Iconic Kibbutz Votes to Join Trend of Privatization

Kibbutz Ein Harod in the Jezreel Valley repeals system of economic equality which existed from its founding 90 years ago.

Kibbutz Ein Harod (Meuchad) in the Jezreel Valley - the home of the late Yitzhak Tabenkin, one of the ideological founders of the United Kibbutz movement, and a symbol of the collective ideology of the kibbutzim - will undergo privatization, in the wake of a vote by members last week to repeal the system of economic equality under which they had lived and worked since its founding nearly 90 years ago.

Following the decision, a special members committee will determine the criteria for determining the differential salaries of those members who work in various enterprises on the kibbutz according to their contributions and the economic success of those endeavors. Individuals' incomes will now be transferred to their own private accounts, rather than to the joint account of the kibbutz.

The obligation of members working outside the kibbutz to contribute their income to the cooperative will also be cancelled, as will the requirement to turn over retirement money, inheritances, and any other kind of financial compensation.

The members also decided that the kibbutz would pay each member reaching pension age a monthly retirement compensation of NIS 2743.

Retired members would also receive an old-age allotment of NIS 1800 from the National Insurance Institute, funds that until now had also been placed in a joint account. The new regulations are slated to go into effect in early 2010.

The kibbutz movement newsletter Hadaf Hayarok reported that the general assembly of the community's members, in which 335 of its 350 voting members participated, authorized the privatization by a majority of 79 percent.

Iftah Amami, director of the community, said that members would also now be responsible for paying out of their own pocket for education and health costs, which were previously covered by the collective, though those costs will continue to be partly subsidized by the kibbutz.

Kibbutz Ein Harod was founded in 1921 at the foot of Mount Gilboa, and three years later gave birth to the United Kibbutz movement. In 1952, an ideological split within the movement led to the splitting of Ein Harod into two separate kibbutzim, each of which retained the original name, adding either "Meuchad" or "Ihud" as a suffix.

As at many other kibbutzim, the kibbutz's enterprises - which include metal and furniture factories as well as agricultural endeavors - have run into economic difficulties in recent years.

Ahuvia Tabenkin, 79, the late kibbutz leader's son, said his father would have disapproved of the move. The elder Tabenkin, he said, stressed shared responsibility - of the individual to the kibbutz and vice-versa, and in this sense the kibbutz is, he believes, absolving itself of that obligation.