Israel's Good Name

Kibbutz Degania

In Galilee, Israel on May 7, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Continuing with the adventures of May 3rd, following a few hours spent at the Hamat Gader resort, this post focuses on Israel’s first kibbutz, Degania. Founded in 1910, the kibbutz celebrated its 100 year anniversary just two years ago. That was the year I first visited Degania, on a Yeshiva trip. So I returned to cover it for Tourist Israel and to catch up on my lacking historical knowledge in regards to the early days of Israel’s rebirth. Here is the first house of Kibbutz Degania where everyone lived together in the early 1910s:

The original first house

My adventures first started at the Gordon House museum where I was greeted with locked doors and nobody around (kind of like a “Twilight Zone” episode). I read online that the museum was open until 3 PM but that website was last updated in 2001 so the information was outdated. I was crushed and decided to find someone who could open the museum for me, at least for a few minutes. At last I found living people and I asked them for help. They gave me a phone number to call and after a confusing conversation the woman agreed to come open the museum for me. I explained that I was a journalist and she gave me a tour, and didn’t even charge me admittance.

One of the Gordon House museum buildings

The most interesting of the three separate exhibitions of the Gordon House was the Natural History exhibit. The others were the History of Kibbutz Degania and the Ancient History of the Lower Kinneret Area. In the Natural History exhibit there are tons of stuffed and preserved animals ranging from birds to snakes and to a leopard skin that once belonged to a leopard which was killed nearby after eating one of local’s sheep. Here is a diorama of the wildlife found in the Lower Kinneret area:

Kinneret diorama

We continued on through the exhibitions, going from building to building. There were all sorts of interesting pictures from the early days when they worked the fields and had guards riding around on donkeys or horses to protect the workers and the crops. At first, in the earliest stage, the kibbutz was just a large house where everyone lived in together (some 10 people or so), a series of small building holding sheep, cows, chickens, supplies and a blacksmith workshop all build in a square and enclosed by a wall and then there was the dining room and kitchen in a separate building. The kitchen area is now converted into another small museum which just covers the history of Degania. Here is an old photo of the early settlers building the stables and cowshed:

Building the stables and cowshed back in the early 1910s

Today, the main house is now an office of sorts (all I saw was lots of paperwork) and the other building which once hosted livestock now contain various other offices and even a nice light restaurant. I had a few minutes until I had to find my bus out on the main road so I went in and bought a Coke, in a glass bottle. I sat outside and sipped, batting flies away as I listened to two couples (one local, one tourists from Spain) and their cheery banter. It was a lovely place to sit and relax and I was reluctant to leave. But the bus waits for no man so I gathered up my belongings and bid farewell. On my way out of the kibbutz I took this picture, the old farm equipment which once conquered the land now rests on display, the would-be rusty parts now decorated with paint:

Old farm machinery

I then exited the kibbutz and sat down at the bus stop across the road. It was a hot afternoon and the flies seemed to swarm relentlessly. The cars and trucks whizzed by and a young corporal sat down across from me, her large suitcase gleaming in the sun. I asked her if she too was headed for Teverya (Tiberias) and she was. Her reply was in English and before long I was privy to the facts that she was Canadian, a lone soldier and living here in Kibbutz Degania, not far from the original “plaza.”  Eventually our bus came and we parted ways, I headed for Tzfat and she for her army base down in the Negev. It was a long and quite enjoyable day but I was pleased to finally arrive home.

  1. Very interesting article. Is it possible for the general public to visit the museum ? What are the timings ? Apart from it what else is open to the public ? Thanks.

    • Thanks! Yes, the Gordon House museum is open to the public and so is the Founders Museum which I mentioned as the museum in the kitchen building. I don’t know what else there is in Degania – I’m not sure if there is anything. Here are the hours for the Gordon House and the phone numbers for both:

      Gordon House:
      Sun – Thurs: 10am-2pm
      Friday: 10am-1pm
      Phone: 04-675-0040

      Founders Museum:
      Phone: 04-990-8125

  2. […] got schnitzel sandwiches. Sated and ready for more adventure, we got back into the car and passed Kibbutz Degania and then Yardenit. Entering Teverya I once again found myself getting lost, although last time with […]

  3. […] couldn’t seem to find the archaeological discoveries. And so, as we crossed the Jordan after Degania I recognised exactly where we were headed yet didn’t know until that moment that the whole […]

  4. […] courtyard, with some noisy kestrels passing overhead, we got back into the minibus to be taken to Degania, which I had already visited in 2012. We met up with our next local guide, witty Moshe, who took us […]

  5. […] was the expansive nesting grounds on the banks of the Kinneret (or, Sea of Galilee) just outside of Kibbutz Degania. There, species such as night herons, cattle egrets, little egrets, glossy ibises and pygmy […]

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