Israel's Good Name

University Trip: “Moshavot” of the Galilee

In Galilee, Israel on August 6, 2017 at 7:40 AM

The week after visiting Tel Aroma & Mount Gerizim in the Shomron I participated in another academic tour offered by Bar Ilan University’s Archaeology department. This time we were traveling to the north of Israel with Dr Einat HaLevi Attia to examine early “Moshavot” of the Galilee, settlements established in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the first waves of immigrants to the Holy Land. We boarded a tour minibus at the university and made our way to the first site of the day, Kibbutz Merchavia, after a short rest stop in neighbouring Afula.


We sat outside the “Great Courtyard” and learned about Merchavia’s founding in 1911 and their distinct organisational style as being a “co-operative”. Interestingly enough, they created the first dairy in modern-day Israel. Our subsequent tour of the courtyard’s buildings included the “Big House”, the “Produce Granary”, the Haganah Radio Station and later Israeli prime minister Golda Meir’s house. Getting back into the minibus, we then took a very short drive to the edge of the moshav version of Merchavia where admired a large manor built during those formative years and nicknamed the “Castle of the Jezreel Valley” due to its size and position overlooking the valley. Returning to our trusty minibus, we then drove over to where the agricultural establishment of Sejara once stood, founded in 1900. Today the remains are within a military base by the name of Chavat HaShomer (which I visited once several years ago but didn’t see the ruins).

Rose-ringed parakeet inspecting me from above

So, we stayed outside under a large tree and learned about the site before walking over to see Ilaniya, the successor of the Sejara settlement. There we were afforded up-close and plentiful views of the still-existent site – a settlement of one main street lined with agriculturally involved houses. I distracted myself trying to photograph singing goldfinches, but with limited success. Walking to a rooftop lookout, we passed farming equipment on display and then admired a large wall that was originally made with white chalk and then added to with blocks of dark grey basalt. From Ilaniya we got back into the minibus and drove to see a handful of ruined basalt buildings in Poriya, established in 1912.

Basalt ruins of Poriya

From there we took a short break at a strip mall where I purchased a bottle of semi-sweet hard cider for Shabbat and then on to the next site on our list: the Kinneret Courtyard just south of the ruins of Bet Yerach. A rectangular collection of well-kept basalt buildings, the courtyard was founded in 1908 as a defensible frontier close to the Sea of Galilee. We were greeted by our local guide, Asaf, who gave us a hurried yet sincere overview on the early history of the settlement and the difficulties that encumbered the settlers in those times. Inside the exhibits room of the courtyard, located within the old khan (roadside inn), we inspected items that belonged to that era, as well as signs depicting the important figures who played roles in the sites formation.

Kinneret Courtyard

Taking leave of the 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 on an interesting tour, including the following site which I had not known about beforehand. Driving alongside the agricultural date groves at the edge of the kibbutz, we reached the place where the first building was constructed in 1909 – at a place once known as Umm Juni. This structure was featured in the famous photo of the settlement members in mostly Arab garb posing that can be seen HERE.

Original structure of Degania

Beyond the structure is a wildly windy lookout overlooking fields and the dry wilderness beyond. Directly below the gentle Jordan River flows, nimble swallows (both barn and red-rumped) darting back and forth in the hot air overhead. I stalked a bird along the basalt rocks only to discover that it was a crested lark, nothing to get too excited over.

Picturesque view from Umm Juni

From there we went to the regular part of Degania, where the courtyard (a common theme this trip) beckons, with its basalt stone structures. Overhead we got glimpses of cormorants flying to and from the Kinneret’s banks, and the occasional goldfinch snacking in a pine tree. We entered the small museum just outside the courtyard’s domain and examined the collection of photographs taken over the years, including a particularly interesting aerial shot with the shadow of the German airplane that took it. I signed the guestbook, plugging my blog shamelessly, and we bid farewell to both Degania and our guide Moshe.

Cemetery beside the Kinneret

We had one last place to visit – a cemetery overlooking the peaceful blue Kinneret. Having discussed so much of the early years, it was time, at last, to see what has become of the valiant members of such noble efforts. We were there to pay our respects, and to have one or two last things to reflect upon before we returned to the urban sprawl of the centre of the country. Leaving the cemetery, we ritually washed our hands and boarded the minibus for the long drive back, another interesting trip under our belts.

  1. […] day following our Bar Ilan University academic tour to “Moshavot” of the Galilee took us on another tour, this time of the famous City of David in Jerusalem – where we all […]

  2. […] taking the scenic route through the old settlements which I had seen on a previous field trip (HERE). We crossed over the Jordan River and made our way through the picturesque green and yellow slopes […]

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