevo in 1914 and the World War that followed, ended with the murders and ethnic cleansing in Kossovo and in Serbia. It was a century replete with wars in which Soviet Stalinism and Fascism-Nazism with their extreme nationalist, hate-filled ideas vanquished humanism and socialist solidarity which, when the century began, were for tens of thousands of Europeans and others, a bright vision of the future.
This century brought on the Jewish people the greatest calamity to befall them since they were exiled from their land in 70 A.D. by imperial Rome. In World War II, the Nazis wiped out a third of the Jewish people, including most European Jews. However, in this same century the Jewish people embarked on a national renaissance that combined with the fulfillment of a social vision that was humanist and socialist. The Jewish community that began to gather in Eretz Israel at the end of the 19th Century launched a huge development project in a backward country, causing a great leap forward into technological progress and a modern economy.
The moving force behind the effort was a small group of young pioneers, with a universal vision of social justice to become a reality in social groups most of known as kibbutzim. The kibbutz realized the finest cooperative values at the highest level of equality, cooperation and full mutual responsibility. Throughout the century the kibbutz remained at the very center of turning Zionist socialism into reality -- not alone, to be sure -- but as part of the vanguard. Now, at the turn of the century, the kibbutz is reexamining values and ideas, changing its way of life and renewing itself as an association of communities based on the principles of cooperation. The kibbutz that enters the 21st century will be very different from the one founded at the beginning of the 20th.

From a handful of founders, barefooted and almost empty-handed, in one commune, (Degania - 1910) the kibbutz movement developed into a nationwide network of 270 independent kibbutzim with over 120,000 people. They make up less than 3% of the state’s population, while their contribution to its economy in agricultural and industrial production and services is three to four times their proportion in the population.
Such, too, is their part in cultural and artistic creation, education in Israel and in the Jewish Diaspora, and in the armed forces. In veteran kibbutzim, the third and fourth generation, the founders` grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have already started integrating into positions of management and organization. Social and economic systems are undergoing swift and sweeping changes, suited to new conditions on the threshold of the 21st century
Kibbutz vitality is expressed by its ability to change, to renew frameworks appropriate to past conditions, to break out rigid forms that could prevent development, and to adapt to advanced technologies and organization methods. Some observers on the sidelines predicted the end of the kibbutz. They expected that the failure of what they perceived from the start as a doomed socioeconomic experiment would justify their hostility over the years; others feared for the fate of the unique of the now endangered enterprise, that is part of the Jewish people’s national and social revival. Neither seem to have evaluated correctly the power and vitality within kibbutz, even after its original spirit has weakened and its material basis has been damaged, as to where lies the kibbutz ability to overcome its problems.
The kibbutz arose from necessity - the best answer to the problems of the founding period – and carried on the waves of the humanistic-universal and Zionist-national social vision of its founders. Its members tried -- and succeeded -- in turning a utopian vision into reality. Given the changes that followed the collapse of totalitarian Communism and the resurgence of neo-capitalist conservatism, the kibbutz has answers -- for some of modern society’s problems on the eve of the next century.
Since their inception, the kibbutzim had a place in the political and cultural center of the Jewish community in Palestine. Kibbutz representatives were members of the social and cultural elite, and from their ranks came many of the heads of the Israeli political establishment. Kibbutz social and pioneering values were central to Labor Zionist ideology, so the kibbutzim were highly esteemed because they realized those values. With the establishment of the state, new national institutions assumed most of the general social functions of the kibbutzim and the Labor movement (who played a major roll in the Jewish community in Palestine under the British Mandatory government). Moreover, a change in the values, ideology and political culture of the socio-cultural political elite pushed the kibbutz movement away from the center toward the fringes of Israeli society.


In all kibbutzim cooperative settlement is regarded as a primary national and social venture. Some basic principles, and the organizational framework of kibbutz economy, society and movement aided in its fulfillment:
* Common ownership of the means of production and consumption;
* General responsibility and mutual help;
* An independent and democratic management;
* Identity between The settlement and the kibbutz are the same - one entity (the geographic-municipal entity and the social community are congruent);
* The principle of self-employment, without hired labor;
* Organizational connection of each individual kibbutz to a nationwide movement, and connection of the movement to the Workers’ Federation and the Zionist-socialist political parties.
In the first formative years there was a difference in the definition of the essence of the social unit and the type of economy. Some saw themselves as an intimate or an organic community, while others wanted "large, open communist settlements". Some based their economy mainly on agriculture, while others aimed at developing all branches of production, including crafts, industry and services.
In time, the differences blurred. Most kibbutzim today have industrial plants, which are a dominant element in their economy; and various branches of services, tourism and commerce are developing. Agriculture is in a continuous process of reduction, both in its share of employment and of income. Hired workers are a permanent part of the work force. Managerial structure resembles a complex, centralist, hierarchic organization. The community has become a relatively large, heterogeneous society with members of all ages. In a number of kibbutzim there are residents who are not members.

From mid 1980s on, the kibbutz found itself amidst an economic and ideological crisis. In most cases it accelerated changes, some of which had long been incubating, awaiting for an opportunity to hatch, while others arose from the crisis, attempting to solve it. Due to the differences among individual kibbutzim, no single pattern has emerged or is likely to do so.
The crisis had both internal and external causes: some of the former were structural, though others related to awareness and ideology, while the latter arose from sweeping changes in Israel and elsewhere during the last three decades. Moreover, internal and external reasons tend to combine and blur the distinction between them. While many are inclined to regard the crisis as economic, the present study explores the ideological and psychological changes responsible for the widespread crisis of self-confidence in the kibbutz.

From its inception to the 1960s, kibbutz life-style was ascetic out of economic need but also out of ideology, and individuals were required to identify completely with that ideology and devote themselves to realizing it. Thus “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” determined behavior norms, and members limited their needs and individual material expectations. In Israel’s second decade, general living standard rose. During that time kibbutzim industrialized rapidly, being able to upgrade most elements in their living standards. The economic growth led to demands for greater public and private consumption. At the same time, Israeli society was changing. Pioneering and socialism, the values expressed by the kibbutz, lost their central symbolic status in the country as a whole. No longer an intentional society, based on national and social values, collectively oriented, it changed into a “normal” one with an individualistic orientation. This in turn reflected on kibbutz society, producing cracks, as it were, in the belief on the rightness of its path, and in the self-image of a serving, pioneering elite. The cracks widened with the first intimations of the 1980`s economic crisis. As long as the kibbutz enjoyed economic success, it was a positive proof of the rightness of the cooperative mode. With the crisis, doubts emerged about that model’s validity, further undermining the principles behind it. At that time groups of members, mainly among the economic technocracy, began to demand differential economic compensation, a far-reaching departure from basic kibbutz principles.

It is an interesting and thought-provoking fact that doubts about the validity of the economic model arose first of all among the economic managers responsible, in no small measure, for the financial complications of the kibbutz (mainly with the government and the banks, discussed further on). Although they were the leaders of kibbutz industrial revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, they were nonetheless unaware of contemporary industrial developments in the Western world. Hence the kibbutz was left behind with outdated industrial plants, unable to become part of the new hi-tech production. In the political sphere, they were insufficiently aware of the significance of political changes in Israel with its new economic policy, and its implications for the kibbutz. Moreover, the complete mutual responsibility among the kibbutzim led to hasty investments and, as a result, to financial complications. Some say that all these impediments are immanent in the kibbutz model: others assert by contrast that they are grounded in human error -- in managerial failure, another argument as yet unresolved.

The leading external cause of the kibbutz crisis was political. When a rightist-nationalist bloc, always hostile to the Labor Movement and particularly to the kibbutz, came into power in 1977, it instituted an economic policy that followed Milton Freedman’s conservatism, as implemented in Britain by Margaret Thatcher. Within a few years, Israel was caught up in an annual inflation of 400 %, out of which it emerged only in 1985 by inaugurating an interest rate of 50% per annum! This policy dealt a mortal blow to the entire productive sector of the economy, including the kibbutz. Many small businesses collapsed into bankruptcy. While no kibbutz had to be broken up -- again due to collective responsibility and support from its movement -- most piled up debts during the runaway inflation and found themselves faced with gigantic interest payments. In 1982, the kibbutzim (excluding the 16 from the religious movement) showed profits of 345 million Israeli Shekels (U.S $1=IS33.65), and their debts amounted to less then two billion IS. This was not a burden because they were part of regular economic activity. However, between 1984 and 1988 the kibbutzim, on average, lost 470 million shekels a year to the banking system and by 1989 obligations to the banks had swollen to 12 billion New Israeli Shekels (U.S.$1= NIS1.96).

While the kibbutzim cannot be absolved of responsibility for accumulating such debts, even greater responsibility rests with the government and the banks. Government farm policy controlled the price of produce, and set water allotments and foreign exchange rates within its anti inflation policy. The banks, on their part, joined forces to exploit mutual guarantees among the kibbutzim, giving them unlimited, expensive credit for risky investments.

In 1989 the kibbutzim, the government and the banks signed an agreement to restructure the debt. A complementary agreement was signed in 1996. For the first time agricultural land (of kibbutzim in areas where land for building was in demand) got the status of real estate. The idea behind was that some land would be sold in payment of debts, and the profits accrued by the kibbutzim able to do so would assist others in areas where there was no such demand. Discussion about the arrangements damaged the collective kibbutz image and the self-image of its members. The sense of mission many members held was injured too, as the state did not recognize the superior value of cooperation, withdrawing its support both from family cooperation in the moshav, and collective cooperation in the kibbutz.


It began with mass departure of members from virtually all strata of kibbutz society. From its inception, leaving the kibbutz was a familiar occurrence, as the egalitarian, cooperative, pioneering life-style did not suit everyone. However, the new wave of departures was far greater in extent, and was particularly strong in certain age groups. In the 1980s, after a decade of population growth, both natural and migratory, as new members came in from Israeli cities and from abroad, the flow from the cities stopped almost completely. More kibbutz youth delayed their return to kibbutz life after completing military service, the birth rate dropped, and more people sought extended leave to try their fortunes elsewhere, with a very bad effect on kibbutz members’ morale.
Table 1: Numbers and population of the kibbutz
Year Number of kibbutzim Population
1970 229 85,100
1985 268 125,200
1990 270 125,400
1997 267 116,500
Source: Pavin, A., The Kibbutz Movement 1998 - Facts and Figures, Yad Tabenkin 1999
As the population dropped, it aged. Median age in 1987 was 25.6, and by 1995 - 27.3.
Several factors are responsible for the demographic crisis:
The drop in the birthrate exacerbated the aging process; the relatively high rate of departure among young people in their fertile years; postponement of marriage (not unique to the kibbutz) and the change in the children’s sleeping arrangements. Once the children’s houses began to provide only day care, the number of children per family dropped.
Table 2: Number of kibbutz births
Year Number of births Gross birth rate*)
1961 1,709 21.9
1985 2,975 24
1990 2,132 17.1
1997 1,785 15
*) Gross birth rate: per 1000 persons over 15. Source: Pavin, ibid.
Towards the end of the present decade the population in most kibbutzim has stabilized somewhat. There is even a tendency for kibbutz children to return after a few years’ travel abroad, and for young families to come back after experiencing private life outside kibbutz. It is still too early to tell whether the kibbutzim are beginning to emerge from the demographic crisis, though they hope it is so. Data relating to all the kibbutzim, however, is misleading, since in some places the departures have almost ceased, new people are joining, and the kibbutz born youngsters are coming home. By contrast, other kibbutzim continue to “bleed”, and their population may shrink and age to the point where they can no longer maintain themselves. The solution lies not merely in preventing departures and “bringing the youngsters back” -- both depend on kibbutz adaptations to new conditions in society in general -- but in the widespread absorption of young people from the outside, as it was the case in the past. It depends, to a large extent, on the social and cultural trends within the Israeli society. As long as it moves toward extreme, egoistic individualism, as long as the orgy of unbounded conspicuous consumption continues -- in short, as long as the less attractive aspects of Americanization continue to dominate, there is little chance that an alternative society like the kibbutz with its original emphasis on the values of cooperation, equality, solidarity and service to the community, will prove attractive.

Throughout the entire period mentioned, sources of income have been changing due to changes in the structure and in patterns of employment within the kibbutz economy. Branches previously unknown (such as white collar professions, tourism etc.) have developed. More members work outside their kibbutz, which now hires many more outside workers, contrary to its original ideology of self-labor.
In Israel (including the kibbutz) as in all other developed countries, agriculture is losing status as a major factor in the economy, the proportion of farmers is decreasing steadily and their profits are falling. The agricultural surplus rate in kibbutz decreased from 23% in 1991 to 12% in 1996. At the same time, the surplus from other branches of production (including salaries of members working outside the kibbutz) rose from 21% in 1991 to 33% in 1996.

The number of members working outside their kibbutz more than doubled during the decade of the crisis. In 1986 they numbered 6,400 (9% of the kibbutz labor force), while in 1997 they numbered 14,200, or 18.5%. There was a parallel growth, at the rate of 15% a year, in the number of hired workers: from 10,800 in 1991 to 27,100 in 1996: most of them work in industry. This has had negative effects on efficiency and profits. Frequently, members working outside are paid less than those hired to replace them in the kibbutz. Nonetheless, more and more people work outside, because they want to work in the profession they have studied for. There are also social implications when some enjoy special benefits, like cars required and provided for heir work (and are used also for their private needs), which widens the gap between individual kibbutz members.
Table 3: The kibbutz population - employment by professions
Occupation \ Year 1995 - 1997 -

N % N %
Academicians and scientists 5,500 7.1 6,800 8.9
Free professions 9,000 11.7 10,700 13.7
Managers 4,000 5.2 5,000 6.5
Office workers 10,700 13.9 10,500 13.7
Marketing and services 13,800 18 13,100 17.1
Skilled agricultural workers 10,100 13.2 9,100 11.9
Skilled production workers 16,300 21.2 14,400 18.8
Unskilled workers 7,200 9.3 6,800 8.9
Total (including occupations unknown) 76,700 100 76,600 100
Source: Pavin, ibid.

As noted before, the economic and ideological crisis fueled a series of changes: some were perhaps spontaneous, the result of routine setting in after the stormy pioneering period, and others the result of conscious planning and decisions. They affected all spheres of community life, of the economy, and of relations with society outside the kibbutz, and expressed the wish to adjust and adapt to new socio-economic-cultural conditions, the individual will of members, and the expectations of the younger generation. Behind the changes is the desire to maintain social and economic systems that can cope with the era of the free market economy while, at the same time, preserving some cooperative values. There are changes, however, pointing to separation from the values and principles that once characterized the kibbutz.
Regardless all the differences between kibbutzim in the range and depth of their reforms, recent studies have revealed a division into three “camps” in what regards attitudes toward changes: one supports deep, far-reaching changes that may alter the kibbutz fundamentally, while its opponents favor changes of adaptation but oppose those that affect principles. Between these tow camps lies a third one composed by indifferent members or by those seeking to avoid upheavals that might endanger communal unity. However, regardless of “camps”, the changes have weakened all the traditional foundations of solidarity and social cohesion.
Kibbutz solidarity was based on six factors: Despite their uniqueness and relative weight, they combined to create the social cohesion of the kibbutz. Their mutuality, enhancing one another even during times of weakening strength, stems from the fact that the kibbutz is a comprehensive system, embracing all areas of economic and social activity of the community and of each individual member.

The factors of the solidarity base were:

1. Economic - Common and equal ownership of the means of production and consumption;

2. Social - Togetherness, expressed in the communal kibbutz dining hall; at holidays, in the community that assembles in celebration and mourning, in work teams, committees and general meetings, in the clubroom and on the common neighborhood lawn;

3. Psychological - social confidence stemming from the emotional support that society and the sense of togetherness offer in times of trouble; the joining in times of family celebration or personal achievement; the feeling of strength from membership in strong local and national systems; the feeling of self-esteem and prestige which emanate from the kibbutz as a serving pioneer elite in Israeli society;

4. Organization - Belonging to a nation-wide movement that seemed all powerful, providing political and material support through its independent economic systems, and through connections with national and governmental political systems;

5. Ideology - Socialism and pioneering Zionism; The ideology of the camp that strives for a new social order; The "just camp” that fulfills universal and national values.

6. Projects (stemming from ideology) - The kibbutz is an intentional community, which aims at fulfilling goals for the good of society in general. As such it is considered a serving elite, in its own view as well as in of those of many in the surrounding society.
As mentioned before, in all these areas great changes have occurred, all point to evidence of weakened social solidarity and cohesiveness, as shown by its results:

(1) Accelerated privatization in consumption not only frees the individual from exaggerated dependence on committees and institutions, but also to a large extent frees society from its responsibility to each individual within it. The threat to common and equal ownership of means of production, even if not yet carried out, contributes to individuals’ feelings of uncertainty as to their economic future.

(2) Instead of socializing within the general community, members are enclosed within enlarged apartments that are better furnished and more comfortable than the community halls. The dining hall, also due to privatization, no longer functions as an integrative factor, while family meals, to a large extent take the place of the communal meal. In many kibbutzim, communal gatherings on holidays have become rare and family celebrations frequently do not include the entire kibbutz. Opening of educational institutions to children from the region who only come during class hours influences the character and the times of holidays celebrations in the children’s homes: parents cannot always participate because these events no longer take place during the evening hours but during the day, when parents are at work. The clubhouse has been replaced by the pub, also open to outsiders, where kibbutz members pay almost the same as outside guests, and thus no longer feel entirely “at home”.

(3) The "Beit Oren Affair" was most devastating to the feeling of social confidence and economic security. The lack of real financial arrangements within the debt settlement with the government and banks, amplifies anxiety, especially for older members, regarding their material future.
The psychological strength which in the past was nurtured by the feeling of belonging to a successful quality group, a serving elite recognized as such by most of the population, suffered when the kibbutz became an interest group. The group has lost prestige in its own view and those of outsiders. The message conveyed is that the pioneer is in fact a “sucker” has brought down the “esprit de corps”.

(4) The nation-wide kibbutz movements have lost their position as a focus for economic aid, ideological guidance and political brokering. A peak was reached with the economic crisis and the collapse of the financial funds and other economic organs of the two large movements. However, the reduction in the power of these organs began with the change of government of 1977, when government policy deprived the movements of their function as agents for channeling resources to individual kibbutzim. This undermined relations between the movements as suppliers of resources -- financial, means of production and manpower -- in return for ideological loyalty of its member kibbutzim.
The movements also lost much political power due to the personalization of the political system in Israel, which spread among the kibbutz political representatives, too. Loyalty to a patron or to camp outside the movement replaced loyalty to the movement. Regional organizations based on a clearly local interest, replaced the movements as the source of assistance, guidance and ideological inspiration.
All these factors caused deep organizational changes, and the loss of that sense of belonging to a large, supporting and prestigious camp, both among the kibbutzim and their members.

(5) Israel also has not evaded international ideological changes. The collapse of what was called the “communist world” created an atmosphere of victory for capitalism and the market economy. Neo-liberalism has descended on the industrialized and developed world arm-in-arm with egocentric individualism. In Israel the two systems have emphasized on the individual, without responsibility for the collective; a festival of consumption accompanied by the illusion that the pioneering era is over. The Zionist outlook on nationality and liberal Judaism were replaced by a trend toward traditional religion and ultra Orthodox fundamentalism. The worship of the God Mammon and Success his Prophet, took the place of faith in a just society. This atmosphere has penetrated the kibbutz enclave and shaken the assurance of its members in the ideological truth of pioneering Zionism and a socialist society; in other words, its faith and confidence in the kibbutz way of life. Thus one component of social cohesiveness in each kibbutz crumbled, and a cornerstone of solidarity was lost.

(6) When enthusiasm for the idea of a serving pioneering elite weakened, and its status eroded both in its own eyes and those of the surrounding society, the kibbutz became less involved in projects for the common good. Thus, to a great extent, the kibbutz is no longer regarded as an unselfish intentional community.

Of all the basic components of solidarity and social cohesiveness that weakened and unraveled from the others, ideology is perhaps the most significant. In the past ideology had created a value superego, which developed a code of behavior, and a code of ethics that fed additional value to ideology.

With its ideology waning, the kibbutz is changing from a moral community to a society made up of interest groups. Sociologists characterize these two types of communities: "A moral community is guided by values that its leaders and members are said to believe in and act according to. An interest society, in contrast, is composed of interest groups, and the function of politics and parties is to see to it that the society (or state) acts for these interests. - - - In an interest society - - - the state must move toward the wills and goals of the groups and individuals among its citizens. Politics in a moral community, on the other hand, strives to satisfy the wishes and goals of the whole, and not the egoistic aspirations of individuals or groups of which it is composed. The aims of such a society are not defined by interests, but are found in the area of transcendental value. - - - The distinction between value and interest politics is analytic. In reality, the two elements exist in every political society. But in the Jewish community in Palestine since the beginning of the existence of the party system, the main dialogue among the parties was on an ideological value platform."
This was the situation in the kibbutz. The internal discussion was indeed held largely on the plane of values, with mutual trust and using ideological terminology. So it was in political activity within the general society, where it combined a mission derived from ideological and altruistic motives, with the advancing of sectarian interests, though the latter were usually veiled or justified by universalistic arguments.
Goals for realization in the service of the whole, goals outside sectarian interests and in the area of "projects and missions" of the kibbutz, had a function of social mobilization and solidarity too, beyond their importance to the general society. Without them there is a situation of social laxity, which occurs "when there is very little chance that the national system can set real goals for fulfillment, goals that unite society in agreement over basic principles. A state of laxity is always characterized by the inability to set goals for fulfillment in the political, economic, cultural, consumption or education fields - in each separately and sometimes in several or all of them together."
A survey at the end of 1996 found a drop in task-mission motivation among kibbutz members. For the first time ever, only a very small majority defined the aim of kibbutz political activity as "advancing social ideas," while the rest defined it as "looking after the interests of the kibbutz.” Thus, there is a measure of justice in the perceived change of image of the kibbutz from a serving elite to an interest group. This also influences general public opinion, as shown in a parallel survey among the general population, in which a quarter of those interviewed expressed a negative attitude to kibbutz, 18% a neutral one, while 50% still expressed a positive attitude. The unfavorable or neutral attitude of half of the population of Israel to the kibbutz has reasons beyond the change in image from pioneer to sectarian interest. These surely weakened its actual strength as well as the appraisal of its strength.

An additional contributing factor, however, was the commitment of some of kibbutz members (mostly political activists) to outside groups, a process that began because of the anxiety that many felt with the declining status of the kibbutz. A cycle of behaviors that weaken public power was created, and the reduction of power causes behavior that strengthens this vicious circle. In the political field this process revealed itself by attraction to outside centers of power and authority rather than to the movement center, the source of authority in the past. The movement ceased to be a source of inspiration and a factor of ideological-political solidarity.

The change in the status of kibbutz and in its relations with the surrounding society, has internal repercussions. Legitimacy is given to groups organized on the basis of interests within the kibbutz, too. There are ad hoc alliances (a phenomenon that has gone on for years), but there are also alliances of interest groups which take on a permanent character. The groups of technocrats which in several kibbutzim led the camp demanding changes are an example: they may contribute to solidarity among members of these groups, but their contribution to enhanced solidarity of the whole society in their own specific kibbutz, is negative.

The changes in progress in the kibbutz have two main goals: assuring kibbutz survival as the crisis is overcome, and responding to members’ wishes, arising from increasing individualism and alienation from a rigid collective. These complementary goals have one purpose: maintaining cooperative communities with internal solidarity (at levels varying from one kibbutz to another) in which members have much personal autonomy and a range of choices, along with affinity to their community, contributing to its well-being.
Researchers group the changes along the three “strings” of privatization, management and insertion.
Privatization (as yet) relates only to consumption. Its aim, as previously stated, is to transfer responsibility to members and families in as many areas as possible, granting them a collectively determined allowance, so that daily applications to community institutions are no longer necessary. Care is taken not to privatize health services, education and social security, which remain the full responsibility of the community. In many kibbutzim, employment too is moving into the individual sphere. Members have to take on any work their kibbutz requires, or to find employment outside, thus becoming responsible for earning their own living, even though the salary goes to the kibbutz, which still takes care of most of their needs and those of their families.
The purpose of the new forms of management is greater efficiency, replacing “outdated” forms that many people see as a factor in past managerial and economic failures. Modern management practice should therefore replace them, even at the expense of the traditional participatory democracy of the kibbutz. Boards of directors run branches of agriculture and, particularly, the industries. Business management is now separated from the social system so that it can make economic and business decisions which are no longer subject to social considerations. Direct democracy, whose main institution was the regular general meeting and voting of all members, has been widely replaced by elected councils. Today the general meeting resembles an annual shareholders’ meeting more than it does the traditional assembly of all kibbutz members.
Within a management policy that is purely economic, some kibbutzim have discussed differential financial compensation. At one pole of the debate is the proposal to pay the market price for various types of work. Only few kibbutzim have taken this extreme step, because of the complications involved in evaluating work roles and payments. At the other pole is something like a token payment for overtime hours. How much of an incentive such payments are has yet to be seen.
Insertion, or “lowering the walls” as many call it, blurs boundaries between the kibbutz and its socio-economic-cultural environment. The change is many-faceted. The number of members working outside the kibbutz economy grows steadily, parallel to the increase of hired labor inside it (as detailed in section 5). Services like education, alternative or paramedical clinics, or sports facilities are open to outsiders for a fee, while members may prefer to obtain some services in the neighboring town. Vacant kibbutz apartments are rented to outsiders, and other empty buildings are let as industrial plant or as warehouses. All this blurs the existence of the kibbutz as a geographical and social entity distinct from a municipality. A model now develops in which a kibbutz, a cooperative entity, coexists in a single municipal entity with a population that is not so. A mixed community develops, of partners in the commune or cooperative on one hand, and on the other, a “private” population with different living standards and individualistic values. This creates the ground for friction and conflict, but also makes it possible for kibbutzim with a declining population, to maintain some local services, such as schools, which they otherwise could not on their own.

In view of the ongoing changes, some kibbutzim have taken legal steps to assure that members will continue to own their personal property and their share in the commune, lest removing the foundations of cooperation lead to liquidating the kibbutz, or economic crises allow creditors (the banks) to seize their assets. Kibbutzim are considering a policy of making some assets, like family apartments, pension rights and compensation payments, the property of members. Some places plan to do so at once, while others are making arrangements to be carried out if circumstances should no longer allow the settlement and the community to continue as a kibbutz. All this does a great deal to allay the fears, especially those of older members, thus contributing to the psychological strength of individual and the community. No such arrangements were needed in the past, since commitment to the kibbutz ideology and way of life was beyond question, while the attitude of society in general and its institutions were an insurance policy of sorts for the individual member and the kibbutz as a whole. Formerly there were no individual pension funds -- possibly one in the name of the kibbutz. Today many kibbutzim have made pension funds over to individuals, even though the money will not actually be at their disposal as long as they remain members. They are entitled to realize their rights only on departure, or with the dissolution of the kibbutz. Other kibbutzim are looking into the right to bequeath property, an additional step taken to allay fears of an uncertain future