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“In Israel’s early years—even earlier, in fact, during the decades leading up to independence—the kibbutz played an integral role in creating the country’s economic and political infrastructure. Based on a shared economy and hard work, the kibbutz was designed to build Israel from the ground up. It was also, at least partially, meant to attract young Jewish volunteers from all over the world, in the hopes of them falling in love with the country and staying for good—which many ultimately did.
To visitors at the time, the early-day kibbutz shined bright with opportunity, freedom, and charm. Images of young men and women in shorts, picking oranges and tending to farm animals, had been, in the sixties and seventies, a useful tool of advertising the kibbutz as a DIY utopia with tremendous friend-making opportunities, a touristic getaway with a great purpose. As the years went by, however, the kibbutz movement underwent a decline in Israel, and as the kibbutzim shrank in size and stature, so did their appeal to visiting volunteers.
In recent years, however, a rebranding process has been taking place, making the kibbutz attractive once more, to tourists and locals alike. Behind the awakening is partially Israel’s appeal as a “startup nation”: instead of orchards, co-working spaces; instead of hothouses, startup accelerators. And, instead of the old ethos of working the land and working up a sweat on the field, kibbutzim looking to attract visitors increasingly focus on wellness, sustainability, and cultural immersion.”
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