The year 2008 will be remembered as the turning point in the world economy from relative prosperity to economic collapse on a gigantic scale not seen for eighty years.
Governments all over the world are struggling to stop the major recession from becoming an economic depression.
In Israel there are more than 250 kibbutzim and they represent approximately eight per cent of the Israeli economy but only one and a half per cent of the population. The kibbutzim employ nearly ten percent of all the workers in Israel.
Large scale layoffs of workers have commenced. The largest kibbutz enterprise, Netafim, has retrenched 150 workers, including several senior managers.
This year will also be remembered for the sixtieth independence celebrations of the State of Israel amid the hope of eventually gaining recognition and peace with all the countries in the region.
On a more local note the Kibbutz Movement is preparing for the one hundredth anniversary in 2010 of the establishment of the first kibbutz in Israel.
The majority of kibbutzim have moved towards partial or full privatization, while others prefer to maintain the original communal philosophy in a changing world.
The country and the kibbutzim are preparing for the national elections in February 2009. Many parties are vying for appointment as the majority party to lead the next coalition government in Israel. Israel remains a very fragmented society with many political parties some of whom will form part of the next government.
Israel and the world are waiting with bated breath for the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the new leader of the free world.
There are many challenges facing the new leader both at home and abroad and it is hoped that Barack Obama will be able to successfully broker peace in the Middle East and open doors for Israel in the world and peace and prosperity on our own borders, where many kibbutzim are situated.
Some notable news items involving kibbutzim are as follows:
24 kibbutzim received 361 immigrants from various countries as compared with 226 immigrants in 2007. The 2008 group included 14 doctors from Russia and other former entities of the former Soviet Union.
16 kibbutzim participated in project Telem to assist young immigrants from Ethiopia to integrate successfully into Israeli society. A total of about one hundred young Ethiopian immigrants are involved in the project, where they work and live on the kibbutzim and receive assistance with further studies in order to obtain a profession.
Some kibbutzim run Ulpanim where immigrants from all countries can study Hebrew and work on the kibbutzim.
Several kibbutzim run volunteer programs in which volunteers live and work on the kibbutz and visit some of the important sites in Israel. Volunteer programs usually last for up to six months and attract people from many countries and cultures.
More than 100,000 volunteers have experienced kibbutz life during the last forty years. Some have made a kibbutz and Israel their home.
The Changing Face of the Kibbutzim
A privatization program is continuing on many kibbutzim while others prefer to keep the original communal framework as far as is possible. Most kibbutzim are trying to attract young potential members , who will take the kibbutzim forward and also lower the average age of members.
A major concern for many veterans and older people is the subject of pensions. Many kibbutzim started pension programs several years ago while others lagged behind. However a framework has now been agreed whereby all kibbutzim will take steps to provide a pension for their members, that is sufficient to guarantee a certain minimum standard of living.
Another major milestone was reached, when after many years of debate, the Israeli Government, through the The National Insurance Institute, agreed to give financial support to old age homes on kibbutzim.
Many kibbutzim straddle Israel's borders and often have contact with members of the Palestinian population.
During 2008 a group of Israeli and Palestinian women were invited to the USA to study the American democratic system. The group included women from kibbutzim.
The Kibbutz Population
There are 267 kibbutzim in Israel with a total population of approximately 120,000 persons. The total population has remained more or less static for the last thirty years and reached a high point of approximately 125,000 in 1985.
The kibbutzim, Israel and the world are gearing up for the challenges of 2009 and beyond.