The Israeli collective farms known as kibbutzim, once the darlings of Israeli society, have fallen on hard times in this hyper-capitalist era, in part because of the decreasing importance of agriculture and the decline of Zionism even among Israelis. Even the most prosperous of the kibbutzim explored by Gavron, a veteran journalist (Israel After Begin), find it difficult to retain the children who have grown up there. Stock market investment, land development and salaries based on a member's worth to the collective (rather than equal pay for all)--all anathema to the movement's early 20th-century founders--are now common practice on some kibbutzim. Gavron provides historical and contemporary snapshots of a dozen kibbutzim. The early history he tells through the story of some of the kibbutz pioneers is fascinating, if not new, and offers a necessary basis for those new to the subject. The most illuminating parts of the book come in his interviews with contemporary kibbutz members--some of whom are very ready to admit the flaws of the system--and in his exploration of the effects of the communal child rearing that used to be a kibbutz hallmark. Gavron's recounting of the 1985 debt crisis that accelerated the movement's downward trend, however, will be confusing even to the knowledgeable, as is his description of the different types of financial perestroika that kibbutzim have undergone to maintain their viability. Gavron, who admits to a fondness for the kibbutz, states in his conclusion that the death knell is arriving for many of the collectives, once dubbed the experiment that didn't fail. As one member puts it, ""It is a painful process. There is a feeling of loss, of uncertainty. No one knows where it will end.""