Hundreds of building and settlement sites around Israel are currently undergoing processes of preservation and reconstruction. A limited number of the existing variety is brought in these chapters.
Israel’s ancient heritage enables one to encounter building traditions and architectural remains that span 5,000 years of history. Israeli laws ensure the preservation and existence of these remains through the “antiquities law”, dealing with structures that were built until the year 1700.
Over the past few centuries, Israel has gone through important historical processes, following which a few “younger” remains stand. These also enable one to encounter fascinating historic stories of important processes in the history of Israel from the start of the 18th century up to the first few years of the Israeli state. In order to protect and preserve these buildings, the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites was founded. The society works for the preservation of structures dozens and hundreds of years old and for their development as tourist sites. It currently controls hundreds of such sites throughout Israel, many of which hold activities, tours and various events. The number of sites and the diversity of their activities do not allow a comprehensive summary in a single article.
The sites in the following chapters are just a few of the abundance available for the lovers of architecture, settlement stories and preservation of the past.
“Kinneret Courtyard” and the “Tel Hai Museum”
The “Kinneret Courtyard” farm is one of Israel’s settlement sites from the early 20th century. This is where the first pioneers came to, including those that first formulated the idea of the kibbutz. Israel’s first kibbutz, Deganya, was founded near the farm. The place also had a women’s agricultural farm. The remains of the site were recently renovated and restored, and today one can join guided tours that display, among other things, the heroes of the time and the great ideas the pioneers had on route to the founding of Israel.
Another site that tells the story of the new settlers in Israel in recent history is the “Tel Hai Museum” in the Upper Galilee. The place was founded in 1916, and was used as a farm and housed the sheep shepherds and the field workers. During that time, control of this area was divided between the English and the French, which served as a background for several bloody incidents. In one of these incidents, in 1921, Joseph Trumpeldor was killed. He is still considered one of the heroes in the history of the settlement in the northern part of Israel.
The Palmach Cave and the Atlit Detainee Camp
The more central parts of the country are also saturated with stories dealing with the settling days of the past few centuries and the struggle to found the state of Israel. One of these interesting sites is the “Palmach Cave” in the Mishmar haEmek kibbutz. The Palmach Cave is an active tourist site, offering a fascinating encounter with the place where the Palmach’s special units were formed in the years prior to the founding of the IDF.
In the beginning of the previous century, and even prior to that, the cave was used for dwelling by Bedouin shepherds, migrating with their herds on the slopes of the Menashe Plateau. When the Mishmar haEmek kibbutz moved to its permanent location in 1921, the place turned into a play site for the children of the kibbutz. In 1941, when the decision to form the Palmach fell, the cave became the training base for the Palmach’s special units. Here, Mistaravim fighters (Arab Platoon) and working in neighboring Arab countries gathered, this is where the German unit, whose soldiers were meant to be assimilated in German units fighting in the western desert during World War II trained, and here the Palmach census was taken before leaving for daring assignments.
With the founding of Israel, the cave stood deserted, until it was renovated in 1989 by the members of the Mishmar haEmek Kibbutz, who turned it into a heritage site that attracts visitors from all over Israel and from abroad. (Watching Palmach Cave video)
Another site that tells the story of those days is the “Atlit Detainee Camp”. During the British rule over Israel, the site was used as a detention camp, detaining the illegal immigrants, the Jews that survived the Nazis during World War II and came in rickety ships in order to build their home in Israel. The British warships captured the ships in the middle of the sea, and their passengers, women, elderly and children, were taken to the Cyprus and Atlit detainee camps. The remains of the camp’s sheds remained standing. Today, one can visit the site, watch an audio-visual display and hear the story of the illegal immigrants.
“The Old Courtyard” and “Mikveh Israel”
In the list of settlement sites in the center of the country one may find the “Old Courtyard” museum in Kibbutz Ein Shemer near Hadera. This site reconstructs the days of the pioneers in Israel in the beginning of the 20th century, including the buildings, the work, the reconstructed bakery, the agricultural tools and tractors of those days, the olive press and the old Turkish train. Today, the site holds tours that show the agriculture and life in the kibbutz.
Nearby, close to Tel-Aviv, is the “Mikveh Israel” agricultural school. The place was founded in 1870 by Charles Netter, who was an envoy for the “Alliance” organization. The school was meant as an agricultural one for the children of the pioneers, in order to train them for a life of settlement in the country, a function it still performs today. At the school yard are several picturesque structures that remain standing since the site was founded. It also has a visitors’ center which is used by the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites as a central place for displays about preservation of sites in Israel.
“The Orange Growing Site” and the “Ayalon Museum”
South of there, in Rehovot, is an “orange growing site” named after Minkov. The site tells the story of orange growing in renewing Israel. It has a reconstructed packing house, a well, irrigation ditches, the home of a citrus grower and tracks on which the boxes of picked fruit were transported. Today, the place gives guided tours and holds diverse activities. Changing exhibitions and displays can be viewed here.
Nearby is the “Ayalon Institute”, which was used as a secret weapons factory when the struggle to found Israel was still taking place. All the factory halls were built underground, and the entrances were located under machines that stood over hidden openings. These openings were used by the members of the kibbutz, who lived there. Secrecy was kept in order to hide the weapon-producing activities from the eyes of the British. Today, one can ascend through ladders, reach the production halls and learn of the reconstructed process for the production of weapons and ammunition. At the surface, there is a tour between the buildings that were used by the members of the kibbutz, including the Laundromat, the bakery, the dining room and the living accommodations. An audio-visual display describes the history of the place.
Additional information about preservation and reconstruction sites is available at: http://www.shimur.org/english/index.php
The article and the photos courtesy of the Israel Tour Guides Association http://www.tour-guides.co.il/itg/