Rural Cooperatives in Socialist Utopia: Thirty Years of Moshav Development in Israel

Rural Cooperatives in Socialist Utopia: Thirty Years of Moshav Development in Israel

Rural Cooperatives in Socialist Utopia: Thirty Years of Moshav Development in Israel

Rural Cooperatives in Socialist Utopia: Thirty Years of Moshav Development in Israel

Synopsis

What happened to the most successful socialist utopia? Scholars look back to trace the transformations of the Israeli moshav, or rural cooperative village.

Excerpt

In the 1950s, thousands of Jewish immigrants to Israel found themselves subject to a Zionist/Socialist project. They were settled in small rural cooperatives called moshavim. Here, they were provided with homes, land, agricultural instruction, and indoctrination into the distinctive pattern of cooperative economy that was to govern their lives. They learned their lessons with skill and speed, and many moshavim developed rapidly into prosperous and productive agricultural communities--so much so that other nations looked to the moshav model to develop their own rural economies.

For many Israelis, the moshav, though less radical than the more famous kibbutz, symbolically represented the fulfillment of a Zionist/Socialist dream--the creation of a new Jew and a new Jewish society based on principles of cooperation and dedicated physical labor. But in the thirty or more years that have passed since the hurried establishment of the moshavim of the 1950s, there have been many changes in both the moshavim themselves, as they developed and matured and confronted a variety of intense political, economic, demographic, and ecological pressures, and the larger Israeli society.

In order to consider these changes and their impact on the moshavim, in 1990 Moshe Schwartz and Gideon Kressel of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev convened a special symposium comprised of scholars with expertise on this subject. Some of these scholars had studied specific moshavim in the 1950s and 1960s. Some had maintained a continuing relationship with "their" moshavim for decades. Others had studied the institutions that . . .

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