It worked, but there's simply less idealism around now

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The Independent Online
From the time Ofra Yechieli was a baby until she was 18 years old, she lived in the children's house at Baram kibbutz and not in her parents' home.

"It worked for me," says Ms Yechieli, a university graduate. "I made friends who are closer to me than brothers and sisters. At the same time my relationship with my real sisters is not the same as it would have been if I had been brought up by my family."

Ms Yechieli, now aged 31, is still a member of the kibbutz, along with 10 out of the group of 16 children with whom she grew up. She is sad at the decision to end communal child-rearing at Baram, but considers it inevitable.

"The kibbutz has changed. There is less idealism in society. Television brought the world into the kibbutz. People wanted the experience of being parents - they felt they were missing something. If the parents do not support the idea then their children will worry."

Her own parents supported the communal rearing of the children. Most of the children liked it. Ms Yechieli points out that when Baram decided to end the system, the older children, who do not vote in the kibbutz assembly, "wanted to stay with the communal houses".

She says the way she was brought up gave children a sense of shared responsibility and control over their own lives.

There were disadvantages, however. Children with special needs might not get enough attention and feel "discarded, neglected by their parents". In later life, they sometimes showed "less warmth, less showing of affection".

The decision to return the rearing of children to the nuclear family was unavoidable, Ms Yechieli believes. Baram was the last kibbutz in Israel to drop the old system. "People don't like to be different from others. Who were we to say the rest of the world was wrong ?" At the same time, Ms Yechieli has no doubt about the consequences. The theory behind the kibbutz was the primacy of the group over individual interests. "Now the group will lose its place and the family in the home will gain primacy," she says. The day of the kibbutz may be over.