Children of the Sun, Early Kibbutzim and the Zionist's Utopia
This is not your usual family.
Since James Fennimore Cooper’s The Crater, Thomas Moore’s Utopia, and James Harrington’s Oceana, the concept of a utopia is what inspired various political philosophers’ quest for the perfect society, by using humanistic philosophical principals. Even in early American history there have existed many utopian communities. These consisted of: New Haven Pennsylvanian German Colonies (1638), Shakers (1774), Harmony (1805), Oneida (1848), Halcyon (1903), Peace Mission of Father Divine (1919), Drop City (1965), Family of Mystic Arts (1968), The Farm (1971) and others. There are various accounts of ancient utopias, going as far back in time, as the Tower of Babel, it has even been the conjecture on the part of many historians, that the legendary Atlantis was an antediluvian utopia. Since the beginning of time, man has wanted to create the perfect society.
The Definition and Evolution of Kibbutzim and its Zionistic Roots
Kibbutzim was a Zionist experiment in building the perfect society by remodeling the traditional family structure and replacing the family unit with a commune family model. The word Kibbutz is the Hebrew for “communal settlement.” It is a unique rural community, whose purpose is to promote such values as social justice, and equality. This is achieved through joint ownership of property and raising children using primary care givers, instead of the traditional family unit. It is the fulfillment of the Collectivist’s idea, which states “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The methods used to indoctrinate children and control their thinking are very similar to some of the methods used in other mind control programs, such as MK Ultra and the Monarch Project. However, the Kibbutz community’s never employed cruelty or brutality in their treatment of the children; these methods of cruel conditioning were exclusively practiced by the administrators of the Mk Ultra and Monarch Project as well as other programs, that have a dark and secretive nature. The Kibbutz community was interested in creating a collectivist mindset, not one of personal enslavement, which is often the goal of other mind control programs.
The first Kibbutz encampment was created in 1910; by 1912 there were twelve encampments, and 805 members. In 1930 there were already twenty nine encampments and the movement had grown to 3900 members. By 1970 there were 229 encampments and having a population of 85,100, then in the year 2000 there are a total of 268 encampments and the Kibbutz population is 117,300 members.
Life in the Kibbutz has evolved since it early days. Back in the 1930 the first group of Kibbutz pioneers were completely separated from their parents and had to live in what was known as the children's house, just a short time after birth. At the present day, children live with there parents in the encampment, until they’re in their teens.
Work is considered of paramount importance to all kibbutz members. It is one of the values that defines this community. There is no excuse for not doing your fair share of labor. By no excuse, I am referring to illness as well. Most members of the Kibbutz are encouraged to do agricultural work; much of Israel’s agricultural prosperity is a product of the Kibbutz’s collective efforts.
A kibbutz is the product of Zionism, a Collectivist movement that proclaims that the Jews are a nation and a unique people, who must work together towards achieving a homeland. Even though Kibbutzim existed in 1910, Israel did not become a nation until 1948.
There were problems that resulted from Jewish immigrants from Russia and Europe not having sufficient training in agriculture. This made it harder and harder to compete with their surrounding Arab neighbors. There was also the issue of not having a national language or culture. The search for national solidarity led to the creation of the Kibbutz, an agricultural community that practiced living by Collectivist Principles.
Collectivism is a moral, political and social outlook that emphasizes interdependence in every area of human endeavor. The group’s goal is favored over individual goals. Collectivism is the foundation for all socialist movements, ranging from Communism, Egalitarianism, as well as Socialism in its milder forms, which is practiced in many nations in Europe.
Children of the Sun, a Personal Portrayal of Life in a 1930’s Kibbutz Encampment
Ran Tal’s documentary, Children of the Sun is an eye opening, portrayal of life in a 1930 encampment. It begins with a short description, stating the purpose behind the Kibbutz existence. The introduction states the following: “At the onset of the twentieth century, dozens of cooperative settlements were established in Israel. The founders undertook to create a pure society based upon equal economic and spiritual relations. One of the manifestations of this equality was the abolition of the traditional bourgeois family and the creation of a new family, the Kibbutz family. The first children of Kibbutzim were born into this revolution. They were expected to develop into individuals for whom the cooperative life is second nature. Moral, ethical human beings free of the ills of Capitalist Society.” “The New Man”
After this chilling introduction, one of the thirty people being interviewed recalls the time, when his father’s wanted to name him after his grandfather, and how someone else wanted a different name for him. Instead of automatically giving his father the right to name his son as he wished, the Kibbutz Community voted on the name. The name his father chose won by eight votes.
Those being interviewed give accounts of their childhood, which meant being separated from their parents and being reared in what was referred to as the Children’s House. The first phase in a Kibbutz upbringing was referred to as “Separation.” The Children’s House had a very harsh code, that went as follows: 1. Children slept in the children’s house and not in their parent’s home. 2. Parents were not allowed to put their children to bed, but must hand them over to the caregiver. 3. Parents were not allowed to visit their children after bedtime. This meant, that for these children, the nanny was everything. The nanny took the place of their natural family. This resulted in many lonely and frightened children sleeping alone in the children house. The children would often cry all night silently, so they wouldn’t wake the other children. They often had to listen to jackals howling at their doorstep, and this would cause the younger children to live under a lot of tension.
Phase 2- Group
The second phase in all of these children’s lives, was referred to as “Group.” This is where group identity, over individual identity becomes the child’s creed. The code for children’s group had the following rules: 1.Equality must be maintained between the children in the group. 2. Birthdays shall be celebrated modestly in class. 3. Gifts beyond the accepted standard shall be handed over to the group. These rules may be the backbone of most Collectivist thinking, but they are downright cruel, when you are a child, and do not understand, why they are taking away that gift that was given to you by a family member, only to support some misguided ideology. There is the testimony of one girl that was given, a red sweater, as a gift from her grandmother in American. She really liked her red sweater, it made her feel special. She only got to keep her sweater for a year, and then she had to donate it to the group. This type of ideology may look good on paper, but for a child, it is very hard to understand, why they have no right to keep a gift, from a beloved grandmother. Another disturbing aspect of group life was the communal bathing quarters, that children of both sexes shared till the age of ten. Children often have a natural sense of modesty when they already reach eight or nine, and are shy about being seen naked by others. There were also children that developed earlier and found it very intimidating, when they were viewed bathing by those of the opposite sex. If a child had any type of bodily imperfection, they couldn’t keep it to themselves, this created tension for many of the children.
They were so immersed into the group identity concept, that when they weighed the children, instead of writing down their weights individually, they would add up all their weights and write down a number, that was a composite of the whole group; the same was done, when they measured the height of each child. Even in the individualistic issues, such as height or weight, they did not get treated as individuals. They also lived very isolated lives in the encampment, they never saw cars pass by and they only saw an airplane every fifteen years, even the Amish are more in touch with the modern world, than the children reared in these encampments. The group identity is so strong that many of the children did not like to be by themselves. They had such a strong attachment to the group, that life outside the group frightened them.
The Unceasing Work Ethic
Another important aspect of the Kibbutz childhood is the unceasing work ethic. According to the Children’s Work Code, labor was divided in the following manner: 1. Second graders shall work up to one hour per day. 2. Third graders shall wash the floors in the children’s house. 3. Fifth and sixth graders shall be recruited to fieldwork during emergencies. The work ethic was of the utmost importance. There were no excuses, even illness, wasn’t an excuse. They were expected to do their share of appointed labor, regardless. This can be very stressful if you are a young child, but it was the only existence, these children knew of. They also didn’t encourage children to develop their own natural talents, so that they could pursue the career which would suits them best. Instead they were trained from childhood to pursue an agrarian life style, and to work in agriculture, let’s just say, we didn’t get our fantastic Jewish doctors from this group.
The Elite - When a Child Is Fully Grown
Then when these children came of age, they entered into the phase of their life, referred to as “Elite.” At this phase, most of these teenagers were sworn to an unquestioned solidarity to the group. When asked where they were from, they were simply to answer “from the valley.” They also had to endure very stressful initiation ceremonies. Their main objective was to win a special badge. Therefore, it didn’t matter how tough the challenge was, not winning the badge was so humiliating, that they would rather die, than not be given a badge. During that time period of their lives, sexual purity was emphasized.
When members of the Kibbutz Community were ready for marriage, they had what was known as group marriage ceremonies. This is when, five or more couples celebrate their wedding ceremony at the same time. They didn’t have a private ceremony, like most couples do. Even their wedding day was a group affair. After getting married they would come back to the encampment and live as part of the adult community. Their children represented, what was to be the next generation to be indoctrinated.
At this point, Kibbutz life was starting to change. This process was referred to as “Disintegration.” The Kibbutz assembly made the following resolutions: 1.Collective logging shall be revoked. 2. Children shall sleep in their parent’s home. 3. Kibbutz member’s homes shall be expanded accordingly. This meant, members of the encampment could now have many modern conveniences, such as televisions and kitchen appliances.
Despite these changes, some members become dissatisfied, and decided to leave the encampment. Some of those who left have regrets, and wish they would have had a more traditional upbringing. Some found that life outside the encampment, had little meaning. When one is brought up in a dysfunctional family, even that family is missed, when the children leave the household. These encampments created such an attachment to the group and the kibbutz lifestyle, that it was hard to have a “normal life.” It was hard to become a free thinker and make one’s own choices without having to seek the group’s approval. Even freedom, can take some getting used to, when you were raised with a group mindset.
Ran Tal, the Creator of Children of the Sun
There is not a lot of information about Ran Tal, the writer of Children of the Sun (2007) except that; he is he is now around 46. He was born in Israel in Kibbutz Beit Hashita, and his parents were farmers. He has done several other Israeli films, such as Malka Lev Adom (1996), Mashehu Totali (2000), Derekh Ben Tsvi 67 (1998) and Yaldey Hashemesh (2007). Ran Tal is a writer, producer and director, his documentary Children of the Sun is aired on the Sundance Channel, it will be remembered as one of the most thought provoking documentaries of our time.
The Contrast between Kibbutzim and The Biblical Design
The Old Testament
I would like to emphasize the fact that the Biblical Design and the Kibbutz Philosophy are completely opposed to one another. The Bourgeois family unit that they were trying to repress was not an invention of the Bourgeois, but designed and instituted by God. Since the creation of man, the family consisted of a father, mother, and children residing as an independent and unique entity, this design is ordained by the Creator, Himself. Throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Adam, and continuing with Noah, the family is as it was at creation. This principle is also upheld in the Torah, were the laws not only imply, but also support the traditional family unit. This principle is even built into the Ten Commandments, where it says, honor thy father and mother. Let’s just say, you can’t honor them, if you spend almost all your time with a primary caregiver. In the book of Job, we have an example of an excellent father. Job, lived during the patriarchal period, had one wife, seven sons and three daughters. Job’s family were a very closed knit family that dined together, and Job even made individual animal sacrifices on behalf of each of his children, as to render them righteous, if they have sinned, against God in their hearts. Job at the end, even gave his daughters, a part of the inheritance, which was very rarely practiced in that time period.
The traditional Jewish family since the dawn of time has always been a unit consisting of parents and children. This order has been upheld throughout the history of the Jewish People.
The Biblical Principle of Personal Ownership
Another principle that the Kibbutz Community violates is the right to personal ownership. The right to personal ownership is a Biblical principle. Even though, as a Christian, I refer to myself as a steward of all the things I possess, my earthly belonging are still mine to possess. This is ingrained in the Ten Commandments, in the commandment, thou shall not steal. This commandment does not only imply personal ownership, but the protection of such ownership as well. If everything belongs to the “group” then stealing would be an invalid principle. We all know too well, that everyone of us feels violated, to one degree or another, when our possessions are stolen. There are also many laws in the Torah protecting the right to have personal possessions, including laws of inheritance.
The Kibbutz a Violation of the Biblical Design
A kibbutz is a direct violation of the Biblical Design. It violates the natural family order, established by the Creator and Author of all life. Kibbutzim forces its members to live an unnatural existence, outside of one’s natural design, in favor of a humanistic ideology. That I believe is why this experiment failed and there had to be reforms. The reforms have allowed for a more traditional type of family life. Although, it was a failed experiment, it did have great significance, on how it impacted society in general. It has truly opened the eyes of many child psychologists, and those who theorize how children should be reared.
Conclusion, The Aftermath for Some of Those Who were part of the Encampment
When the encampment was disintegrated, this left many displaced individuals, who did not know the meaning of individuality. One of the people who are interviewed for the documentary recalls how hard it was to use the word “I” when he left the encampment, and had to begin to see himself and the world around him with “new eyes.” Another member of the encampment states that life outside the encampment, did not make sense, everything that had meaning to her, was part of the encampment. A couple of members of another encampment state the following: "We have to admit that the parents did not want to lose their freedom," an elderly man remarked. "They were afraid to be with their family, afraid of the personal family intimacy."
"My feeling is that you didn't deal enough with the generation of parents," a woman said.
We must never forget that for Jewish People, who grew up in these encampments, this was the only family they knew. This was home to them. Like I said, even those, who grew up in dysfunctional families, do miss their homes when they leave. The Zionist’s Utopia, the kibbutz, although a failed experiment, shows the triumph of the human spirit, to overcome and to adapt, even in difficult or unnatural circumstances.
I have seen many documentaries, but never one more moving, and thought provoking thanChildren of the Sun. If you have ever been interested in learning more about life in a kibbutz, this is definitely, a documentary you would want to see.
For more information on this thought provoking, documentary here are some useful links on Children of the Sun and articles on Kibbutzim, Zionism and Collectivism.
Zionism, Collectivism and the concept of Utopia