This is a photograph of a Shavuot celebration that took place in Kibbutz Hazorea in 1940. Two young members of the kibbutz are holding a large branch of grapes, reminiscent of the Bible story of the spies who were sent to scout out the Land of Israel at the time of Moses and Joshua. On the right of the photograph are other Kibbutz members, some holding the hands of young children who have kaffiyehs on their heads. There are two houses in the background, but otherwise the land looks empty and dry with no trees or gardens.
The Shavuot bikkurim celebrations were the climax of the kibbutz year when members celebrated the new produce of the year: fruits, vegetables, livestock, and even new babies!
Kibbutz Hazorea, which is situated in the north of Israel, was first established in 1934, eight years before this photograph was taken.
Possible Primary Sources
Posters advertising life on kibbutz, photographs of the early kibbutzim, kibbutz archives, oral history from members of Kibbutz Lavi, maps of kibbutzim.
Kibbutz Lavi and other kibbutzim on the tiyulim programme
This is another more recent photograph of a kibbutz, but in this case the photograph appears on a Shana Tova card (Happy New Year card) promoting the tourism services offered by Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan: a museum, a zoo, bed & breakfast accommodation, bicycle rentals, heated swimming pools, and more. By placing the cows of the traditional kibbutz next to a bed, which represents the tourist industry of modern-day kibbutzim, the central photograph illustrates the economic changes of kibbutzim.
Kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan is situated in the Jordan Valley, south of the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee).
A kibbutz is a collective community that was traditionally based on agriculture. The first kibbutz, Degania, was established in 1909. Kibbutz lifestyle was based on an ideology of equality: in return for their work, kibbutznikim (kibbutz members) did not receive a salary but instead received all the services they required, such as meals in a communal dining room, childcare, and healthcare. In the last few decades, however, kibbutzim have changed dramatically: agriculture is no longer the main economic branch of the kibbutz, and many kibbutzim have been privatized allowing members to work outside of the kibbutz and receive a salary. Another major change relates to the way children are raised. In the past, children lived from a very young age in “children’s homes” away from their families; today, all kibbutz children live with their families. In 2010 there were 270 kibbutzim in Israel and their factories and farms account for almost 10% of Israel’s industrial output and 40% of its agricultural produce.