Sunday, April 03, 2016

Yad Mordechai, Ashkelon, and visit to the Negev

On Purim Day, after seeing the start of Mishloach Manot at Nitzan, I drove to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai to visit with Yvonne Friedman, a long time friend who just retired from teaching English at Shikma, the secondary regional school located on the kibbutz.

Wild-ish poppies next to Yvonne's home
For years she was the coordinator of the English program here.  Yvonne was born in California, came to Israel as a volunteer to this Kibbutz, fell in love, and has never looked back.    In addition to sharing ideas for books to read, we agreed to try to read a Yochi Brandes book הפרדס של אקיבה (Akiva's Orchard), or at least try to start it and support each other.  (The author's book, The Secret of Kings, will be coming out in August in English.)

Before and after eating lunch at the kibbutz dining room (which is kosher as many tourists buses, etc. come to the area and visit the honey factory and the memorial to the stand the kibbutz took to the invasion in 1948 by the Egyptian army), we walked around the kibbutz.  Of course I took pictures of pretty flowers.  The three below were taken near Yvonne and Eilon's home.




Yvonne also showed me the water pump building that worked from 1949 to 1956 on the kibbutz to irrigate fields.
 It could pump out 30 sq meters of water per hour and irrigated 40 dunam (1 dunam =1000 sq meters) of land.

  Yvonne showed me the changes in the past  two years.  One is that the recently rebuilt high school has added three rooms as the population of the school keeps on growing.

Another change is the kibbutz got a grant to build more secure preschools that can withstand an attack.  Currently the kibbutz had to build high walls to protect them, the the preschools are incredibly dark inside.


Hopefully when I next visit Israel, these blue walls will be torn down and the pre-school buildings will be replaced by nicer looking and safer structures.

And the final "big" news is that 30 new homes are under construction and should be finished soon.   Half are built in one location and half in another, integrated within the kibbutz.
The new homes here are near the kibbutz swimming pool

These are almost finished are are south of the main kibbutz entrance
 The kibbutz membership is aging, and in order to keep the kibbutzim vibrant, many are adding homes.  In some kibbutzim, the new homes are for "residents" but not members.  In the case of Yad Mordechai, all will become members.  Many are children of kibbutzniks (some from YM and some from other kibbutzim) who want a less hectic, rural life for their families.  Some have been living on the kibbutz in small homes, waiting for these to be built.   The buyers of the new homes do not have the freedom to build in any style but pick from a small number set up by a special committee (with a maximum size of about 180 sq meters) and any one moving in has to be approved for kibbutz membership, but that has always been the case, and was when I and my former husband became members of Kibbutz Merom Golan.

There are also plans for adding 20 or 40 more homes.  Ten might be 100 square meters (less than 1100 sq feet) and be "rent to own" if the people living in them choose to do so after three years.  That way they get an idea of what it is like to live on a kibbutz and can decide if they want to continue.  If not, they can leave.

Below are flowers in the garden near the dining hall.
 The ones below are growing among antiquities found on and around the kibbutz years ago.
The last of the season's poppies
 Notice the drip irrigation used to water plans.

 Revital picked me up at 5 and we want for a walk in Ashkelon along the beach.  As you can see, the sea is slowly reclaiming some of the cliffs.  If you look closely, you can see uncovered pipes.  So some of the walkway has been closed off.

.Of course I took pictures of flowers along our walk too.

 Along the path we saw the burial place of Sheikh Awad, that was at least 500 years old.

We then went to Revital's home where I saw three of her four children.  I last saw them about ten years ago, and they have grown up beautifully.  The youngest, in 11th grade, took our photo, and then I headed home.


Sunday morning I headed south about 35 minutes to visit Haim and Shuna Ron at Kibbutz Shoval.  Over 40 years ago, I met Haim at Kibbutz Merom Golan where we were both members.  Shoval is about 20 minutes north of Beersheva and literally across the road from Rahat, one of the largest Bedouin cities, with over 60,000 residents as of 2014.  One day recently, Haim and Shuna's son-in-law came with a pile of nice wood and built this lovely place near their front door to sit with the family.

First we went for a ride around the kibbutz in Haim and Shuna's new covered electric cart, first to the Kolbo (store).  On the outside was a sign to honor the first who arrived on the sight on  October 6, 1946.
The day people arrive, Oct. 6, 1946, 11th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur)
 Members of 11 future kibbutzim--11 points in the Negev-- on the night of Yom Kippur (when the British thought all Jews were praying) went to special places and raised a building and tower and claimed the right to settle there, according to British law.  This is a picture of the event at Shoval.
The story is amazing.  Click on the blue link above to more about the story.  Revivim is supposed to have a museum too that celebrates the creation of the "11 points in the Negev" on Yom Kippur, 1946.

A bit later we went  to see the new neighborhood for 60 families, being built on the kibbutz.  The kibbutz got permission to convert agricultural land to new housing units.  Sixty new homes are being built for a younger generation of members, most in the 30s with children.  Over 100 members now are 70 or more (of the current 250 families), and new members will revitalize the kibbutz.  The kibbutz will also remodel older buildings for assisted living, etc.

  Shuna's daughter, Likush, and her husband and soon-to-be four children will move into the taller home below, hopefully this summer.  They have been living in a much smaller place on the kibbutz for several years now.  The maximum size of the new homes is 180 or 200 square meters (maximum of 2150 sq feet).  

About a half dozen families decided that they would like to own horses, so they remodeled an old building and created stalls and a running area for the horses and rent the space from the kibbutz.  
Horses eating near the dairy cattle
One horse gave birth to a female two weeks ago and kindly came out to greet us.


  She still seemed to be all legs.


We soon drove out, first to look for a field of flowers, but with the recent heat waves, we only saw a few yellow flowers at the sight and not the waves of red.  Usually starting in February there are red calaniot (anemone), followed by red poppies, and then yellow flowers.



We then headed south past Beersheva toward Kibbutz Revivim, , near the lower left corner of the map.
As we drove along, we saw Bedouin encampments along the road.  I was surprised how close to Beersheva some of them were.

 A sign one would not see in the US but in spite of the sign, we did not see any camels.

Along the way Haim told me of a new power plant built south of Beersheva and a national treatment sight for industrial waste at Ramat Hovav. 

I was also surprised to see how the new roads in the Negev and the upgrading of old roads, often to four lanes.  The Israeli army is moving its center for training to the Negev and as a result, simple apartment/condos  that ten ago cost $70,000 are now $400,000, in places like Yerucham, in what one time was the middle of no where.  (Ben Gurion's dream was to populate the Negev, and it is coming to be more of a reality.)

Brown signs in Israel usually mean something interesting for visitors/tourists.
At the entrance to the kibbutz is a memorial to the members of Kibbutz Revivim and Mashavei Sadeh that died fighting in 1948 to keep the Egyptians from getting the road NE.                                
 Haim standing in front of the memorial with the four columns of names of the fallen.             
WAZE sent us in the wrong direction but we finally ended up back at the right place, at the entrance to the kibbutz.

But I am rushing ahead.  Here is some background information.  In 1936-7 the Arab uprising started, lead by Al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.    The British Peel Commission was appointed in 1936 to look into the background of the problems, and the Peel Report recommended a two-state solution.  The Jews reluctantly accepted the report but the Arabs did not, so it was not implemented.  
The Peel Report gave the Negev to the Arabs, as there were hardly any Jews living there in 1937

By 1939, there were just three Jewish communities in the northern Negev. Ruhama was the southern most one, and had to be evacuated 4 times because of attacks.  The British allowed them to resettle there in 1944.  

When the Jews settled in Revivim using the buildings below (Mitzpe Revivim, the high point in the area), they also created "slicks," sights to hide weapons. The British did not allow the Jews to collect weapons but the Arabs were free to do so.    In 1946, the British had a surprise visit to a lot of places, and confiscated weapons from four slick-im, including one at Revivim.   Also, many of the Jewish leaders were imprisoned or not allowed to return to the area if they were abroad.  
Information on the Slick in Mitzpe Revivim
The UNSCOP (Special Commission on Palestine) visited the area in 1947 before the UN vote on partition, to decide on the lines of division to two countries. Because of the creation of the 11  kibbutzim in the fall of 1946, and the greening of the land and the nature in the next half year, Israel was given the Negev in the Partition Plan of the U. N.   

When there was heaving fighting in this area in 1947-8, the point that we then visited, Mitzpe Revivim, a high point on the area, was the Jews center of commend.

 We found the site where the battles took place where the British had had a fort, but saw it was locked.

Fort and locked gate with Haim's car in front: 
After a few minutes a woman "drove" by in a cart and told us that the site was not open, and in fact it was only open where organized tours came and arranged in in advance...and if we were in the neighborhood, we could join them.  She made it clear that we were not welcome even though I was from the US.  She drove off, and another car approached.  The driver was from Israel but he had family visiting from NY.  We told him what she had said but he was not about to give up. He went to the gate, and somehow opened it, and we all walked in!

Jews had bought land in the Negev in the 1940s and earlier but the British had not allowed them to settle there.  The Arabs wanted that area so that they could have direct travel between Egypt and Jordan.

The Jews were permitted by the British to establish a meteorological site at Revivim in 1943,


and they used that as an excuse to establish a settlement there, with a few families at the beginning.    You can see Haim standing next to the site.

The fort and directions to the different places of historical interest
In the fighting in 1948 Mitzpe Revivim became the command center for the Israelis.  There was a small airport and landing strip, a field hospital in a cave,  and more.  The signs were in Hebrew and English:

Entrance to the small cave
Behind the metal was the place that fighters dug in to fight
 Below is the large cave which also served as a field hospital.  It was closed, but Haim told me that there is a small museum in the cave showing the equipment used in 1948.

Entrance to larger cave

Tank used at that time
Tracktor from the early years and machine to break up the clumps of soil
A Shower in the early years


And the Auster which looks a lot like the little "guy" in the movie "Planes."

We headed back to Haim's home on Kibbutz Shoval and had a Nspresso coffee.  Many many Israelis have a Nspresso Machine.  Amalia got one from her children too.
Shuna joined us after work, and we all went to Beersheva for dinner at a restaurant called Siesta

After a good night's sleep, on Monday I headed north back to Nitzan.  

The next day I spent in Kiryat Malachi, visiting more friends including Carol from Phoenix who was in the area.

Tuesday morning I spent 2.5 hours visiting Achva Academic College, near Kiryat Malachi, and then drove to the Rabin Museum/Center in North Tel Aviv to meet with Amalia and a friend to get see this newer museum that traces the life of Israel, the world in General, and Rabin from the time he was born in the 1920s until his death in the 1990s.  I'll tell about both in the next blog!

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