chapter
92 Pages

Society

Since its early days, the new Jewish community in the Land of Israel (or the Yishuv) has been vying to maximize the financial, social and land resources at its disposal. Concomitant with central questions such as land acquisition and economic development, the question of 'settlement type' regarding social organization and economics has always existed. While the traditional family farms - whether separate and physically afar from each other or gathered in rural communities - were the dominant settlement type throughout the world, the Jewish pioneers in Eretz Israel were constantly searching for a novel structure that would best suit their needs. Like utopian thinkers elsewhere, these pioneers were looking for a form of settlement that would incorporate their social and economic aspirations into a system suitable for the attainment of broader goals, whether political or social. Unlike the utopians, however, the J ews in Eretz Israel did not asp ire to develop a universal ideology that would make the world a better place but rather concentrated, by and large, on achieving their own objectives. Their broad and long-term goal was to establish a new national Jewish entity in Eretz Israel through a fundamental social transformation and the creation of a 'new Jew'. Rural settlement was to playa central role in the creation of both the new individual, working with his hands and living off his labour, and the foundation of Jewish existence and presence in Eretz Israel. Therefore, the more successful the rural settlements and the more numerous their inhabitants, the faster the attainment of the general goal. This conception underlay the rural settlements' prestige and focal place in the Yishuv, or indeed in the overall Zionist movement to this very day.l

The choice and suitability of a settlement type was not, therefore, simply a question of organization or general maximization, but also a

social, cultural, political and geographic question. This quest and its adaptation to the changing reality has not ended yet, and even today Israel finds itself amidst powerful changes that are shaking up accepted conventions. New forms of settlement which have brought the Yishuv and the State of Israel widespread international prestige, such as the kibbutz and the moshav, are presently going through upheavals that threaten their very existence as weH as their organizational, social and economic definition. These upheavals have of course their more recent causes, but one cannot understand their full significance without placing them in their historic context, for the simple reason that they are but the latest link in a 110-year-old chain of changes, quests and adaptation to achanging environment.