Cover image for The kibbutz : awakening from Utopia
The kibbutz : awakening from Utopia
Gavron, Daniel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 295 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HX742.2.A3 G39 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Israeli kibbutz, the twentieth century's most interesting social experiment, is in the throes of change. Instrumental in establishing the State of Israel, defending its borders, creating its agriculture and industry, and setting its social norms, the kibbutz is the only commune in history to have played a central role in a nation's life. Over the years, however, Israel has developed from an idealistic pioneering community into a materialistic free market society. Consequently, the kibbutz has been marginalized and is undergoing a radical transformation. The egalitarian ethic expressed in the phrase, "From each according to ability, to each according to need," is being replaced by the concept of reward for effort. Cooperative management is increasingly giving way to business administration. Kibbutz members, who were obligated to and dependent on their community, are now responsible for running their own lives and earning their own living. Through distinguished journalist Daniel Gavron's revealing portraits of ten kibbutzim we hear the voices both of the veterans who are witnessing the collapse of their dream and of the youngsters who have rejected the vision of their parents. The author also analyzes the economic collapse that triggered the changes and the failure of the unique kibbutz education system to perpetuate communal values. The opening and concluding chapters provide a compelling overview of the situation and look toward the future. Gavron, a former kibbutznik, brings a keen and sensitive eye to this first overview of the current revolution in the Israeli kibbutz. Jewish readers and all those interested in Israel will find this book a compelling portrait of a country trying to hold onto its past while facing its future.

Author Notes

Daniel Gavron has been a reporter for the Israel National Radio and the Jerusalem Post. He is the founding editor of Palestine-Israel Journal and the author of Walking Through Israel and Israel After Begin.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The kibbutz movement, which began in the early twentieth century, was a way of synthesizing socialism and Zionism. Among the Israeli notables nurtured in a kibbutz was Moshe Dayan, Israeli leader and army commander. Former journalist Gavron examines the history of the kibbutz movement and its significance in the creation of the state of Israel. He studied the development and internal structures of 10 kibbutzim and explains here how they have responded to changes in Israeli society and economy. The movement has faced pressures to privatize allowances and possessions and to reduce social restrictions. Although the kibbutzim now comprise people of different religions and races, and have economic bases ranging from farming to tourism, they still retain the commonality of communal living. Gavron interviewed kibbutzim members to explore the present strengths and weaknesses of the movement. He concludes that a strong Israeli economy and the self-absorption of capitalism have undermined the kibbutzim, but that there is great resilience in the movement. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Israeli collective farms known as kibbutzim, once the darlings of Israeli society, have fallen on hard times in this hyper-capitalist era, in part because of the decreasing importance of agriculture and the decline of Zionism even among Israelis. Even the most prosperous of the kibbutzim explored by Gavron, a veteran journalist (Israel After Begin), find it difficult to retain the children who have grown up there. Stock market investment, land development and salaries based on a member's worth to the collective (rather than equal pay for all)--all anathema to the movement's early 20th-century founders--are now common practice on some kibbutzim. Gavron provides historical and contemporary snapshots of a dozen kibbutzim. The early history he tells through the story of some of the kibbutz pioneers is fascinating, if not new, and offers a necessary basis for those new to the subject. The most illuminating parts of the book come in his interviews with contemporary kibbutz members--some of whom are very ready to admit the flaws of the system--and in his exploration of the effects of the communal child rearing that used to be a kibbutz hallmark. Gavron's recounting of the 1985 debt crisis that accelerated the movement's downward trend, however, will be confusing even to the knowledgeable, as is his description of the different types of financial perestroika that kibbutzim have undergone to maintain their viability. Gavron, who admits to a fondness for the kibbutz, states in his conclusion that the death knell is arriving for many of the collectives, once dubbed the experiment that didn't fail. As one member puts it, "It is a painful process. There is a feeling of loss, of uncertainty. No one knows where it will end." (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is an Israeli journalist's perceptive evaluation of his country's social and agricultural commune experiment, the kibbutz. An integral part of the Socalist ideology of Zionism, the kibbutz movement, in the author's opinion, has not modernized even as the state has been forced to adjust to political, economic, and social change. There continues to be great variety among the 267 kibbutzim, but the effort lacks dynamic growth. The author culls reflections from the many interviews conducted with kibbutz members and other sociological studies published over the years. He takes nothing away from the movement's contribution to the character of the state but concludes that as the kibbutz begins to adapt to its current environment, it moves further away from its original character. For any one interested in current Israeli society as well as a study of any social utopian scheme. Well recommended.-Sanford R. Silverburg, Catawba Coll., Salisbury, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One DEGANIA STARTING OUT Descending from the hills of Lower Galilee to the shores of Lake Kinneret is an exercise in time travel. The narrow road winds down through a lush green countryside to the azure lake, past villages established by the early pioneers and red-roofed houses, most of them plastered cream, but with an occasional building of the local black basalt rock. There are horses here and donkeys, cows, and poultry. The wells, no longer in use, are still walled round and covered with small tiled roofs. Old plows and harrows rust in quiet courtyards. The birds sing; the bees hum; the old men sit in the shade, talking quietly, or just sitting.     Known in the New Testament as the Sea of Galilee, its Hebrew name, Kinneret, comes from kinor (harp or lyre), because the lapping of its water is said to sound as sweet as the music of those instruments. To the east and south, the hills of Golan and Gilad are pale mauve in the afternoon sun, their valleys and canyons etched in charcoal gray. Around the lake the tall eucalyptus cast their shade. Farther back are citrus orchards, fields of pale green peppers, and avocado plantations, their leaves a dark shiny green.     Degania is situated on the east bank of the River Jordan, where it emerges from the Kinneret. At the entrance is a sign in English and Hebrew: "Degania, the First Kibbutz." Inside the gate, the description is in Hebrew: "The Mother of the Kvutzot." Rightly, the members of Degania do not want to confuse the visiting tourists by using the less-known term in English; but, in fact, Degania was and remains a kvutza rather than a kibbutz, a small, intimate commune, albeit considerably larger than the optimal size envisaged by the founders. The distinction between kibbutz and kvutza has become meaningless, but it was not always so. Degania saw itself as an enlarged family, run by consensus. When the group became too unwieldy to manage in this way and too large for intimacy, it split like an amoeba, forming Degania A and Degania B. There was also a third Degania, but its members migrated twenty-five miles westward and took a new name. Subsequently, settlements were established that shared Degania's communal ideals but disagreed with its concept of the intimate kvutza . Aspiring to expand and grow, they took the name kibbutz .     Degania today has a population of over five hundred, and its economic existence is guaranteed by a sophisticated factory for the manufacture of diamond-cutting tools, but it remains a relaxed backwater, at odds with the bustle and rush of modern Israel, its sleepy, bucolic ambiance appropriate to the "Mother of the Kvutzot."     It is an attractive village, set in lush, verdant gardens, extensive well-kept lawns, flower beds, tall palms, and poplars. The houses of black basalt where the early settlers lived, built around a courtyard, have been preserved, and there are museums devoted to the natural environment and the early days. The private homes remain modest. The communal dining hall is airy and spacious but not extravagant. Tall trees shade the swimming pool and the basketball courts from the summer sun. Striking a jarring note, a destroyed tank stands in the peaceful gardens, marking a dramatic event in Degania's history.     At more than six hundred feet below sea level, Degania is burning hot in the summer months; but the heat is alleviated by air conditioning in the private homes, offices, factory, and dining hall. It is a pleasant environment, offering a splendid quality of life, but ninety years ago it was very different. When the founders of Degania, ten young men and two young women, some of them teenagers, arrived there in 1910, it was a forlorn spot. The hamlet of Umm Juni was previously owned by a Persian family, and the land was worked by twenty families of Arab tenant farmers who lived in mud huts and dug channels from the Jordan for irrigation. From a distance the village was invisible, as the dwellings were the same color as the surrounding soil. Apart from the rushes and some palm trees, there was little vegetation.     The founders of Degania were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe who arrived in Palestine in response to the Zionist challenge. The idea of a Jewish nationalist movement, a return to Zion, had been in Jewish minds since the exile from Judaea in the second century of the common era. Wherever they lived Jews would utter the prayer "Next year in Jerusalem." From time to time revivalist movements emerged, the most successful of which was that of Shabbetai Zvi in Turkey in the middle of the seventeenth century. Thousands of Jews sold their belongings and prepared to return to the Holy Land. Even when Shabbetai Zvi turned out to be a "false Messiah," accepting conversion to Islam, and his movement collapsed, the spirit among the Jews was only temporarily dampened.     In the nineteenth century, under the influence of movements for national independence in Europe, the idea of reviving a Jewish nation began to take on a political connotation, and in 1881 events triggered a practical response. That year there were serious pogroms , anti-Jewish outbreaks, all over Russia, in which hundreds of Jews lost life and property. Far from putting down the attacks, the czarist authorities ignored, and sometimes even encouraged them. The shock prompted many Jews to join revolutionary movements for the overthrow of the czar and his regime. Many more participated in the vast migration that was to carry more than two million Russian and Eastern European Jews westward in three decades, most of them to North America.     However, among those wishing to leave Russia, there was a minority who demanded more than just another refuge. They sought to create a modern Jewish nation in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. They formed groups of Lovers of Zion, and a trickle of immigration to Palestine, then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, began. The first settlers founded the villages of Rishon Lezion, near today's Tel Aviv, and Rosh Pina in Galilee. They were joined in their endeavors by young Jews from the religious community of Jerusalem, who rejected the way of life of their parents, which was based on prayer and study, supported by charitable contributions from Jews all over the world. Like the new immigrants, they aspired to establish a self-supporting community. They founded Petah-Tikva. Both types of village, those of the immigrants and those of the indigenous Jews, struggled to survive in the harsh conditions in Palestine and were rescued from collapse by two French Jewish philanthropists, Baron Edmond Rothschild and Baron Maurice Hirsch.     In 1895, Theodor Herzl, a Viennese journalist appalled by the virulent anti-Semitism unleashed in ostensibly liberal France when a Jewish officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was unjustly found guilty of treason, wrote a pamphlet entitled The Jewish State , in which he argued the case for reviving a Jewish national entity. In 1898, he convened a Zionist congress in Basel, Switzerland, where the Zionist Organization was established. Herzl advocated a political deal with the Ottoman sultan and an organized mass return of Jews to Palestine, but he died in 1904, and his movement came under the control of leaders who called themselves "practical Zionists." They supported gradual settlement, and to this end they established a Zionist Settlement Office in Palestine and began purchasing land, sometimes in cooperation with Rothschild and Hirsch.     The Jewish immigrants arriving in Palestine from Russia and Eastern Europe after the turn of the century were not merely nationalists. They were also influenced by revolutionary and socialist ideas in their countries of origin. They were disgusted by the recently established villages, with their Jewish overseers, Arab peasant laborers, and Bedouin guards. They aspired to what they called the "conquest of labor," believing that only by Jewish physical work could the land be redeemed and a Jewish nation reestablished. They also insisted that the Jews must undertake their own self-defense.     They looked for work in the older villages, but the Arab laborers were more experienced and prepared to work for lower wages. In one famous incident, Jewish workers uprooted and replanted a forest in memory of Theodor Herzl because it had originally been planted by Arabs. The struggle for Jewish Labor was bitter, and in a move to assist the newcomers, the Zionist Settlement Office established several agricultural training farms, one of them at Kinneret, on the shore of the lake. It was not long before the young Jewish pioneers who worked there quarreled with the Russian agronomist appointed to run the farm and went on strike to demand his dismissal.     It was their good fortune that the settlement office was run by Dr. Arthur Ruppin, a German Jewish sociologist of faith and vision. Ruppin did not accede to their demands for the agronomist to be fired, but he did give a carefully selected group the chance to work the land of nearby Umm Juni on their own. Another group of workers left the training farm and worked around the village of Hadera in the coastal plain. They lived as a commune, pooling their wages and eating their meals together. The first group left Umm Juni after less than a year, and the Hadera Commune was invited to take up the challenge of working there independently.     The ten men and two women of the commune knew how to work--they had proved that in the farms around Hadera--but they had no capital. Consequently, they signed an agreement with the settlement office, undertaking to work the land at Umm Juni "until after the grain harvest." In return they would each receive fifty francs per month wages and half of any profits accruing at the end of the period. The Office supplied them with mules, horses, and plows and advanced them the money to buy seeds and other requirements.     They were soon writing to Ruppin about their problems. Temporary huts erected for the earlier group were in a state of disrepair, and they could not find a carpenter. They carried out what repairs they could, but the rains caught them before they had transferred all the fodder into the barn, and the food for the livestock might not last for the full year. When going to Tiberias to buy wood to complete the repairs, two of their members, a man and a woman, were attacked by armed Arabs. They managed to fight them off with a pistol, but their mule was wounded. At the same time they described their relations with their Arab neighbors as "friendly." The Arabs, who had stayed on in the part of Umm Juni not purchased by the settlement office, taught them about farming; they supplied the Arabs with medicines. They exulted in the freedom of managing their own work after working for others, and, although they admitted their lack of knowledge and experience, they proclaimed that they possessed "the ability to work, self-confidence, and faith."     Despite the strict equality among its members, the small group contained several prominent personalities who assumed positions of leadership: Yosef Baratz and Miriam Ostrovsky, the only regular couple; Tanhum Tanpilov, the strongest worker; and Yosef Bussel, at nineteen the youngest member, who was also the acknowledged intellectual leader. Yosef Baratz from the Ukraine was stocky and sunburned, an experienced worker who had already learned the building trade as well as farming. He had lived and worked in several different locations, including Jerusalem. An early account describes Miriam, his companion, as "cheerful, healthy and capable of any work that the men could do. Her joy affected her environment. In the difficult days, the days of hunger, when you heard singing and dancing, you knew that she was leading it." Tanhum Tanpilov was of medium height, broad shouldered, with a measured step, "the rock on which the kvutza was built. He set an example in his daily life that all tried to follow. He always arrived at work first and left last." Tanpilov was taciturn and spoke little. Bussel was "taller than average, with a thin stringy build and long curly hair. He didn't look capable of physical labor, but he became one of the best workers. His eyes blazed with conviction. His movements were determined, his self-confidence and decisiveness overwhelming."     They had no ideology at the outset, except a desire to create a new Jewish society and a determination to work the land independently, without supervisors or bosses. Tanpilov declared, "On the basis of my own experience, a Jewish worker can make a living in Palestine from the fruits of his own labors." Bussel aspired to create "a system that will truly give the worker individual freedom, without his having to exploit the work of others." Baratz recalled, "We wanted to work for ourselves and to do it not for wages but for the satisfaction of helping each other and of tilling the soil."     Shmuel Dayan, who joined the kvutza early on, wrote, "Everyone tells about his working day, one tells of his mule's intelligence, another of his mule's stupidity, a third of his mule's obstinacy, and everyone relates how he felt during the day. You feel the partnership. You are not alone! The new family, the family of the kvutza , is very strong and powerful." But he also recalled, "Not everyone was equally conscientious, skilled, and energetic. Some were careless and even lost their tools. There were crises and arguments."     Dayan's memoir of his life in Degania was published in 1935 and contains many vivid cameos of the early days of the kvutza and its members. Years later Baratz narrated a memoir to a journalist, which was published in English in 1956. It presents an idealized picture of the early days.     The work was backbreaking; the living conditions were harsh. In the summer the heat was unbearable; in the winter the youngsters were up to their thighs in mud. Several of the group were already suffering from malaria, and now the others also caught it. In the words of an early pioneer, "the body is crushed, the legs fail, the head hurts, the sun burns and weakens." In the summer usually 20 percent were sick in those early days, and sometimes as many as half the members couldn't report for work. Nevertheless, at the end of the first year, the group renewed its contract with the settlement office and continued to do so every year.     Not that the decision passed smoothly. Some members felt that, having cultivated the land at Umm Juni and grown crops there successfully, they should leave it to others to carry on the work and seek new challenges elsewhere. One location that attracted them was the mountainous area across the Jordan, but Tanpilov rebuked his comrades, noting that the Jews were always the first in any revolution but lacked the ability to preserve their achievements. He called on them to root themselves in the soil of a specific location and "make the desert bloom." His argument was accepted; the group remained at Umm Juni, justifying its claim to be the "First Kibbutz."     It was not the only workers' commune in the Palestine of those years. Others formed communal groups of laborers, but they were mobile gangs that moved from one location to another, where there was work available or laborers required. Although there was no real Arab nationalist movement in Palestine in the early years of the century, the Arab peasants resented the Jewish pioneers, who settled on land previously worked by them. Apart from any specific hostility to newcomers, Ottoman Palestine was a lawless land, and Bedouin raiders, some of them from across the Jordan, would often plunder settled villages. (The attack on the Degania settlers, described earlier, was probably by Bedouin.) For that reason the early Jewish settlers founded the Hashomer defense force in 1907. Hashomer was organized in communes, but its members moved around the country to wherever guards were needed. The Umm Juni group was the first to stay in one place and establish a permanent settlement.     The settlement office financed the construction of barns, stables, and storerooms from the black basalt stone of the area. These were built around a courtyard, next to which was erected a two-story wooden building for the living quarters and a comparatively spacious hut for the kitchen and dining hall. The members conducted an acrimonious correspondence with Dr. Ruppin, demanding that Jewish workers carry out the building, but it did not prove practical. Yemenite Jewish stonemasons, brought from Jerusalem, departed hastily when they learned of the danger of cholera.     When the members of the kvutza moved into their permanent buildings, they resolved to call their village Degania, both after dagan , Hebrew for the cereals they were growing, and after degania , the cornflowers that grew in the area. Shortly afterward, Miriam and Yosef Baratz were married.     Every evening the whole group participated in a general discussion around the rough dining room table, at which the following day's work was allocated. They also discussed the general organization of life in the kvutza . No votes were taken in those early days, and they went on talking until consensus was reached. The debates tended to be fierce and long, sometimes lasting until the morning. One discussion that began on Friday afternoon went on for more than twenty-four hours!     As the kvutza attracted more members, there were disputes between the original Hadera Commune and the newcomers. The two groups met separately--one in the barn, the other in the vineyard--and at one point the newcomers demanded that control of the communal purse be handed over to them. The account books of the early years indicate that Degania was not a complete commune. The members of the Hadera Commune did function collectively. They were treated in the accounts as an individual unit, but the other members were credited for the days they worked and debited for the purchase of food and other items. So for the first decade or so it is true to describe Degania as a community containing a commune rather than a commune as such. It was only in 1923 that individual accounts disappeared from the Degania balance sheet, and the comprehensive communal structure was properly established.     At the same time, the kvutza did operate on the basis of common ownership. The young pioneers did not own the animals, tools, or equipment--not even their own clothes. Everything was the property of the kvutza . Work clothes were issued on need, and when a member had to travel, he or she would be issued with a set of slightly more respectable garments. A small amount of petty cash was also available for necessary journeys. It was kept in an unlocked box in the dining hall and taken as needed. Often the money was untouched for weeks on end. Members who joined gave all their possessions to the community, and any presents received from outside were also handed in.     The nature of agricultural work necessitated the employment of casual labor in the harvesting season. The "exploitation" of these temporary workers caused some members of the kvutza considerable anguish, but in time livestock, fruit trees, and other branches were added, the membership grew, and the kvutza was able to organize its labor force without the need of outsiders.     Some of the fiercest arguments concerned the work performed by the two women, Miriam and Sara. Although they saw themselves as revolutionaries, creating a new way of life based on equality, it never occurred to the male members of the kvutza that women should change their traditional roles. Miriam had acted as a house mother since the Hadera days. She and Sara were expected to continue cooking, washing, and sewing for the men under intolerable conditions. At first, they did not even have kerosene stoves but cooked over an open fire, suffering from the heat in the summer and soaked by the rain in winter.     The women insisted that the kvutza should plant a vegetable garden and buy poultry and cattle, to enable them to take part in the farming alongside the men. When the first two cows were bought, Miriam was away, and she returned to find them being cared for by the men. Furthermore, the men would not let her near the "large and dangerous beasts." Refusing to accept the situation, Miriam went to a nearby Arab village, where the women taught her how to milk cows. One morning she got up before the cow men, and when they arrived she had already done the job. From then on, Miriam worked in the dairy, and subsequently women took all sorts of jobs, even plowing and standing guard.     Despite being in revolt against the orthodox Judaism of their parents, the youngsters were intensely Jewish. Bussel had studied for the rabbinate in Lithuania. He and the others aspired to reform Jewish life rather than abandon it. In the early days, the Sabbath was observed strictly as a day of rest, a custom that continued for many years in all the early kvutzot and kibbutzim. They marked Friday night with as fine a meal as they could afford and celebrated it with singing and dancing.     Often the members of the kvutza found release from the tensions of the intimate communal life and the unremitting work in song and dance. They brought folk songs and dances from Russia and Eastern Europe and created new Hebrew songs. They would dance the hora in a circle, arms on each other's shoulders, until they dropped.     They looked for meaningful ways to revitalize the Jewish festivals, reviving the agricultural features that had been lost in the Diaspora. In particular, Pessah (Passover) was given a new meaning as the festival of spring and freedom; Shavuot (Weeks), the festival of the first fruits; and Succot (Tabernacles), the harvest festival. They perceived the just society they were creating as a manifestation of the vision of the prophets of ancient Israel, where there would be no rich or poor, no oppressed or oppressors. In the early years a lot of Yiddish was spoken, but they hired Baruch Ben-Yehuda, a special teacher from Jerusalem, to teach Hebrew evening classes. Ben-Yehuda later became headmaster of the Gymnasia Herzliya, the country's leading school.     Although Miriam and Yosef Baratz were married, it was essentially a youth community, without children. Shmuel Dayan proposed that no other marriages take place for five years, to preserve the communal way of life, but he soon broke the rule himself after falling for the beautiful Dvora, a new immigrant from Russia. The kvutza was not really ready for the first child, Gideon, born to Miriam Baratz. Suddenly, in a society where all property was held in common, there was a child who belonged to one couple. And what about the obligation of every member to contribute a day's work to the community? Miriam, a strong woman in every sense of the word, continued milking the cows, singing happily as the milk squirted into the pail, with her baby by her side, his face covered with flies.     Yosef Bussel spoke out about the need for partnership in the raising of the children. "There must be no privacy," he said, according to an early protocol of Degania. "All privacy interferes with our communal life. All of us are obligated to participate in the expense of raising the children--not just the parents." Dvora Dayan was the second mother. Her son Moshe would become famous as an army commander and one of the leaders of the State of Israel. She asked the general meeting whether a member of the group should raise the children. Wouldn't it be better to bring in an outsider, who would just look after the children and would not feel obligated to other work? The possibility of firing Ben-Yehuda, the Hebrew teacher, and replacing him with a woman educator, who would also care for the children, was discussed.     Unlike Miriam, Dvora found it hard to continue the communal life after becoming a mother. She acquired a kerosene stove and a few pots, announcing that she would cook at home and that she should not be written down for either work or meals. It was the normally quiet Tanhum Tanpilov who took drastic action. He ascended to the upper story where Dvora and Shmuel lived and threw their stove and pots out of the window. Tanpilov's extreme (and uncharacteristic) action did not, of course, solve the problem, and the discussion continued. In time, special houses were built for the children, where they were cared for by a member of the group, but in Degania (in contrast to other kibbutzim) they always slept in their parents' rooms.     Degania in those years was a magnet for many leading personalities of Palestine's Jewish community. Yosef Trumpeldor, the one-armed Russian war hero who was to die defending a kibbutz in Galilee in 1921, worked there for a time, as did Berl Katznelson, later to become the preeminent ideological leader of the Jewish Labor Movement in Palestine, and Moshe Sharett, who became the first foreign minister of the State of Israel.     One of the most remarkable characters to be associated with Degania was Aharon David Gordon, a frail, middle-aged Russian Jew with a long white beard, a mystic and follower of Tolstoy. He never became a member, not believing in membership of anything, but he had an enormous influence on the young group. Gordon grew up in a Ukrainian forest, where his father worked in the timber trade and where he became aware of a "covenant between man and nature." He came to Palestine with a wife and daughter, but his wife died and he arrived in Degania, where he insisted on doing a full day's work. An intellectual and a writer, Gordon believed fervently that everyone should perform physical labor. He would write by candlelight on an upturned crate for a desk, using a pencil carefully sharpened with his pocket knife, and the following day report for work as usual. He was a pacifist and vegetarian, a lover of children and animals. When a rest period was called in the middle of a day's plowing, he would pick grass for the mules and feed them before taking his break.     A famous story tells of how, before he came to Degania, Gordon was working with a labor gang planting trees on the basis of piecework. As the other workers raced ahead, planting as many trees as they could, they suddenly noticed Gordon far behind. He was concentrating on digging deep and neat holes, planting the trees straight, and lovingly shaping the irrigation concavity around the tree.     He believed in the redeeming force of physical work, particularly work on the soil, and thought that the Jewish revival in Palestine depended on it. He was one of the first Jewish immigrants to become aware of the potential confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine and predicted that the people who most suffered for and worked on the land would inherit it.     "An alienated people with no roots in the soil," he wrote, "deprived of the power of creativity, we must return to the soil, to independence, to nature, to a regenerated life of work." But his influence came more from his personal example, his gentle personality, and his gift for friendship with the young than from his writing. He lived in Degania, on and off, until his death in 1921. One of the kibbutz museums is named after him. It contains his papers and reflects his love of nature and agriculture. By 1914 Degania had grown to a commune of some forty people. World War I was a particularly tough period for the Jewish community of Palestine. It was a time of economic stagnation and even starvation. The farming villages of the coastal plain, which owed their prosperity to citrus and viticulture exports, collapsed. In 1917, the Turkish army expelled Jews from Tel Aviv and the coastal plain. Thousands of hungry Jews, many of them children, were homeless in Galilee and the Jordan Valley.     Degania, with its mixed farming and successful grain production, survived the war relatively well, but the village was occupied for a time by the Turkish army, with its members forced to live in tents nearby. During this period, two candidates for membership, a man and a woman, committed suicide. The young man left a message saying, "You hope for a better future. I leave you my part in it. You have faith. I have lost mine." Suicides were characteristic of many early communes. Life in the country was hard, and several young pioneers took their own lives. Clearly there were always personal reasons, but something in the physical hardship and the intensity of the communal life seems to have pushed a number of people past their breaking points.     The expulsion of Jews from the coastal plain put enormous pressure on the settlements in Galilee, and Yosef Bussel was among those who worked feverishly to find homes and work for the refugees. In 1919 he was drowned while returning home by boat across the Kinneret, after attending a meeting in Tiberias to set up an orphanage for the homeless children.     In 1919, Degania formally became independent, leasing its land directly from the Jewish National Fund. By then the kvutza owned its own equipment, and it had become too large to run itself by consensus. A committee of four was elected to make decisions on a daily basis. Many members saw this as a perversion of the original dream and suggested the kvutza should limit itself to ten families. Although this proved impractical, Degania did remain relatively intimate. In 1920, Degania B was formed nearby, and in 1922 the third Degania commune was established. It soon became clear, however, that the land was insufficient for three kvutzot , and the third group moved to the Nazareth area, establishing the kvutza of Ginegar.     These developments were seen as natural, but there was great bitterness when Shmuel Dayan and several other members of the kvutza announced that they were planning to leave Degania and found a moshav ovdim (workers' cooperative village). The first moshav , a small village with individual households and farms and cooperative marketing, was established in 1914, and at the time many Zionist officials saw it as a more suitable model for settling the land than the kvutza . These men thought that the kvutza should have the role of initiating settlement but that, once the village was established, the commune should convert to a moshav or hand it over to a moshav group. In any event, the first moshav did not succeed, but after the war Dayan and his comrades sought to revive the idea.     Dayan recalled that Gordon received their decision with great sadness but, in contrast to many of the others at Degania, with love and understanding. He described a luminous evening, sitting by the Kinneret, with the white-bearded elder resting his hand on the shoulder of one of the those leaving and gently inquiring, "What is the reason for leaving the kvutza? What hurts you? what has not been improved? How can we improve it? What will happen to the kvutza if you, who have given it your youth and strength, abandon it? what will be the social content in your new form of cooperative? How can you be sure it will not degenerate like the other villages?"     In fact, the moshav answered a distinct need for farmers who believed in cooperation but rejected the intense communal way of life of the kvutza . The first successful moshav ovdim , Nahalal, was established by Dayan and his comrades from Degania in 1922, and the kibbutz and moshav existed side by side in Palestine thereafter. After the war, the Zionist venture in general, and Jewish settlement on the land in particular, took giant steps forward as a result of the Balfour Declaration. Proclaimed in 1917, in an attempt to enlist Jewish support for the allied cause, the declaration stated: His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.     It was the most significant political development in the history of the Zionist movement. Furthermore, it was followed, after the war, by the League of Nations, awarding the mandate for Palestine to Britain. Although the British, once they started ruling Palestine, sought to balance their promise to the Jews with reassurances to the Arabs, Jewish immigration escalated. The Jewish population, which had declined to less than sixty thousand by the end of the war, more than doubled in the next five years. Among those entering the country from Russia, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe were thousands of idealistic pioneers, who established new kvutzot and also larger communal settlements called kibbutzim . Others settled in moshavim , like Nahalal, and still more in the towns.     Weakened by the loss of some of its best members to Nahalal, Degania now became a full commune, abolishing individual accounts. It was to be an inspiration in the subsequent development of the communal movement in Palestine, but new ideas were emerging to challenge the "family" model of the first kvutza . Proponents of the large kibbutz criticized the kvutza as a sterile introverted society. They argued that it must expand to meet the challenges of the Zionist enterprise. Degania stuck to its guns, continuing to believe in the way of the intimate commune, and even those who disagreed looked on the kvutza as an example of idealism and practical achievement.     Degania grew and developed, with a wide range of agricultural branches, including orchards, fish farming, and eventually a factory. Unlike some kibbutzim, which took extensive loans for their development, Degania always paid its way. It was lucky in its choice of its factory for diamond-cutting tools, based mainly on exports, but it also preserved a relatively modest way of life.     The first kvutza had never seen its primary role as that of defense, but from its earliest days it was an outpost on the border of Jewish settlement. The first member of Degania to be killed, Moshe Barsky, lost his life in a battle with Bedouin raiders in the early years, and in the period leading up to the creation of the State of Israel, the kibbutz movement played a leading role in defending the Jewish community and forming the embryo army of the new nation.     In Israel's 1948 War of Independence, Degania's members were to play a heroic role, stopping the Syrian armored advance with homemade gasoline bombs. The British Mandate ended on May 15, 1948, and the State of Israel was proclaimed the same day. Arab regular armies, advancing on all fronts, invaded the new state. At Degania members dug trenches and prepared to resist the onslaught. The women and children were evacuated, but even the men who remained were virtually untrained, as the more experienced fighters were mobilized on other fronts. The Degania defenders were armed with rifles, Sten guns (locally manufactured submachine guns of very short range), and beer bottles filled with gasoline.     The first attacks by infantry and armored cars were driven off by gunfire, but then eight tanks advanced on the kibbutz. Two kibbutz members threw the gasoline bottles at the advancing tanks from pointblank range, immobilizing one and setting two on fire. The others retreated. One of the destroyed tanks remains in Degania to this day, a memorial to the role of the kvutza in the defense of Israel. Today Degania remains a symbol of the idealistic, pioneering past, but like a majority of the country's kibbutzim, the Mother of the Kvutzot is in the throes of change. Yom Kippur , the Day of Atonement, has always been the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a day of fasting, of repentance, of rendering accounts to God. Not widely observed in the early days of the kibbutzim, it has in recent years become customary for many members to fast and abstain from work on that day. One of the ways in which many kibbutzim have sought to infuse contemporary significance into ancient Jewish festivals is to hold a serious discussion about the kibbutz and its problems around the time of Yom Kippur, a sort of accounting of the past year. This has been the custom at Degania for many years.     When he was first elected to the post, the present general manager of Degania spoke about Umm Juni, the earliest days. After two years of managing the kvutza , however, he found that he was not in the mood for nostalgia, and he chose a different topic: whither Degania?     "We cannot go on like this," he told the assembled members, declaring that it was absolutely vital to change the way the kvutza was organized. "The almost total dependence of the individual on the community cannot continue," he insisted. "We have to transfer responsibility to the individual member."     In the early days, Yosef Bussel wrote in a letter to a friend who had left Degania: I am fully aware that people will not revolutionize their behavior in a short while in the kvutza . For people to feel and think as they should in a life of complete equality and complete partnership, they have to be born into it, and for that to happen generations will have to pass. Many things that we cannot achieve today will be achieved by comrades who have grown up in the new environment of the kvutza .     Today, Bussel's grandson, Chert Vardi, declares forthrightly, "I don't know what my grandfather would say if he were alive today, but I know what I would say to him. `You were a revolutionary,' I would point out. `You changed things. Now I want to change them in my way.' What was right in Umm Juni in 1910 is not necessarily right in Degania in 1999."     Vardi has the thick curly hair and broad brow of his grandfather, but he has not inherited his "thin stringy build," and, in contrast to the early photos of the founder, his hair is cropped short. No one could possibly suggest that he looks incapable of physical labor, as was said of his illustrious grandfather. He is chunky, broad shouldered, and ruddy faced, a true son of the soil. As chairman of the Committee for Manpower, Consumption, and Services, he is in the forefront of those pushing for changes in the system.     "I can't tell you exactly how we are going to do it," he admits, "but it must include a prize for the hard worker and a fine for the slacker. Public pressure doesn't work any more; we need incentives and penalties."     The contrast with his grandfather's prediction is evident, but not all the members of Degania go along with his ideas. Of course, Vardi does not remember his grandfather, who died in 1919, but Yoya Shapiro, one of the first children to be born in the kvutza , remembers her parents, Yosef and Miriam Baratz, very well. In her late seventies, with an outdoor complexion from her thirty years in the vegetable gardens, Yoya looks sturdy and strong. She wears simple clothes, socks and sensible shoes, and no makeup. She continues to work, putting in a five-hour day in the communal clothing store.     "I always knew there would be changes," she says. "I remember arguing with fellow members while we were planting vegetables and warning them that there would have to be changes in our way of life. I realized that we had to worry more about the individual, but I never thought it would come to this."     It is very difficult for her, she confesses. Her parents always said that the kvutza was not for everyone, but now she wonders whether it is for anyone at all. The world has changed, and specifically Israeli society has changed, and become more materialistic. Outside influences on Degania have notably increased. Not that the kvutza was ever cut off from society, but in the old days the world used to come back to the kvutza every Friday, when the members who worked in Tel Aviv came home. Now it comes into the living room every day via the television screen.     Yoya's father believed in equality and simplicity, and he was totally sincere. One member who worked in Tel Aviv used to bring his daughters toys and dresses and take them for days out in the big town, but not Yosef Baratz.     "My father also worked away from Degania," she recalls, "but he never bought anything for his own children. When he bought things, it was for the whole kvutza . He once bought sixty blouses for all the women. On another occasion he brought hats for everyone. Once he was given half a dozen radio sets. Do you think that we got one? It was distributed according to need and seniority. That was my father."     At the same time she recalls a row with her father over the "privatization" of the clothing budget. Many of the members of the commune objected to the fact that they did not own their clothes, which were distributed from the central clothing store according to need. Every member, man or woman, received one pair of working clothes every week. For the Sabbath, the men got white shirts and clean trousers and the women received dresses, but very often the garments did not fit. Many of the members felt that this was pushing the principle of equality to ridiculous lengths.     Yoya's father was one of those opposing the change, seeing it as an infringement of the principle of "to each according to his needs," and she told him, "You don't really live in Degania; how can you judge the situation? You receive the clothes that you need for your work in town and your journeys abroad. You don't have to put up with the idiocy of the clothing store!"     Her father was dreadfully offended, she remembers, but it was true that he spent a great deal of time away from the kvutza , performing various public duties. It was not just that the members often received clothes of the wrong size, she recalls. "We wanted to buy our own clothes--why not?"     On the other hand, she stresses that her father never took advantage of his outside work. He was famous for traveling on buses, always refusing the use of an official car. In Tel Aviv he never stayed at a hotel, preferring to sleep on a camp bed in the offices of the Soldiers' Welfare Association, of which he was the chairman. Once she visited him in the United States and was utterly appalled at the squalor of his hotel in Harlem. He saw nothing wrong with it. He did not want to waste public money on more comfortable accommodation.     Like many Jewish men and women in Palestine, Yoya joined the British army in World War II and was stationed in Cairo. As head of the Soldiers' Welfare Association, her father arrived on a visit to Palestinian troops in Egypt. All her friends were envious, sure that she would be treated to a meal and a room at the famous Shepherd's Hotel. She knew better. Her father did not go anywhere near Shepherd's, preferring to sleep on a couch at the Soldiers' Club.     In contrast to her father, her mother was always in Degania, working in the dairy until she was quite old. Yoya deeply admired both her parents and the other Degania veterans, accepting their values without question.     "They believed in equality, simplicity, and hard work, and so did I," she notes. "I still do." She is emphatic that she was not jealous of the children whose fathers brought them toys or dresses. "It was never important to me," she says simply.     Her first encounter with money was when she served in the British army. Promoted to sergeant, she refused to wear her stripes, which conflicted with her belief in equality, and as a consequence she was underpaid. When the mistake was discovered, she was awarded back pay and became the lending bank for her fellow women soldiers from Palestine.     "I have no idea whether they paid me back or not," she laughs. "I never worried about money. Even today I don't know how much anything costs, and I don't care.     "We now pay for meals in the dining hall," she says with the hint of a sneer, "but I can't be bothered to learn how to use the magnetic card. Somebody writes me down, I guess. I really don't know. I just take what I need. One couple at our table seem to spend all their time discussing the price of everything. It has never interested me."     Her son, Ron, has left the kibbutz. He studied law at a university, and for a time his law practice, in partnership with another member of Degania and members from other kibbutzim, provided a significant source of income for the kvutza . "He saw that he was bringing in a lot of money," says Yoya, and that some members were not working all that hard. He left. He has rejected our way of life. Not that he is entirely materialistic. He earned much more as an attorney than he does as a magistrate, but his ambition is to be a Supreme Court judge, not a highly paid attorney. At least he lives nearby, and I see my grandchildren, but I still find it very difficult. My father would climb out of his grave if he heard some of the things that Ron says about the kibbutz and the labor movement, but he couldn't have done anything about it, just as I can't. The world has changed; the country has changed. Young people are different today.     Yoya recalls that she never had proper furniture in her room at Degania--just wooden chairs, a kitchen table, and iron beds for her and her husband. When Ron came home from the army, he couldn't understand why their room was so sparsely furnished compared to other rooms. "So we bought a sofa and two armchairs," recalls Yoya with amusement. "We have never changed them. You are sitting in one of the armchairs now."     The Shapiro room remains modestly furnished, with very little in it apart from the sofa, armchairs, and books. It is air-conditioned, they have a television set, and her husband Avraham, a university lecturer and part-time journalist, has a computer for his writing; but otherwise there is no sign of the relative affluence of Degania.     Yoya's eldest brother, Gideon, the first child of Degania, married a South African woman and left the kvutza . He has since died. Her younger brother left the kvutza for more than twenty years but eventually came back. She has two sisters living in Degania, both of whom strongly opposed the changes that were implemented, and they are horrified by some of the ideas being proposed by some of the youngsters.     "We live here and work here," Yoya says with a big shrug. "Our ideas are no longer popular. What can we do about it? Bang the table? It won't change anything. People arrived in Degania in many different ways, for many different reasons, and they have different attitudes. Speaking for myself, I was born here, and I always accepted our way of life."     Yehezkel (Hezi) Dar arrived in Degania by a very different route from Yoya. He came in 1943 in the midst of World War II as part of a famous group called the "Teheran Children." Some nine hundred orphans from Poland, whose parents had been murdered by the Nazis, arrived in Russia after wandering with thousands of other refugees through the war-torn territory of Eastern Europe. They were sent on to Teheran, where they were cared for by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Polish Red Cross. From there they traveled by train to Karachi and then in troop ships to Suez, where they boarded a train for Palestine. The Youth Aliya organization, which looked after Jewish refugee children, found homes for them in various children's villages, homes, and kibbutzim. Eighteen of them arrived in Degania.     Most of them left after high school or army service, but Dar and two others remained and eventually became members of the kvutza . Dar worked in the banana plantation and other agricultural branches but graduated to youth leadership and teaching. He studied at Degania's expense, and today he is a professor of the sociology of education at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. He has also served as the secretary of the kvutza on three separate occasions.     Dar remained because he liked it, he explains, but he also very much believed in the communal way of life. During his first term as secretary of the kvutza in the 1960s, he decided to conduct a private research project on the feelings and motivations of the young generation, most of them born in Degania. He was appalled to discover that the reason they remained was because it was a pleasant way of life, or because their parents lived there, or because their friends were there, or simply because it was convenient. Not one of them gave him an ideological reason or even said that they believed in the communal way of life.     A bald, genial man in his late sixties, with a tendency to peer over his reading glasses, Dar divides his time between Degania and the university. His room at the kvutza is even more sparsely furnished than that of the Shapiros. His four children have all left, a fact he accepts with amused resignation.     "They are all individualists," he explains. They did not leave so much because of the communal way of life but because Degania is a small village. They wanted to live in a larger and more sophisticated society. "I don't know whether the changes now being discussed would have prevented their leaving. Possibly in one case; possibly not."     Looking back on his experience as kvutza secretary, Dar regrets what he calls "my insufficient sensitivity toward the individual's personal needs and feelings." His terms of office were several years apart, and he is aware of the changes in attitude in the different periods. In the earlier period, the individual was expected to suppress his own desires in the interests of the community. He recalls one case in which a veteran member wanted to study. He was prepared to leave Degania and work to support himself until he had raised the money, but his request was refused.     "Appalling," he pronounces it. "Today it would definitely be accepted."     Dar is sanguine about the current changes being discussed in Degania and in the kibbutz movement as a whole. He hopes and believes that Degania, and a majority of Israel's kibbutzim, will remain communities, "where there is more mutual assistance and responsibility for one another than in other communities."     He forecasts that Degania will remain relatively egalitarian: equality will be preserved in basic things such as housing, education, and health care, which will continue to be paid for by the community. He foresees adjustments "at the margins." Food, electricity, vacations, and hobbies are already paid for out of personal budgets, and the list will be extended. Personal budgets will be unequal, but not exaggeratedly so. For instance, if members earn more from work outside, they will be allowed to keep a small percentage of the extra amount. The next stage will be to evaluate the work members do in the kibbutz and extend the same principle to that, but Dar voices a note of skepticism.     "To be frank with you, I don't think it will solve our main problem of motivation," he says. "The ones who will get a bit more money are the holders of the responsible positions, such as the secretary, treasurer, farm manager, factory manager. In my opinion, they accept these tasks because of their personalities and possibly also for the prestige and power they entail. The extra money is not going to make much difference to them. The problem here, and in all kibbutzim, is the weaker members, who don't contribute enough. How do we get them to work harder?"     At the same time, Dar asserts that making people pay for their food and electricity has saved money. "People used to feed their dogs and cats on good food from the dining hall," he notes. "Degania has cut its food bill by 25 percent. We have saved thousands of shekels, and the members feel the benefit in their personal budgets." He adds with a smile, "If you ask me, the animals are much healthier!"     Degania has not lowered its standard of living, he observes, but it has saved money by cutting out waste and duplication. There is no economic crisis in the kvutza , mainly because the factory, with 80 percent of its produce going for export, was always very profitable. For many years, members of Degania did not inquire how much things cost or how much a branch earned. A successful branch was a happy branch that produced a good crop and whose members worked hard and were contented. Profit or loss? That was the problem of the treasurer. Now the kvutza is forced to be more practical.     Chen Vardi, at thirty-nine already eleven years older than his legendary grandfather when he died, is very conscious of his heritage. Legends are powerful in a place like Degania, and he can feel the ghost of Yosef Bussel looking over his shoulder, but he is undeterred.     When he left the army in 1980, he was very enthusiastic about life in the kvutza . Many kibbutz children spend years seeing the world, but Vardi only spent a few months abroad and returned to take up his life in Degania. It was only after about five years that he began having doubts. His biggest problem was with what he saw as the mediocrity and dependence of the members, particularly those born and brought up at Degania. He concluded that the kibbutz education created mediocrity. Anyone striving for excellence was derided as a shvitzer , a boaster. He thinks that the situation would be worse if it were not for the outside society. The society outside the kibbutz provides a stimulant, he believes.     "There are kibbutzniks who strive for excellence," he concedes, "but that is because of stimulus from outside. If all of Israel were one big kibbutz, the situation would be catastrophic."     The other side of that coin, he maintains, is dependence. As an office holder on various committees, he saw how members came to him for assistance about all sorts of petty matters that they should have handled themselves. He gives an example of how several members decided to wall in their balconies to give themselves extra rooms. This practice was discussed, banned, approved, banned again, and finally approved.     "What has it got to do with the community?" he asks angrily. "It should be left to the individual."     He is sure that the system has built-in deficiencies. According to the principles of the kvutza , everyone is equal; everyone is equally entitled to a person's time or attention.     "At Degania you can't say that X is an idiot or that Y is wasting your time," he points out. As a result, as the secretary of a committee, you spend 95 percent of your time on 5 percent of the problems. The weaker members of the community are the ones with the problems, and your job is to help them to function better. What happens is that you spend endless time with people who create problems, so when someone comes along with a solution to a problem, you don't have the time for him. Under the kvutza system, if somebody has a new idea, an initiative, a scheme for a new enterprise, a solution to a problem, or a way of doing something better, you never get around to discussing it!     Many kibbutzim have been forced to reexamine their priorities and principles because of their economic situation, points out Vardi. A member was entitled to a certain budget for expenses, a foreign vacation every few years, an extension of his home. Suddenly the kibbutz couldn't afford it. There was a painful confrontation between reality and the norms that were in force for years. Degania has not yet faced this problem. It has been shielded by the success of its factory. It can afford more or less whatever it wants.     Vardi sees a major weakness in the imbalance between contribution and reward. He wants to abolish what he sees as the exaggerated sense of entitlement. Too many members think that they have a right to everything without regard to what it costs, he maintains. There is no awareness that what is bought must be paid for. He wants to foster a sense of responsibility, a feeling of obligation. He hopes to redefine the boundaries so that a member is aware of the limits of the partnership. He cannot justify a system in which somebody who does not work receives exactly the same as somebody who does.     He wants to cut out wastage. Electricity was a case in point. His next target is psychotherapy. Quite a number of kvutza residents go for treatment to town. They get the day off, their travel expenses, and Degania foots the (very high) psychologist's bill. "Shouldn't members be expected to pay at least some of it out of their personal allowance?" he demands.     A lot of hitherto sacred cows are going to be slaughtered, he says, and so they should be. The system isn't working, and it hasn't been working for years. Did it ever work? He is sure that it did, but times were different, circumstances were different, and demands and expectations were different. It cannot go on as it is today.     "Yosef Bussel built Degania," quipped a cynical veteran. "Now his grandson is taking it apart!"     Vardi does not agree. He maintains that he is fighting to maintain the existence of Degania, which is not as assured as it may seem.     "We cannot return to Umm Juni," he declares, and of course I am not talking about the conditions. We're not going to go back to living in tents or huts, without electricity or running water. That's obvious. But 80 percent of what they decided at Umm Juni was because of the conditions. If they had not been crazy, they would not have stuck it out. They had a vision, and they were prepared to sacrifice everything to accomplish that vision. Today we have a different situation. We have a task and a different vision. The task is to ensure that Degania survives. To that end, we have to make it more normal, more in tune with the rest of the world. The proportion of older members is rising all the time. If all the young leave, Degania will become an old-age home. So that is the task: we have to retain the younger members by making Degania more normal. The vision is to maintain quality values. I am fighting for economic realism; but we should not assess everything from an economic point of view. We should be prepared to do certain things even if they do not make sense economically, but if they contribute to our members, to society, to the nation. That is my vision.     Partly because of its relative economic success, Degania, the first kibbutz, has not gone as far with the changes as many others. There is something very enduring about the place. It manifestly possesses a future as well as a past.     The past can be seen in the old basalt courtyard, where weddings and celebrations are still held, and in the museum. Looking at the old sepia-colored photographs with Yoya Shapiro is an exercise in living history. "There is Bussel," she says, pointing to the long-haired youth, posing in a group by the River Jordan. "That one is Tanhum, a good-looking man, he was. There is my father, and that's my mother over here. That is the cowshed, where mother worked. That is the old dining hall."     Less than half a kilometer from the photo museum is the future: Toolgal Degania Ltd., the kvutza 's state-of-the-art diamond tool factory, which manufactures saws; for marble and granite; dry-cutting laser-welded saws; diamond chain saws; core drills; grinding tools for the optical, ceramics, and glass industries; and diamond wheels for the gemstone industries. Toolgal employs 130 people, and its sales are about $16 million annually, over 70 percent of it earned from exports.     Although the factory's air-conditioned offices and high-tech work benches are light-years from the hand-dug irrigation channels of the founders, the basic principles by which the members live remain relatively unchanged. Wandering along the paths, under the tall shady trees, and over the manicured lawns, one gets the feeling that the kibbutz is permanent, that apart from a few cosmetic alterations, a few changes of nuance, everything will remain very much the same.     The relaxed, rural calm is deceptive. The sleepy, bucolic village by the River Jordan, where the kibbutz dream was launched nine decades ago, is not what it seems to be. Even here in the Mother of the Kvutzot, the symbol of the Israeli kibbutz movement, the winds of change are blowing. In the subsequent chapters we will see that in other kibbutzim they are blowing harder and that in some they have reached gale force. Copyright (c) 2000 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved.