The kibbutz of Sde Boker is famous as the home of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister whose home is now a museum open to the public, and is the feature of a number of supporting exhibits in the kibbutz. Sde Boker is located in the center of the Negev Desert in southern Israel, a community founded in 1952 by a number of pioneering families who were later joined by Ben Gurion after an interesting encounter. Today, visitors from around the world visit to learn about the life of Israel’s iconic leader.
History of Sde Boker
Kibbutz Sde Boker was founded in 1952 by a number of pioneering families committed to establishing settlements within the far from hospitable conditions of the Negev Desert. Soon after, whilst on a trip to the town of Mitzpe Ramon, south of Sde Boker, Prime Minister Ben Gurion noticed a group of tents and basic buildings beside the road. Asking his driver who was living there, he was told that a group of pioneering families had moved from the center of the country to establish a settlement in the desert. Their vision of creating industry and life in the desert impressed Ben Gurion who asked his driver to stop off at the kibbutz. Told that it wasn’t so simple for a Prime Minister to just stop, he gave his aides two hours to arrange the visit and was thoroughly impressed with what he saw.
After returning home to Tel Aviv (then the capital of Israel), Ben Gurion wrote to the members of the kibbutz stating that he has never “envied a person, nor the qualities of anyone or their property. But when I visited Sde Boker I was unable to stop being jealous and envious of you: Why wouldn’t I deserve to participate in a community like this?” Staggered by the request of the Prime Minister to join their small and struggling community, the kibbutz pondered the question of whether to accept Ben Gurion. After a big debate (on the one hand, having the Prime Minister would immensely help their cause and development, on the other hand, he was an elderly man), and a vote, Ben Gurion was accepted with a margin of one vote, and made Sde Boker his home.
Today, Sde Boker has relocated a few hundred feet from the original community of huts and is part of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council (a group of rural settlements in this region of the Negev). The main industries of the kibbutz are its vineyard and winery, as well as various tourism businesses, and agricultural industries.
Ben Gurion’s Hut
It’s a truly incredible story, and Ben Gurion lived in Sde Boker for the remainder of his life apart from a brief spell in which he returned to politics. He hosted world-leaders and many other dignitaries in his home there, and, as a member of the community worked like the other members. His passion for developing Israel’s desert and membership of Sde Boker have undoubtedly been of paramount importance in securing investment in infrastructure and the creation of the thriving communities and industries in the Negev which continue to flourish.
Visitors travel to Sde Boker to visit the hut in which Ben Gurion lived with his wife, and the surrounding gardens and exhibits which pay tribute to him. The hut also houses the Ben Gurion Archive, amazingly modest in nature compared to that of other world leaders, contains over 5,000 books (the kibbutz built a large building to house the archive and him, but he refused, demanding to be treated like all members). The adjacent hut, which housed Ben Gurion’s bodyguards is now a museum about the development of the Negev and the impact Ben Gurion has had on it.
Ben Gurion Memorial Site
Just south of Sde Boker is Ben Gurion’s burial site, which is set in an incredible location overlooking one of the most striking and impressive views in the Negev, across the Zin Valley. Every year the political leaders of Israel gather here in memory of the visionary leader that Ben Gurion was.
Visiting Sde Boker
Entrance is permitted until one hour before closing
The Ben Gurion Memorial Site is open all day and entrance is free.
20 shekels per adult
15 shekels per child (between age 5-18)
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +972 (0)8-6560469
Address: Kibbutz Sede Boker 84993
For the Memorial Site, see: www.parks.org.il