Jan 08 2010

Kibbutz Nir David

by at 3:43 pm

For three days (two nights) while we were in Israel, we went up to Kibbutz Nir David, which is sort of in the corner between the northern border of the West Bank and Israel’s eastern border with Jordan, below the Sea of Galilee. It is kibbutz country up there, with one kibbutz after the next lining the roads.

We stayed on the grounds of the kibbutz in their little village of Swiss chalets, which actually looked Swiss, down to the interior decoration!  The surrounding date palm trees?  Not so much Swiss.  The chalets were pretty, spacious, comfortable, and clean, and apparently they are all full every Shabbat. More info and booking here.  Tourism is a big party of the kibbutz’s livelihood these days, and they do a good job of it.  The kibbutz itself is beautiful, with a river running through it, residents biking around, mountains in the distance, and houses fronted by amazingly creative flower and herb gardens.  It serves up a delicious and enormous Israeli breakfast to its guests every day.  There is plenty to do, too.  One can rent bikes or fishing poles, go swimming in the indoor sports center, or send kids on pony-rides on the in-house stable’s ponies.  There is an archeological museum, Gan Hashlosha (a park surrounding natural warm springs that source the river) with a nice dairy restaurant, a kangaroo zoo thing, an outdoor exhibit of kibbutz bells from the area, and the tower and stockade settlement site open for visits, all operated by the kibbutz on adjacent land.  We didn’t have time to get to everything, and besides, we were too old for the pony rides and it was a bit chilly to hop into the warm springs (though we saw one person swimming), but we banged on a lot of bells, climbed the tower, wandered the grounds, and watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains.

Bell
An old kibbutz bell

Two kibbutzim down the road at Hefzibah is the Beit Alpha ancient synagogue mosaic floor, which was restored to incredible condition.  It is beautiful and fascinating in its incorporation of non-Jewish symbols, such as the zodiac.  In the other direction, a short drive away, is the Beit She’an archeological site, featuring a Roman ampitheatre, a bathhouse, toilets, mosaic road, etc.  The enormous excavation uncovered not only Roman ruins, but Hellenist, Byzantine, and Ottoman Muslim ruins as well.  On our visit, we ran into a Harvard friend who came along with us and translated our guide’s Hebrew and read Ancient Greek engravings for us.  There are also a number of surprisingly good restaurants in the area.  Besides the one at Gan Hasholsha, just next to the Beit Alpha synagogue in Kibbutz Hefzibah is Dag Dagim, a nice dairy/fish restaurant, and we went to an amazing, informal Middle Eastern restaurant with salads and falafel balls galore located in a nearby gas station, of all places.

The Zodiac
The Zodiac of Beit Alpha synagogue

Attending to the Toilets
Sitting on Toilets at Beit She’an

Our family friend’s sister, who has been a member and resident of the kibbutz from the day she was born and who took us around the kibbutz, says, “Now we do everything here as in everywhere else in the world.”  I don’t think that’s quite true, and I hope it doesn’t become true.  The kibbutz has only in the last year switched from a communist system to a salary system, and many of the old, idealistic ways of the community have disappeared.  New members buy into the social future of the kibbutz rather than the economic one.  On the other hand, it has adapted admirably well and diversified its products and services from industry to agriculture to fish farming to tourism.  The children’s houses have become nursery schools and after-school programs, but the school yards are still packed with discarded appliances and furniture for the kids to play with.  Even though not all of the kibbutz’s employees live on grounds, everyone still knows everyone else.  It is still a very different way of life from that of the cities, and hopefully, even if children are raised in their parents’ houses and individual occupations are not determined by the community based on community needs, some of that original idealism will remain.

Sunset Tower
Sunset over the mountains, silhouetting Nir David’s stockade tower

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Kibbutz Nir David”

  1. Joshon 08 Jan 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Oh man, this takes me back! You were right near Maale Gilboa, where I lived during my pre-college year in Israel…I remember taking my family to Gan Garoo (that truly bizarre kangaroo zoo) when they came to visit me around this time of year, and hiking down the mountain to Gan Hashlosha to go swimming in the springs (not this time of year). The synagogue at Beit Alpha and the Beit She’an amphitheater are really cool. I love that you saw all of that stuff too!

  2. Jackieon 09 Jan 2010 at 12:22 am

    Josh! Yes, we saw signs for Maale Gilboa, and we thought of you and wondered how much of this area you’d covered. I also was wondering how you got to such a remote place without a car…from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Too bad you weren’t there with us this time around!

  3. Annaon 17 Jan 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Beautiful! And… a kangaroo zoo? I want to go back to Israel!

  4. anneon 17 Jun 2011 at 11:03 pm

    so weird to see this now – we lived on kibbutz nir david from 1987 to 1998
    and are going back to visit for the first time end of july.
    the weird part – we will first be spending a week in switzerland – with my high school friend in wildegg, and renting a car for a few days.

    anne

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