Communes forced to focus on profits to ensure survival Not long ago, the mere mention of having lived in Israel invariably prompted the query: 'Were you on a kibbutz?' In its heyday, kibbutz culture was synonymous with Israeli culture, and resonated broadly across cultural divides. Farming collectives formed in the early 1900s, kibbutzim played an essential role in the state's creation and were viewed by many as utopian due to their communal settings, striving for equality among members. The concept today is rarely discussed, largely thanks to a mid-80s shake-up within the kibbutz movement. Driven by triple-digit inflation, kibbutz leaders were forced to restructure communities in an effort to stave off stagnation. As a result, the kibbutz of old - communities modelled on egalitarian, socialist principles based on the communist motto: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' - is nearly extinct. Gone are the hallmark children's houses, communal dining rooms and equal salaries regardless of position. Instead stand policies of performance-based compensation, off-site employment options, apartment rentals to non-kibbutz members, privatisation and factory shareholding options. 'Kibbutz is at the end of its story,' said Haifa University sociologist Oz Almog. 'You shouldn't bury it just yet, but the ideology is about to be buried.' According to Dr Almog, the kibbutz foundation was vital at its inception, but has since proven an impossible ideal. 'Pure socialism according to communist ideology doesn't work because it doesn't provide any incentive to excel or work harder,' Dr Almog said. With a dwindling 120,000-member core nationwide and a 70 per cent foreign workforce, kibbutz leaders welcome change. Kibbutz Movement Strategic Planning Department head Ran Kochan acknowledges that 'what may have been relevant to pioneers in 1909 is completely irrelevant to the needs, wishes and wills of today's younger generation'. Orr Mizrachi, 29, left Kibbutz Yotfata a decade ago and travelled to California to find his fortune. He has since returned to Israel, but says he will not return to his kibbutz despite its prominent standing as a dairy industry leader. 'It used to be a place for people with ideology, but now it's a place for people without aspirations. And with the direction the kibbutz is taking towards privatisation, it's not a place where people live together and share anymore,' Mr Mizrachi said.