This paper is the product of an independent study entitled "History of the Kibbutz: Ideology and Reality." My intent for the semester was to learn a lot about the kibbutz within this framework, then choose a narrower subject to explore in further depth. The kibbutz has intrigued me since I first encountered it in elementary Hebrew school. As an only child I was fascinated by the concept of the communal children's house; as I got older I was drawn to the institution's attempt to realize utopia. I think I am too much of an individualist to join a kibbutz myself, but I searched for answers this semester as though it was my own community. However irrational this may seem, I continue to feel a strong attachment to the kibbutz ideal.
My investigation of sexual equality on the kibbutz was restricted by a lack of available texts and primary research. The English periodical Kibbutz Trends has not arrived in Penn's library though it was ordered in September. Approximately three-fourths of the literature about the kibbutz is written in Hebrew, and I am not proficient enough to do research in the language. I had hoped to spend five weeks this summer on Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi as part of Project Oren's Israel through Art program studying photography, working on the kibbutz, and doing some primary research, but unfortunately the program was cancelled at the last minute. As a result I have spent only one night on a kibbutz (Kibbutz Gezer), though I have toured about a dozen of them. Most of the sources I have used were written prior to 1985, and many of them are from the sixties and seventies. Significant changes and advancements have been made in the last ten years which I was largely unable to discuss. Women are more aware of their situation; they are also being given more opportunties. While my paper does paint a bleaker picture than it perhaps might have if it were based on more current information, I believe its suggestions for change still have merit to today's kibbutzim.
What I have learned this semester extends beyond these pages. Usually when I write a research paper I emerge with a confidently-proven thesis and a wealth of knowledge about one specific topic. I like this feeling of having mastered a subject, however narrow the subject may be. In this case I am emerging with the feeling that I have just begun. I still have a lot of the same basic questions with which I started this independent study. What is happening in the kibbutz today? What direction is it heading? Will it survive as a utopia? Yet in September I only knew the myths and folklore that American Jews are taught about the kibbutz. Today I have a fair understanding of the history of the institution and the various issues it has struggled with since its inception. I can speak confidently about the facts which lead people to think there is a "problem of the woman" on the kibbutz, and I can discuss a few scholars' interpretations of these facts. I am well-aware of the limitations of my research, and it is that very awareness that puts me in such a strong position to eventually begin a more substantial study of the kibbutz.