Michael Livni :

Who is Michael Livni ?

Over the past forty years, the world has come to realize the importance of a comprehensive understanding of the world in the face of the global challenge that humanity will face in the twenty-first century. It is in our best interests to be concerned about the environment. The point is to raise awareness that as we age, our children and ourselves will end up paying the price for our reckless use of resources, the depletion of our planet’s biodiversity. In addition, future generations will inherit the results of our pollution of the physical environment and the atmosphere with our waste.

The potential of intentional community :

Potentially, intentional communities, whether urban or rural, provide an almost ideal setting for putting into practice the basic principles of sustainability in consumption as well as in production (including services). It is therefore not surprising that raising awareness among members of environmental protection led many communities to create the Global Network for Eco Villages (GEN) in 1996 (https://citeecologique.org/en_US/2017 / 06/30 / le- reseau-gen /). GEN allows eco-villages to learn from each other and is the alternative to the village. GEN sees itself as an advocate for sustainability through educational programs in which the eco-village framework serves as a model.

Examples of proactive community initiatives to promote consumer sustainability are meals cooked in a shared kitchen and served in a shared dining room, community-owned cars, and community space for recreation. A community organization can facilitate the management and disposal of organic and inorganic waste. A community may also be better placed than an individual to initiate the development of infrastructure for the use of alternative energies such as solar energy. In its production of goods and services (by individuals or by the community as a whole), the community can promote initiatives compatible with the principles of sustainability. Perhaps most importantly, the community can set standards and educate for sustainable consumer behavior. It can serve as a role model and pilot for others in her environment.

Initiating and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle presupposes a vision of the world in which quality of life is defined by criteria other than material consumption. If this perspective seeks to transcend a philosophy of personal life and have an impact on society, then it must be expressed in an action-oriented ideology, where ideology is defined as “. . . a systematic set of concepts about human life or culture; statements, theories and articulated objectives which constitute a socio-political program. “

Intentional communities assert free will and sanity on the premise that human beings have the capacity to cooperate with others to shape their physical and socio-cultural environment, whether on the basis of logic (1) religious or humanist logic. In doing so, communities of intent encourage cooperation and reject the inherent determinism of mainstream society and Social Darwinism of neoliberal economic thought.

It is the fate of proactive action for sustainability that has emerged at a time when the very idea of a global ideology has been discredited. Postmodernism in general and the main economic expression of postmodernism, neoliberalism in particular, has rejected the legitimacy of ideology in the formulation of socio-economic policy.

Zionism and Eco-Zionism

Zionism was and remains the modern movement for the physical and cultural regeneration and redemption of Jewish people in their homeland. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was a partial realization of the Zionist vision and mission. To understand the still nascent term “eco-Zionism” it is necessary to briefly review the Zionist idea as such. Two different but complementary processes led to the emergence of the Zionist movement. Both are the result of the impact, direct and indirect, of modernity on Judaism and each has particular implications for the idea of ​​eco-Zionism.

Political Zionism, officially inaugurated in 1897 by Viennese journalist Theodore Herzl (1860-1904), grew out of the rise of anti-Semitism, particularly in some of the emerging European nation states. Herzl proposed the creation of a state for the Jews so that they could be physically and economically secure, so that the Jews will be in the same situation as of all nations, “like all nations.” In this context, it is clear that Israel, “like all nations”, has its unique environmental problems and shares responsibility for the well-being of the Earth, as part of the family of nations.

Environmental activists in Israel, who see their activity as an integral part of their identity as responsible citizens of the State of Israel, are comparable to the Green Parties in Europe and / or the many related non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They are concerned by the growing concerns about the impact on the quality and viability of human life of an exploding human population, with its consumption, technology and waste. As mentioned above, their reasoning emphasizes utilitarian considerations.

A second form of Zionism, called “cultural Zionism”, is associated with Achad Haam, pseudonym of Asher Ginsburg, 1856-1927. A. Ginsburg, in fact, believed that modernity posed a cultural threat to the relevance and existence of Judaism. To ensure the creative continuity of Judaism, a Jewish state in its former homeland was required. It is only in this framework that Jewish civilization and its values ​​could be expressed in a fruitful confrontation with all the challenges of the modern era. The Jewish heritage and its values ​​would be revitalized there in the process.

From a Zionist religious and cultural perspective, Eco-Zionism reflects the threefold divine alliance between God, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. Ensuring the well-being of the earth as part of a religious commitment to Divine Creation as a whole (2) constitutes an ideological / theological basis for eco-Zionism. Eco-Zionism coming from cultural Zionism implies a commitment to the totality of creation, with special responsibility for the Holy Land (Israel). The Midrash (Talmudic interpretations of the Bible) sees Creation as divine:

When the Creator created the first man, he took him to all the trees of paradise and said to him: Look at my works, how beautiful and beautiful they are, all that I have created has been created. for you. Make sure you don’t spoil and destroy my world, because what you spoil no one can fix. (Koheleth Rabba 7:13)

This is clearly a message for all people, each being tasked with finding a way to express this universal idea and ideal through the unique prism of his particular culture.

From a Zionist cultural perspective, the State of Israel, as a Jewish state, must accept the obligation to “cultivate the land and preserve it” (Genesis 2:15), as well as the injunction “Do not destroy” 5. Seen from this perspective, the raison d’être of eco-Zionism is distinct from the utilitarian reason of eco-Zionism, but it does not contradict it. Cultural Zionists, intentional communities have the potential to express their commitment to Creation not only by integrating sustainable practices into their daily lives, but also by developing rituals and general cultural life of the community that highlight this absolute value.

Intentional communities can integrate ecological thinking into the weekly and annual cycles of religious and cultural observance as well as the rites of passage of individual members celebrated in the community. Such cultural integration is essential to maintaining the motivation of the community necessary for the implementation of practical measures that can enhance sustainability.

Ecology. Israel and Palestine

Taken as an ecological geographic unit, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have become one of the most densely populated areas in the world. About ten million people live in an area of ​​twenty-five thousand square kilometers between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Within sixty years, Israel’s population has grown from one to seven million, mainly (but not exclusively) as a result of immigration. The accompanying development has resulted in significant degradation of the Israeli environment (Tal, 2002).

The exploitation of natural resources, especially water, has reached an absolute limit. In addition to the increase in population, it is also possible that global climate change is exacerbating a process of desertification in Israel, typical of some semi-desert areas of the world.

Since the 1950s, the Israeli public has worried about the preservation of natural habitats as embodiments of national heritage. However, global environmental awareness came late in Israel. In 1953, members of the kibbutz and others established the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. However, it was not until 1989 that the government saw fit to create the Ministry of Environmental Protection, still seen as a “Minor” ministry (3) with a paltry budget. Nevertheless, in recent years, environmental concerns have received increased attention. Significantly, at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009, President Shimon Peres pledged Israel to reduce its carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. In fact, the government only pledged 10%.

Kibbutzim and ecology

Kibbutzim often find themselves at the forefront of ecological controversy. Real estate developers value their land, especially kibbutzim land in the center of the country. Kibbutzim are de facto custodians of green spaces, but agricultural land use is not always compatible with sustainability. With regard to industry, the industries of the kibbutz have sometimes been blamed for industrial pollution. Awareness of the interface between the social and the ecological has only recently begun to express itself on the Israeli political scene.6 For the first time, the 2009 national elections featured a cultural Zionist Green Party. . He failed to recruit the minimum number of votes required to be represented in the Israeli parliament.

In the seventies of the twentieth century, kibbutzim became a network of intentional communities, the largest community movement in the world. The kibbutz movement must be understood in the context of Zionism, with kibbutzim seeing themselves as a synthesis of political and cultural Zionism. As a settlement movement, they served political and settlement goals by initiating innovative agriculture and settling in isolated areas. They did so within the framework of intentional communities, attempting to realize the value of social justice as expressed in the principle of equality of all members, which amounted to the expression of their particular cultural Zionism. They saw themselves as having a mission and were seen as such in the surrounding society.

Henry Near describes kibbutzim as “. . . intentional societies created in the light of an ideal. . . and embodying that ideal. 7 In so doing, kibbutzim played an important role in shaping the dominant Israeli ethic before 1948 and in the generation after the creation of the State. In the 1970s, however, a combination of factors led to the loss of ideology and “intent” in the kibbutzim. The ousting of the Labor government in the 1977 Israeli elections was a landmark in Israel’s history as well as for the kibbutz movement. The wave of postmodernist “end of ideology” in the West and the apotheosis of individualism that accompanied it reached Israel as well as a majority of the kibbutzim. It was precisely during this period that the “green” cause and its movements emerged as a political force in the Western world. The ideological disarray and the emphasis on ideological and economic survival did not allow the kibbutzim to adopt new perspectives and redefine their mission. The marginal attention of the kibbutzim to ecological issues reflects this then.

The decline of the kibbutz and the emerging global ecological awareness were out of sync. Perhaps this is why only one kibbutz, Kibbutz Lotan (see below), is affiliated with GEN. The characteristic definition of the ideological crisis evoked (4) above was therefore the loss of vision associated with the loss of belief in a “shlichut” (a mission). Martin Buber described the defining role of belief in infinite ideals, “an eternal center”, as the center of intentional community.
Buber wrote: “. . . the real essence of community lies in the fact – manifest or not – that it has a center. The real beginning of a community is when its members have a common relationship with the center that takes precedence over all other relationships. . . ”

Currently, a minority of kibbutzim still operate collectivistically, a majority have given it up. However, GEN has shown that the economic paradigm is secondary to the intentional aspect of the community to which members engage. Most of the eco-villages affiliated with GEN are not collective. However, they have a Buberian “center”.
Conversely, kibbutzim that maintain a collective framework are no longer intentional communities. They no longer have a vision with a program of action to create an impact on the surrounding society. As a group, only urban kibbutzim are currently intentional communities (see below) that have taken on tasks to help the surrounding society.

The case of Kibbutz Lotan

In 1983, Israeli and American graduates of the reform movement in Judaism founded Kibbutz Lotan in the Israeli desert of Arava in the south of the country. Among Israel’s 275 kibbutzim, Kibbutz Lotan is unique in its formal eco-Zionist commitment. Lotan has remained a small collective and intentional community (fifty-five adult members). Since its founding, Lotan has seen his intentional community involvement tied to the foundation of Zionist culture. In the mid-1990s, a handful of determined members succeeded in integrating the challenge of ecological sustainability into Lotan’s social and Zionist vision. This commitment was integrated into a global mission statement 9. This statement, formulated in 1997 in response to an internal crisis, includes a religio-cultural approach of integrating ecology into a Judeo-Zionist logic. Lotan’s collective and liberal religious identities were instrumental in responding to the crisis and integrating ecology into Lotan’s vision. Lotan’s geographic location within an extremely fragile desert ecosystem and its position on the global flight path of birds migrating between Africa and Europe 10 are two other factors in heightened ecological awareness.

Ecology: We strive to achieve the biblical ideal of “cultivating and preserving the land” (Genesis 2:15) in our home, our region, our country and the world. We are working to create ways to live in harmony with our desert environment.

By following the path of eco-Zionism, Kibbutz Lotan began to demonstrate the potential of an intentional community committed to the path of sustainability, as well as its challenges in the contemporary real world of Israel. Lotan emphasized on waste management. It compotes organic waste, in addition to reuse and recycle a lot of solid waste. An underground wetland built for Lotan sewage, funded by the Jewish National Fund, became partially operational and a center for ecological creation was founded. The Center was (5) pioneer in alternative construction and maintains an organic garden demonstration center. A 650 m2 eco-campus district was built using natural construction techniques (straw bales and earth plaster on a geodesic dome frame made of zinc-coated tubing). Kibbutz Lotan was successful in obtaining an eco-campus license for residential purposes 11.

The eco-campus welcomes ecological volunteers and training programs such as the Green Apprenticeship. These programs incorporate both practical ecological techniques and the eco-village design principles formulated by GEN. Until now, financial constraints have limited the use of solar energy (solar panels, for example) to replace electricity generated by fossil fuels. The kibbutz depends on private donations to its registered nonprofit company, Amutat Tzell Hatamar, for the development of its green projects.

Lotan is the exception that highlights the unrealized potential of kibbutzim. He defends the merits of both political and cultural eco-Zionism. Lotan’s environmental activists are particularly aware that the ecological challenge is regional. Lotan has been actively involved in the ecological awareness of minority groups in Israel, as sustainability should be a common concern for all citizens of the state, Jews and Arabs. Where politically feasible, this awareness has also included Jordan and the Palestinian Authority 12.

In 2001, the Ministry of the Environment awarded an award to Kibbutz Lotan for its outstanding volunteer work in favor of ecology in Israel. In 2006, Lotan received the annual award for eco-village excellence from the European region of GEN. Kibbutz Lotan is the only Israeli presence in GEN – an important factor in the image of Israel and Zionism throughout the network.

Current situation: ecology and the kibbutz

It is unlikely that the kibbutz movement will be able to initiate eco-Zionist activity at the national level, like the initiatives of Kibbutz Lotan. In particular, it is unlikely that the kibbutzim movement can project eco-Zionism as an expression of a cultural Zionist vision. In the mid-1990s, an attempt to create a green kibbutz organization to establish ecological standards for kibbutzim was lost. Following the implosion of the kibbutz as a movement, there was no way to fund the activists of such a national program.

Indeed, the term “kibbutz movement” has become a misnomer. There is currently an umbrella organization of some 275 kibbutz communities divided into three different types of kibbutzim, as defined by the Ordinance on Cooperative Societies (CSO), revised in 2005.

1.The collective kibbutz – currently about 25% of the total.

2. The “new” kibbutzim, essentially privatized or in the process of becoming privatized.

3. Urban kibbutzim, which have developed over the past two decades. Ironically, only urban kibbutzim are defined as intentional communities within the CSO. In my opinion, the educational orientation and local activism of most urban kibbutzim will lead many of them to become involved in a (6) ecological environment. Whether they will see this in a cultural Zionist context is an open question.

The role of kibbutzim in regional initiatives

Generally speaking, a partial kibbutz involvement in promoting sustainability has recently evolved – not necessarily with a formally stated eco-Zionist logic. In the Chevel Eilot (Southern Arava) Regional Council area, two of Kibbutz Lotan’s neighbors – Kibbutz Ketura and Kibbutz Neot Smadar – have a defined ecological commitment. Kibbutz Ketura established the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES). AIES is academic and aims to recruit students from all over the world, including Arab countries, where possible. This prevents him from making this institute an official place for eco-Zionist ideology, although its founders were personally motivated by cultural eco-Zionism. Ketura is also a founding partner of Arava Power Company, which aims to provide green (solar) power to the region on a commercial basis.

Kibbutz Neot Smadar practices organic farming, recycles, has an operational built wetland and is committed to living in harmony with its surrounding desert ecosystem. However, her core concerns, inspired by the ideas of Jiddu Krishnamurti, focus on community together with the aim of examining her personal existence in the light of interpersonal relationships and relationships with the environment. Neot Smadar’s approach to ecology is based on absolute values, but their source does not lie with the Zionist cultural enterprise.

Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, an Orthodox Zionist religious kibbutz in the Beit-Shan Valley, constitutes a major economic branch, organic farming, based on a Zionist cultural logic similar to that of Kibbutz Lotan. Indeed, it is possible that Sde Eliyahu would develop a full eco-Zionist commitment based on orthodox religious logic.

The two most promising sites for local eco-Zionist initiatives involving kibbutzim in the current Israeli reality are regional councils and regional schools. Regional councils are responsible for land use and waste disposal in their regions. Many regional councils now have ecological units. With the support of its member communities, councils can advance environmentally proactive policy. Among the two most prominent examples, the Chevel Eilot and Megiddo regional councils, the support and leadership of the local kibbutz is decisive. In the case of regional kibbutz schools, the initiative of local educators is important and often linked to the initiatives of regional councils.

In collaboration with the city of Eilat, the Chevel Eilot Council has set itself the goal of achieving at least 50% renewable energy by 2020. In 2008, its exceptional ecological unit played a decisive role in the organization of annual international conferences on alternative energies in Eilat. The council also recruited the Jewish National Fund and the European Union to develop the developed wetlands of Lotan and Neot Smadar.


The Megiddo Regional Council has launched a biosphere for the Ramat Menashe area, south-east of Haifa. Biospheres are plans controlled by UNESCO to create a balanced relationship between man and the environment in a given region. The biospheres will impact the environmental behavior of all settlements and link the region’s ecological efforts to an international framework. For eco-Zionism to become an important factor in the kibbutzim, it will have to be adopted as an ideology and a political program with national and international ramifications. Nationally, eco-Zionism would parallel the kibbutz’s earlier function as an expression of socialist Zionism. International ties with bodies such as GEN and UNESCO would echo the past significance of the kibbutz in the socialist and community movement around the world. Eco-Zionism on the kibbutz would also reflect the ecological mandate: think globally, act locally. Eco-Zionism could become a unifying center of significance for all kibbutzim who conceive of themselves as “intentional community”, having a particular vision defending one aspect of what a Jewish state should be.



1. A detailed examination and discussion of the development of ecological awareness is beyond the scope of this essay. Three thinkers catalyzed this process: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962), John Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), and Paul Harrison, The Third Revolution: Population, Environment and Sustainable World (1992) .
2. See gen.ecovillage.org (Google: Global Ecovillage Network).
3. “Ideology”, Merriam – Webster College Dictionary. 10th ed., 2002, p. 574.
4. A discussion of the roots of the postmodern rejection of ideology is beyond the scope of this chapter. At present (2009), it remains to be seen whether the current economic crisis engendered by unbridled neoliberalism will have an impact on postmodernity. See Michael Livni, “Intentional Community, Modernity, Postmodernity and Globalization: Challenges and Prospects”, 2007 (online at www.michael- livni.org) for a more detailed analysis of the implications of postmodernity for movements. intentional community, including eco-villages.
5. The injunction “not to destroy” is taken from the Bible verse prohibiting the destruction of fruit trees during the siege of a city (Deuteronomy 20: 19-20). See Eilon Schwartz, “Destroy Not – Different Readings of the Famous Verse,” jhom.com/ topics / trees / bal_tashkhit.htm. Google: “Eilon Schwartz – Don’t Destroy.”
6. Murray Bookchin (2007) dealt with the interface between the ecological and the social.
7. Henry Near, The Kibbutz Movement: A History, 1997, p. 325.
8. Martin Buber, Paths to Utopia, 1945 [1958], p. 135.
9. The full mission statement as well as additional information about Kibbutz Lotan is available on its website. www.kibbutzlotan.com.
10. Michael Livni, “In our community, ecology is for birds”, 2009, p. 40–41.
11. Michael Livni, “Combating Bureaucracy in Israel,” 2008, p. 54-58.
12. Michael Livni et al., “Building Bridges of Clay, Mud and Straw – Jews and Arabs Learn to Build Naturally in the Desert,” 2006, p. 42–45.



Bookchin, M. Social Ecology and Communalism, edited by E. Eikland. Oakland: AK Press, 2007.
Buber, M. Paths of Utopia. New York: Macmillan-Beacon Paperback Books, 1945 [1958]. Carson, R. The Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1962.

Global network of eco-villages. gen.ecovillage.org or via Google, Global Eco-village Network.
Harrison, P. The Third Revolution: People, Environment, and the Sustainable World. London: Penguin, 1992.

Ideology. Merriam – Webster College dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 2002.
Kibbutz Lotan. www.kibbutzlotan.com.

Livni, M. “Intentional Community, Modernity, Postmodernity and Globalization: Challenges and Prospects. “Ninth Conference of the Association for International Municipal Studies. Damanhur, Italy, 2007. Online, www.michael-livni.org.

“Fight the bureaucracy in Israel.” Communities – Journal of life in cooperation, summer, no. 139 (2008): 54-58.
“In our community, ecology is for birds.” Community Journal on Co-op Life, Summer, no. 143 (2009): 40–41.

Livni, M., A. Cicelsky and M. Naveh. “Building Bridges of Clay, Mud and Straw – Jews and Arabs Learn to Build Naturally in the Desert”. Communities – Journal of Cooperative Living, Summer, no. 131 (2006): 42–45. Lovelock, J. Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Near, H. The Kibbutz Movement – A History, vol. 2. London and Portland, Oregon: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1997.
Schwartz, E. “Destroy Not – Different Readings of the Famous Verse”. Jhom.com/ topics / trees / bal_tashkit.htm or via Google, “Eilon Schwartz – Don’t Destroy”. Tal, A. Pollution in a Promised Land: An Environmental History of Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.


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“Paris Kibbutz” is the first existing kibbutz, of the “rurban” type. It is also the name of the non-profit association whose goal is to promote a way of life inspired by the classic kibbutz and the urban kibbutz : the “rurban kibbutz”. This association was founded in July 2018.

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