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Kibbutz Definition

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Kibbutz - (Hebrew) (plural Kibbutzim) Zionist collective communities. Kibbutzim served as the keystone of Jewish defense in the period prior to the state, and remained important factors in the economy, army and politics for many years thereafter, exerting an influence well beyond their small numbers. The first Kibbutz or Kevutza (a small kibbutz) was Degania, founded by the Sejera workers cooperative in 1909 under the guidance and with the support of Arthur Ruppin. Degania was founded on land bought at Umm Juni. The kibbutz was as much a practical answer to the problem of developing Jewish agriculture in the tough conditions of Palestine as it was the implementation of an ideology.

Today, there are 267 kibbutzim in three Kibbutz movements: The Tnua Kibbutzit Meuchedet ("Takam" - United Kibbutz Movement) of the center Labor parties, the Kibbutz Artzi of Hashomer Hatzair and the Religious Kibbutz Movement.

Kibbutzim became the natural locus of defense training, underground arms caches, manpower supply for the Haganah and defense under the British and during the War of Independence. Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emeq, Degania, Yad Mordechai and Negba were sites of decisive and often heroic battles that determined the course of the war. Kibbutzim also raised many of the early leaders of Israel.

After the foundation of the state, Kibbutzim continued to thrive economically, though with much less growth in population than previously. During the 60s, kibbutzim continued to shoulder the burden of guarding border areas and building up the periphery. The election of the Likud government in 1977 threatened the position of the kibbutzim. Menachem Begin understood that the Kibbutz was the historic center of power and of moral energy for the entire labor movement, and he announced his intention of breaking the Kibbutz movement, claiming that Kibbutzniks were rich on ill-gotten gains.

In the 1980s, changing government policies virtually destroyed support for agriculture of all types and made it unprofitable. In the early 1980s there was annual inflation of about 500%, The agricultural cooperative bank and other banks offered loans at annual fixed interest of about 150%. To many financial managers on Kibbutzim, as well as to other farmers, this looked like a good way to turn a profit and allow a high standard of living: borrow money at "low" interest of 150% and invest it in goods and development which would not depreciate. Repayment of the interest and capital would not be a problem, since their value would be wiped out by inflation. However, a new government brought inflation under control in 1984, and all agricultural businesses that had taken out loans premised on inflation found that they were unable to pay their debts. Banks refused to lower the fixed interest debt even though the inflation that had generated the high rates was now vanquished. Many farmers were ruined, and Kibbutzim and Moshav cooperatives required extensive government support, which was essentially support for the banks.

Kibbutzim are experimenting with new forms of cooperative living that implement ideals of social justice and democratic government in small groups, especially Urban Kibbutz.

Relative to their declining population, kibbutzim continue to play a disproportionately large role in Israeli society and the Israeli economy. Today (2005) kibbutzim account for slightly over 2% of the population of Israel, with about 100,000 permanent members and 15,000 other residents as of 2003. They account for over 24% of the rural population, over 9% of the industrial output and over 40% of the land under cultivation.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Kvutza Kibuts,

Further Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz Labor Zionism The Kibbutzim site

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

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