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Kibbutz Natur on the Southern Golan Heights will become a moshav. An interministerial committee last week gave the go-ahead for the kibbutz to become only the third in the last 100 years of the Kibbutz Movement to take such a step. However, in light of the large number of kibbutzim suffering from social and economic troubles, many may follow suit.

The shift to a less socialistic form of communal life will mark more than the end of a 27-year history as a kibbutz, it will mean the anti-religious Shomer Hatzair community will become a mixed religious and secular community.

Natur was unique even at its founding in 1980. The debate in the left-wing Kibbutz Movement then focused on whether settlements should be built on the Golan Heights, considered by some to be "occupied territory." But the decision was made and Natur and neighboring Kibbutz Gashur were built. But Natur never succeeded financially and did not draw new members, reaching only 30 at its height. The dreams faded, leaving behind a dying community. One founder, Mendi Kramer, told of how he had to take his children to distant communities just so they could meet other children their age.

A few years ago, Natur's members decided, like many other kibbutzim, that in order to grow they must allow people to build their houses on the kibbutz without first becoming members. After this idea also failed, the Golan Regional Council proposed transforming the kibbutz into a moshav. Hence the long bureaucratic process began two and a half years ago.

The other two examples of kibbutzim becoming moshavim date back to the 1950s and 1960s, when two religious kibbutzim, Bnei Darom and Massuot Yitzhak, became the more socialist form of moshavim, collective moshavim. "We have not lost our values, we simply understood that this is the only way to grow," Kramer said.

The move, whether by chance or not, perfectly reflected the dreams of a group of people from the Golan, mostly religious or formerly religious, who wanted to join Natur and turn it into a mixed community. After a year and half of deliberations, Natur agreed.

Twenty-nine new families have already joined the 13 from the original kibbutz, and there are now 90 adults and about 100 children. The new settlement hopes to reach 215 families in the future.

The present kibbutz members will retain ownership of the dairy barn, chicken coops and orchards; but they will give up ownership of much of the fields, which will be divided up among the new families. Future residents who move to Natur will work in their chosen professions.