What Is A Kibbutz
A Kibbutz is small society of people who live together communally according to socialist principles.

Kibbutzim were first formed in the land now known as Israel in the early 1920s by Russian immigrants. These societies were established on the principles of social equality - where each member of the Kibbutz (a Kibbutznik) is to be treated as an equal. This means they work together collectively for the good of all. As the work load and benefits of the Kibbutz are shared by all members, each Kibbutznik's contribution is considered equal. Although a small percentage of the country's population lives on a kibbutz, they are an integral part of Israeli Society.

David Ben Gurion

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was a fierce advocate of the Kibbutz and believed it to be the cornerstone of modern Israeli life. He also believed that the establishment of Kibbutzs in the great Negev desert would bring about the development of the vast and beautiful region to such an extent, that he resigned to devote his life to the Kibbutz and commercial potential of the Negev. Many Israelis have sought to carry on the iconic Ben Gurion's dream. Kibbutzes exist all throughout Israel.


A volunteer can be viewed as a guest of the Kibbutz, who works in exchange for food, accomodation and some pocket money. Officially, as a volunteer, you have to work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week and have 3 extra days off per month. You have to be prepared to do any kind of work. There are days though, that you finish much earlier and if you really don't like the work you can ask to be transferred. Also, you can have more days of per month, you just don't get paid for them.

The relationship between the Kibbutznik and the volunteer

Life as a volunteer isn't all fun in the sun. Apart from the tiring and thankless workload a volunteer may have problems coming to grips with how the Kibbutz actually works and in understanding the attitudes of the Kibbutzniks.

In theory everyone on the Kibbutz is equal. This isn't really the case. Volunteers are not treated as the equals of Kibbutzniks. Why is this so? It's not easy to say - remember the Kibbutz is the home of the Kibbutzniks - they have lived there (mostly) all their lives and they have built it up from nothing. And they live in a family atmosphere. There are lots of children in a Kibbutz.
Volunteers don't stay for long (2 to 6 months) and it takes a while to get to know people. There have been isolated cases were a volunteer has abused the trust of the Kibbutzniks, which hasn't been forgotten - unfortunately other volunteers are penalised for this. This can be disconcerting to the volunteer who may have come from the other side of the globe with grand notions of working and living side by side with Kibbutzniks.

The differences between Kibbutzniks and volunteers are fairly easy to spot - the difference manifests itself in available rights and privileges - ie volunteers have very limited transport opportunities, the shop is open once per work for volunteers (a number of days for Kibbutzniks), and previously promised monthly trips are cancelled for no apparent reason.

As a volunteer you may feel that your enthusiasm and hard work is not being recognised or appreciated. The Kibbutzniks will usually give you a couple of weeks to settle in before they start making positive overtures towards you. A Kibbutznik will rarely pat you on the back, but if they do you know darn well, that you've worked your butt off and that you deserve it.

It is very much possible to make deep and lasting friendships with a Kibbutznik. In summary -it's all part of Kibbutz life and you shouldn't let it put you off - it's a learning experience.

Here, you can find a copy of the official requirements to become a volunteer, from the Kibbutz Programme Center

Volunteer Requirements
For specific questions about places in kibbutzim, etc, you can write directly to the Kibbutz Volunteers Office in Tel Aviv at


Copyright © 2000 Danny O'Brien. All rights reserved.