Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment


Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, Toby Perl Freilich’s informative doc about the first 100 years of the famed communal-living experiment that played a pivotal role in the history of Israel, poses a lot of questions but refuses to ask so many more. Calling on archival footage and interviews with kibbutz members past and present, the film remembers the early days of the movement when a bunch of socialist-minded émigrés moved to Palestine to “settle” the land, considers their role in founding and sustaining the Israeli state, and reflects on their changing position and possible irrelevance in a country given over to rampant capitalism. To kibbutz or not to kibbutz is the central quandary put forth by the film, which too often glorifies a supposedly selfless past over a self-obsessed present in which collectives are forced to privatize just to ensure their survival. Despite a few minor objections raised by some kibbutzniks, the film takes for granted the near unimpeachability of the original communities, giving only token mention of issues like gender inequality. Worse, the film never challenges the traditional Zionist narrative of the kibbutzim developing an untamed land, paying only lip service to the fact that it was already inhabited before the Jewish settlers got there.

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