Kibbutz Degania (Aleph) is Israel’s first kibbutz making it a very special and unique place. The kibbutz is located at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), in what is known as the Jordan Valley and was first settled in 1910. Throughout the course of the last 100 years Kibbutz Degania has grown and become more modern but it still retains the quaint feel that makes it so special. The kibbutz now offers a chance to peer back in time to see what things were like so long ago.
Founding Kibbutz Degania
Kibbutz Degania was the result of a few hard-working men and women who settled the area known as Um Juni with a vision in mind. What they achieved set a standard for the countless other kibbutzim which opened up in their wake. It was October the 29th , 1910, and the small group broke ground to establish a commune, the first in the land. The collective life that followed was applauded by many and Kibbutz Degania became the leader of the nation’s communes. Some of the early participants include politician David Ben Gurion, military legend Moshe Dayan and the hero of so many wars, Joseph Trumpeldor.
Kibbutz Degania showcases two museums, the multi-faceted Gordon House museum and the smaller Founders Museum.
The Gordon House was built in 1935 and is named after one of Degania’s notable citizens, Aaron David Gordon, who immigrated from the Russian Empire and spent his life working the Zionist movement and promoting the synergy between religion and nature. Gordon passed away in Degania and his achievements sparked efforts to preserve his name and continue his work. The Gordon House museum is a stellar example of Gordon’s life work. Comprised of three section, each located in a separate building, the museum covers everything from the ancient history of the Jordan Valley region to the founding of the kibbutz, with the third section concerning natural history.
The Natural History exhibition is an in-depth collection illustrating the geology, zoology and botany of Israel with a special emphasis on the Jordan Valley area. The collections include stuffed birds and mammals, preserved fish and reptiles and even soil samples from across the land. Exhibits such as all the birds mentioned in the Bible and a diorama of the plant and animal life on the banks of the Sea of Galilee are just some of the many fascinating things to be seen. Be sure to read the story behind the leopard pelt hung up on the wall!
The newest of the three sections, devoted to the history of human settlement in the area displays both prehistoric artifacts and special thematic exhibits on the development of the alphabet, techniques of fishing and more. An exhibit of the Canaanite Period contains hieroglyphic records of one of Egypt’s Pharaohs thousands of years back – something very tangible in the historical annals of Israel. There is much more to be seen in the building, including two shorts films either about Rachel the Poet or about the wildlife in the area (Hebrew, 20 minutes).
Visiting Gordon House:
Hours: Sun – Thurs: 10am-2pm, Friday: 10am-1pm
On the other side of the Kibbutz, where the original settlement was built, a house for living and a stockyard for the livestock and equipment can still be seen. A small building next to the living house which was once the kitchen is now the Founders Museum and can only be entered with advanced reservation. The original settlement is very picturesque and can be explored, however some of the rooms have been converted into offices. What once was the hen-house now hosts a lovely fish and dairy restaurant – gourmet foods in an idyllic location.
Visiting Founders Museum:
Visits must be arranged. Phone: 04-990-8125
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.