Upcoming summit set to finalize kibbutz movements merger

The face of the Kibbutz movement in Israel is set to officially undergo a major overhaul this coming Thursday as the United Kibbutz Movement (Takam) will merge with the Kibbutz Artzi at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the upper Galilee. The Takam movement comprises 60 percent of the total kibbutz population, while the Kibbutz Artzi movement comprises 32% of the 273 kibbutzim in Israel. The Kibbutz Dati (religious kibbutz) movement is comprised of 16 kibbutzim. The Kfar Blum Summit will include 500 representatives from 200 kibbutzim. Both the Takam and Kibbutz Artzi movements have already approved the merger in votes within their respective movements, leaving only the formality of signing the final merger deal. Non-official cooperation has been taking place between the movements since 2000. It was decided to hold the merger ceremony in the north as a show of unity with northern communities affected by the Lebanon war. Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz, Vice Premier and long-time former Labor member Shimon Peres - along with MKs Haim Oron (Meretz), Orit Noked (Labor), and Avshalom Vilan (Labor) - will also participate. Various cultural, economic and social resources, such as training seminars for teachers, libraries, archives, research facilities and finance departments will be joined to create a unified public fund. The Kibbutz Artzi movement, formed by a group of Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair) kibbutzim, was always considered the left-wing element within the kibbutz movement. Over the years Takam, which prided itself on taking in as many new kibbutz members as it could, has criticized Artzi for thinking of itself as a socialist elite.