Kibbutz Maabarot is located on Highway 4, the old Tel Aviv-Haifa road, in Emek Hefer. Nearby are Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon to the south and Kibbutz Haogen to the east. Maabarot's founding members came to Palestine in 1925, settling at the present site in 1933. The total area of the kibbutz is about 3,400 dunams (340 hectares) and includes agricultural, industrial, housing and communal areas. It is a member of the Emek Hefer Regional Council.
In 1925 some members of Hashomer Hatzair ("Young Guard"), a Jewish Zionist-Socialist youth movement from Romania, who were temporarily in Kibbutz Gimel (today’s Mishmar Haemek), laid the foundation of Kibbutz Maabarot. While waiting for the Zionist movement to buy land for them to settle, the group wandered for almost nine years: from Mishmar Haemek to Afula, Jidro, Haifa and Hadera. Supporting themselves by working at any jobs they could find, they quarried stone, paved roads, drained swamps in Emek Zevulun and Kabara, were longshoremen in the old port of Haifa and built piers and wharfs in the new port. Some of them became construction workers on public and private building projects, with some working in citrus groves in or near Hadera. While they were in Haifa they were joined by the first Hashomer Hatzair group from Bulgaria and early in 1933 they united with one from Hungary.
In September 1933 the founders of Maabarot finally settled in a swampy area beside the Alexander River near a historic crossing that connected northern and southern Palestine. The new settlement was named Maabarot which means crossing or passage and was near a village populated by members of the Bedouin Hawarit tribe. Nahal (stream) Alexander was infested with malaria-bearing anopheles mosquitoes, so many of the settlers' early efforts were devoted to anti-malarial activities which destroyed the surrounding plant life along with the pests. A lone jujube tree (shizaf) remained at the top of the hill as a reminder of the former greenery. The first kibbutz meeting was held under its branches and in April 1994 a rest home for members, some of them founders of the kibbutz, was inaugurated and named Shizaf.
The British Mandate authorities built the Beit Lid-Hadera road in 1931. At the foot of Maabarot's hill, near today's road, were two deeply rooted eucalyptus trees and a well to which Arab women came to fill their jugs. Just before the War of Independence Maabarot's Arab neighbors left for reasons unknown. They were transported away in British army vehicles. Before leaving, a committee of villagers handed over their house keys to the mukhtar (liaison officer) of Maabarot for safekeeping.
The Youth Aliyah (immigration) Organization, headed by Henrietta Szold, was an organization whose goal was to save as many Jewish children as possible from falling into the hands of the Nazis. In 1939 Maabarot took in one of the first Youth Aliyah groups that arrived in Palestine from Germany. This group later joined the kibbutz. In 1939 the first Hashomer Hatzair group to arrive from Chile joined Maabarot.
Between 1939 and 1963 ten youth groups were educated in the kibbutz alongside the kibbutz’s own children. Some of these youths remained as members. In 1985 Maabarot began again, after a 22-year pause, to accept youth groups. Since then, three more have received their education here. Together with children born in the kibbutz, these youths who come from all over Israel have been the main source of population growth. As of 2012, some 830 people live in Maabarot: 682 members plus soldiers, candidates for membership, parents of members, temporary residents and 156 children. Nine members and children have fallen in Israel's wars or as victims of terror.
Until 1985 children were raised collectively and slept in children's houses. They were together with their parents mostly after work hours, on the Sabbath (Saturday) and on holidays. This arrangement was commonly seen as an educational step that prepared the children for collective living. It also meant the parents had time for social activities after work.
The first classes of lower grades were opened in a newly-founded elementary school in 1939. In 1945 upper grades 7 to 12 were added and a high school was established. The school, Ramot Hefer, which was built alongside the kibbutz, was one of the first high schools in the Hakibbutz Haartzi Federation. The youths lived in dormitories attached to the school, but in 1986 when the collective educational system was abolished and younger children started to live with their parents, the older students also went to live at home. In 1989 Ramot Hefer became a regional school, opening its doors to 12 – 18-year-olds from kibbutzim in the region: Gaash, Haogen, Horshim and Maabarot, as well as to students from other settlements. In addition, immigrant youth groups from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union came to study at Ramot Hefer. Social and cultural activities are emphasized during the long school day, in addition to preparing students for matriculation exams and graduation.
The kibbutz is the purest democracy one can imagine. All members are eligible to vote in the General Meeting. It is the kibbutz's supreme democratic institution, usually meeting every two weeks. Today its discussions are broadcast on the internal video channel to the members' homes and decisions are later made by secret ballot. All aspects of daily life are administered through elected committees, headed by the Secretariat, which includes the chairmen of the major committees: the kibbutz secretary, Economic, Finance, Human Resources, and Service Branch managers, the chairmen of the Members’ and Education Committees, as well as members without portfolio. Committees are elected for periods of no more than two or three years, in order to enable as many members as possible to take part in the management. In Maabarot there are more than 30 committees who regulate all aspects of kibbutz life. The committees are elected usually for terms of 2 – 3 years. The Economic and the Finance Managers are elected for terms of 5 years.
Maabarot tills almost 3000 dunams (300 hectares). The land belongs to the nation and is leased by the kibbutz for a period of 49 years. The agricultural branches include field and plantation crops (avocados, litchis and dragon fruit), an ornamental fishery and dairy farming. In the past agriculture was the economic basis of the kibbutz but today its importance has been sharply reduced, its contribution to the total income being less than 10%. The mainstay of Maabarot's economy is industry.
Maabarot’s industries include:
1. Trima, a pharmaceutical factory;
2. Maabarot Products, a conglomerate that includes Materna Laboratories which manufactures and processes foods using modern technologies. The leading products are Materna infant formula and cereals for babies. It also produces powders used by other food manufacturers. Additional products are Bonzo and La Cat dog and cat foods and Halavit, fodder for calves, concentrated feeds and veterinary medicines.
3. Metal Maabarot which produces complex machinery for factories all over Israel. One of its main clients is the well-known John Deere agricultural machine company.
Beside agriculture and industry, some kibbutz members maintain themselves through various small initiatives, such as a law office, photography studio, music studio, alternative healing clinics, etc. Almost half of the members work outside the kibbutz in various jobs.
Maabarot is a collective kibbutz. That means that all income from work, including salaries of members who work outside the kibbutz, goes into the common funds of the society. Every family gets an equal budget for daily expenses such as food, clothing, electricity, furniture, travel, and pastimes. The profits from the industries are distributed equally among all members as an annual bonus. All services and goods purchased privately inside the kibbutz are heavily subsidized.
The kibbutz supplies all social services such as health, education including the first academic degree, and care for seniors to all members according to their needs. National and regional taxes, national insurance, etc. are also paid by the kibbutz. All buildings – public as well as private homes – are owned by the kibbutz.