Death of the Kibbutznik

By Ephron, Dan | Newsweek, January 18, 2013 | Go to article overview

Death of the Kibbutznik

Ephron, Dan, Newsweek

Byline: Dan Ephron

The dramatic implications of their political demise in Israel.

Avshalom Vilan has the kind of resume that once exemplified the Israeli elite: born on a kibbutz, served in the military's most prestigious antiterrorism unit, Sayeret Matkal, but also worked to advance peace with the Palestinians. So when he ran for Parliament for the first time in 1999 with the left-wing Meretz Party, Vilan had no trouble getting elected and later reelected. Three of Meretz's 10 members that year were from kibbutzim (the plural of kibbutz), those iconic communal villages that defined the Zionist enterprise going back a century. In the entire 120-member Parliament in 1999, kibbutzniks numbered eight--proportionally more than three times their size in the population.

Vilan, who is 61 and has the rugged good looks of a character in a cowboy movie, will be on the ballot again when Israelis go to the polls next week to choose a new Parliament. But he's unlikely to win this time. In fact, for the first time since Israel's founding in 1948, not a single native kibbutz member is expected to enter the regal building in Jerusalem where Israelis make their laws and trade in power. "I'm still hoping, but I don't think it's going to happen," he tells Newsweek in an interview. "It's a big change in Israel."

For people who still think of Israel as the country it was in the '50s and '60s, the shift is almost incomprehensible. For decades, kibbutz members dominated Israel's most important institutions, including the Army and politics, even as their numbers never grew beyond 6 percent of the population. Many of the country's towering figures, from David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan to Amos Oz and Ehud Barak, were either born on a kibbutz or joined one as adults.

But their disappearance from the political scene is the culmination of a broader trend underway in Israel for some time now: a shifting of power from an old elite to a new one. As the last kibbutzniks leave Parliament later this month, up to 16 residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will enter the building, either as newly minted lawmakers or returning ones. That's a larger representation for the settlers than at any time since Israel captured the Palestinian territories in 1967 and set about establishing communities there. "We're seeing a decline in the importance of the kibbutz movement and the rise of another group ... that's more nationalistic and more religious," says Efraim Inbar, a poli tical scientist who directs the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. "They are the new aristocracy."

Ideologically the two groups couldn't be more different. Kibbutzniks, the vast majority of them, are ardently secular and politically moderate. Most support parties on the center and left, like Labor and Meretz--political entities that have cham pioned peacemaking with the Palestinians. Settlers, by contrast, tend to vote for parties on the right side of the political map, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and the religious factions in Parliament. If the polls are accurate and Netanyahu forms the next government, up to a quarter of his ruling coalition could be composed of settlers.

The implications are potentially dramatic. As Israel prepares to mark 65 years since its founding this year, many of the core questions about its character as a country have yet to be settled. The most urgent one is the status of the West Bank, which Palestinians claim as part of their future state and which a growing number of mainstream Israeli political figures now talk openly about annexing. Almost as pressing is the relationship between religion and state, which is often the subject of heated arguments among Israelis. Even the preeminence of democracy as the country's guiding principle now seems open to debate.

It is conceivable at least that Israel might begin to resolve some of these questions in the coming decade--during a time frame that analysts are increasingly viewing as the era of the settler. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Death of the Kibbutznik


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.