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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kibbutz - the future of Zionism?

At one time, Kibbutzim were the backbone of Zionism. At the time of the Six Day War, a quarter of the IDF officers were kibbutzniks. Kibbutzim faded into the background, as right wing ideology gradually swept Israeli society. But  young Israelis seeking to save Zionism are starting A New Kibbutz Movement, as we learn from the Wall Street Journal.
Yuval Katzir, 26 years old, a guide at the Ayalon Institute Bullet Factory in Rehovot, Israel, is one of 23 members of the new kibbutz located at the site and also a reserve paratrooper in the Israeli army. He spoke with Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Waldman about the kibbutz movement.

WSJ: Why are you trying to create a new kibbutz movement, after so many kibbutzim have failed in recent years?

Mr. Katzir: A kibbutz is not a place; it's an idea. We're not focusing on agriculture but education. We're trying to start a movement that gets into youth groups and schools and educates young people about the basics of the Zionist ethic: taking responsibility for the Jewish nation. The whole Zionist movement has collapsed. A lot of my young friends, talented people, are emigrating because they don't care any more. This is a crucial time. But we still have a chance to create a better society.

WSJ: How?
Mr. Katzir: The basics are still the same: We need to build a welfare society with good schools, quality health care and help for the poor. A lot of Israelis aren't aware of what's going on this country. Historically, the labor movement, the moshavim, the kibbutzim -- they were the heart of everything. Now we have only the leftovers. What happened in the past 30 years that took one of the most equal societies in the world and made it one of the least equal, less equal than even the U.S.? You need to ask yourself: Who is benefiting from privatization and the dismantling of the welfare society?
WSJ: Religious Zionism is flourishing.
Mr. Katzir: They're also facing problems, because it's unclear who their partners are now. Are they the [ultra-orthodox] Haredi? Am I, as a secular Zionist? Is redeeming the land the only goal for the religious, or is it the revival of the Jewish people? Either it's national -- it's all of us -- or they have to say the game is over, abandon Zionism and go back to waiting for the Messiah. Until Zionism, until the Enlightenment, Judaism got stuck in a very dark corner of history. If the religious kill other Jews to hold on to the (occupied Palestinian) land, that's not Zionism, because Zionism is for all Jews.
WSJ: Can Zionism and consumer capitalism coexist?
Mr. Katzir: We're living in a time when we don't know where we're headed. Iran wants a nuclear bomb. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. If we can't succeed in creating a new type of society, then we'll lose the essence of Judaism. I work with a Zionist youth group in England. They ask me: Why bother to come to Israel if the economy is so unequal? Why come? People are starting to question whether they feel part of this country. Israel isn't France. If it's not just and good, it won't last.

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