My Olive Tree has been helping the Israeli economy by planting and sustaining olive trees in the Negev Desert—developing it, transforming it, and ultimately restoring it. By partnering directly with the Israeli government, we are building on momentum to develop the nation strategically—one olive tree at a time, and moreover, one kibbutz at a time.
The kibbutz farming communities have been essential for the development of the nation of Israel since the early 1900s when Jews began to migrate to then Palestine for opportunities to begin a new life. Since all resources, including profits, were shared amongst the members of a kibbutz, individual profit was never the motivation, but instead, a better lifestyle and religious freedom were at the forefront.
Today, the kibbutz plays a similar role in the development of the country, especially in the Negev Desert. This desert makes up more than half of Israel’s landmass and is viewed by many as the next frontier for spiritually ambitious pioneers. My Olive Tree is committed to lending a hand in their development, one olive tree at a time.
Origin of the Kibbutz
In Hebrew, kibbutz means gathering. Today, the word is used to describe a large agricultural community that intends to expand with production. The population of a kibbutz can range from hundreds to over a thousand people.
Shortly before Israel declared statehood in 1948, the population was growing as Jewish people were flocking to the region for opportunities to live in kibbutzim (pl.). About thirty years prior, twelve pioneers from Europe came to Degania Alef to establish the first kibbutz. Through rigorous labor, they managed to transform the land and make it suitable for farming. Soon other kibbutzim emerged in Northern Israel; the key to their success was hard work combined with communal living.
Although the Israelis faced challenges typical of desert living, such as sparse rainfall, they worked closely with researchers to innovate new irrigation techniques, as well as take advantage of new farming technology that became available at the turn of the century. Eventually, they could rely on their own agriculture and turn a profit.
Not only were these kibbutzim communities essential for agriculture, they were also necessary for defense. Early leaders strategically placed kibbutzim so that Israel could protect its young army and growing population. For many Jews who were fleeing persecution, especially the Holocaust, the kibbutzim helped to mend the tears in the fabric of their culture. The close-knit communities emphasized hard work, family, and the good of the collective—principles that are revered as the foundation of modern Israeli kibbutzim.
A New Opportunity
With the building momentum of growth and prosperity, first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, became an early advocate for developing the largely unused regions of the country as well. Therefore, he turned his attention to the other 55% of Israel’s landmass: the Negev Desert.
“It is in the Negev that the people of Israel will be tested—for only with a united effort of a volunteering people and a planning and implementing State will we accomplish the great mission of populating the wilderness and bringing it to flourish. This effort will determine the fate of the State of Israel and the standing of our people in the history of mankind.” —David Ben-Gurion, January 1955
(My Olive Tree is committed to honoring Prime Minister Ben-Gurion’s legacy. Read more about his life by clicking here.)
Ben-Gurion saw opportunity where others saw a wasteland, and Israel saw enormous prosperity in agriculture in the 50s, 60s and 70s. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
“Since Israel attained independence in 1948, the total area under cultivation has increased by a factor of 2.6, to approximately 1.1 million acres.”
The kibbutzim thrived until the late 1980s, when high inflation rates led to economic decline, subsequently driving many members to seek out opportunities in the cities. However, in recent years the kibbutzim have bounced back—to the point where many of them have waiting lists for individuals and families wishing to become a part of these growing communities!
The Modern Kibbutz
The ideology of traditional kibbutzim has outlasted the practicality. The concepts of communal ownership could not keep up with the growing population and economy. While many Israelis are proud of the values of hard work and collective good, most kibbutzim have adopted privatized practices in order to thrive economically.
Compared to traditional kibbutzim, families of a modern kibbutz enjoy more economic freedom.
The kibbutzim of the early 20th century did not allow much (if any) ownership of personal property. Work was assigned and divided among members according to their abilities, and all profits and resources were shared.
Modern kibbutzim are typically privatized, which means members pay progressive portions of their earnings to their respective kibbutzim but make decisions with regard to how to use their own money, raise their family, etc. The kibbutzim use the raised funds to provide health care, education, and other services to the community. Today there are more than 250 kibbutzim throughout Israel, with a combined total population of approximately 125,000.
The Resurgence of Agriculture
As these small communities have grown, the dependence on agriculture has shifted to other industries, but the restoration of the Negev Desert is bringing more opportunity for developing agriculture than ever before. Covering more than half of Israel’s landmass, and not even one-tenth of Israel’s population, the Negev could be the home of many more kibbutzim in years to come. This is where you can help to establish more kibbutzim with your olive tree sponsorship!
Your Sponsorship Creates Kibbutzim!
Many of the olive trees cultivated by My Olive Tree are cared for by members of a kibbutz, and the profits raised from the olive oil are always reinvested back into the local economy. By sponsoring an olive tree, you are giving more than a mere donation or gesture that benefits today, you are investing in generations to come—into Israel’s future. Olive trees can live for many centuries, and we ensure that every tree you sponsor is provided for with adequate water and pruning so that it can reach maturity and self-sufficiency—carrying your legacy far into the future.
Young Israelis are so eager to join kibbutzim that they are putting their names on waiting lists that could last a lifetime, so now is the perfect time to help build a foundation for the next blossoming kibbutz in the desert. The Bible foretold that it would be the Gentiles who would help the Jewish people restore their homeland, and here indeed we are:
“‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing… ‘I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;… I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”—Amos 9:11-15
Nothing but good can come of your generosity for the Israeli people and the world. It is time to strike while the iron is hot—or while the desert is dry! Your contribution could be the difference between endless sand and endless opportunity. Let us restore the desert in the name of God! Sponsor your olive tree today!