Beit Haarava

Kibbutz Beit Haarava: 1930-1948


In the 1930s a group from the Mahanaot Olim youth movement arrived at the camp in Sdom, near the new potash plant, in order to settle in the southern part of the Dead Sea. However, according to the policy of the White Paper, the British Mandate refused to permit them to establishment a new settlement.  Instead they were offered land near the experimental potash plant in the northern part of the Dead Sea.

In May 1939 a camp was set up, named Kvutzat Hahugim, and some time later Beit Haarava, near the Jordan River pumping station at the potash plant in Kalia. In order to bypass the ban on establishing new settlements, the place was defined as a camp for the factory workers, and indeed, the first work of the members of kibbutz Beit Haarava was unloading barges of potash that arrived by sea.

In order to prepare the soil for agriculture it needed to be cleansed of the salts, and consequently they built pools surrounded by earth embankments into which the water from the nearby Jordan River was drawn. The water filtered through, washed away the salt and also served the fish ponds, which were another source of income for the kibbutz members. Later the soil was prepared for raising vegetables, fruit trees and animal feed (for the dairy barn). The produce from Beit Arava was well-known throughout the country, due to the fact that the fruit and vegetable ripened early and its taste was superb.

Beit Haarava, as an isolated Jewish settlement in an arid region with a harsh climate, was suitable for military training which the Haganah conducted far from the eyes of the British Mandate. The kibbutz was also the destination of groups of illegal immigrants from Trans-Jordan.

On Leil Hagesharim (night of the bridges) (16-17 June 1946), a Palmach unit left Beit Haarava, on its way to blow up the Allenby Bridge near Jericho; the operation was successful. On Saturday, 29 June 1946 - called the Black Saturday, and as a response to the blowing up of the bridge, the British stormed numerous Jewish localities in Palestine, including Beit Haarava.  Many of the kibbutz members were arrested.

When the 1948 War of Independence broke out, the children of Beit Haarava were evacuated to Jerusalem. Later the road to Jericho was blocked and the only way of communication was by air. On 20 May 1947, the institutions of the Yishuv decided to evacuate the kibbutz. The members were evacuated by boat to Sdom, leaving behind a flourishing settlement. The photographs in this exhibition were taken by a member of the kIbbutz, Hanan Herzberger over the 9-year period of the kibbutz's existence. Beit Haarava member enlisted in the IDF and were the defenders of the camp in Sdom. Hanan Herzberger was killed in a Jordanian bombardment. The negatives of these photographs were kept by his children, Rami and Yardena. After the war the kibbutz members split into two groups: one founded Kibbutz Cabri and the other Kibbutz Gesher Haziv.

The exhibition was prepared from the collection of the Bitmuna Laboratory - the documentation of Israeli sources.


Close November 30, 2015