History of Kibbutz Hannaton
Until the 1970s, kibbutzim in Israel were either secular or orthodox. However, the success of the Reform movement's first kibbutz, Yahel, inspired a group of students loosely affiliated with JTS (the Jewish Theological Seminary) in New York City to plan a Conservative kibbutz in the early 1980s.
The students established a gar'in (Gar'in Nitzan) and started planning to move to Israel and build the kibbutz. Recruiting members from across the United States, they also joined forces with the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism, the Masorti movement.
Meanwhile in Israel, the Masorti movement hired rabbi Ehud Bandel to recruit a group of high school seniors to join a Nahal gar'in to help establish a kibbutz. During 1982 and early 1983, the gar'in (Gar'in Noam) grew to about 30 young men and women.
On 1 September 1983, about 30 mostly-Israeli members of Gar'in Noam moved to Kfar HaHoresh for training. They were joined on 20 September, 1983 by about 40 mostly-American members of Gar'in Nitzan, including several families with small children. Members of Gar'in Nitzan ranged in age from 19 to 35, whilst members of Gar'in Noam were all 18 or 19 years old.
In September 1984, the founders moved into the new kibbutz, which was named after a biblical town that existed in the area which is mentioned in the Book of Joshua. The founders were later joined by immigrants from South Africa, South America, the Netherlands, and Canada.
The kibbutz' fortunes waxed and waned, until in 2004 the kibbutz was forced to bring in an outside financial committee. Despite this, the situation worsened and the kibbutz kept losing money. The kibbutz' population also declined in the face of adversity, and most of the founders left, until in 2006 out of 114 residents, only 11 members of the kibbutz remained. In 1997 the United Kibbutz Movement began sending gar'inim (the plural of gar'in) of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed to help repopulate the kibbutz. In 2003 two gar'inim of graduates returned to Hanaton, planning to settle there permanently.
In a hearing on 24 August 2008, United Kibbutz Movement attorney Sagi Mirom submitted to the Registrar of Cooperative Communities (Hebrew: רשם האגודות השיתופיות) his recommendation that the existing kibbutz be renewed with the addition of 20 families from the Conservative movement, and that the garinim be evicted from the kibbutz. Faced with the choice of either enabling the ideologically hardline garinim to take over and "turn back the clock", or else allow Conservative families to purchase their way into the community and moderate the kibbutz charter to a more contemporary cooperative community, Mirom chose the latter, emphasizing both that the original remaining members had been open to compromise but were rebuffed by the youths, and that the families were interested in preserving the Conservative nature of the kibbutz as it had originally been planned while the youths were not.
On about 7 September, 2008, the assistant Registrar, attorney Itta Yellin published the decision. In accordance with Mirom's recommendation, Kibbutz Hanaton will be rechartered as a "renewed kibbutz" (Hebrew: קיבוץ מתחדש). Opposing his recommendations about the garinim, however, she refused to evict the youths from the kibbutz. Instead, she said that they must be allowed to apply for membership along with the 20 Conservative families. She cautioned, however, that they may not apply as a group, nor remain as an integral group within the kibbutz should they be accepted. She emphasized that they must each, individually, accept that the kibbutz is a "renewed kibbutz" and not a "collective kibbutz" (Hebrew: קיבוץ שיתופי), and that they would be expected to abide by the rules and behavior of the rechartered kibbutz.