Water and Diamonds

Water and Diamonds in the Desert

Close your eyes and imagine a desert with some brush. For miles that is all
there is. Drinking water is as remote as the nearest city.

Diamond cutting workshop

Photo by M. Kaplan-Green
The time is 1943, the place the Negev.
The people, a group of young Jewish men seeking to create a settlement in
the Negev on land that the Jewish
National Fund
had bought from the local Beduoin. In the course
of learning if the land was suitable for agriculture, these idealistic young
men who had come from Europe, learned survival skills through trial and error.

Their sole contact with the established
Jewish community living further north, came in the form of a weekly supply
van that, in addition to staples, brought mail and visitors. The van would
arrive at Kibbutz Gvulot after a five to six hour drive through Gaza and Rafiah
and return the following morning.

Located near the Besor stream, the watercourse that drains the Negev, the
kibbutz is built on loess,
a clay-like earth, and is located 30 km east of the Mediterranean Sea and
35 km south of Be’er Sheva.

Kibbutz Gvulot, together with Kibbutz
and Kibbutz Beit Eshel were the first three communities funded
by the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency.

The kibbutzniks at Gvulot found that
while the loess was suitable for farming, the lack of water was a serious
issue, as it continues to be today.

Then, as today, water collection became
an important key to survival and growth. Water was collected in cisterns,
which visitors can see today. The meager 100-130 ml of annual rainfall provided
drinking water for the kibbutz. The remaining water was recycled and combined
with sewage water to grow crops on the experimental farm.

What began as a dream in 1943 grew
into a community. Today Kibbutz Gvulot continues to operate in the traditional
manner, where the meals, laundry and children’s education all take place
in a communal setting.

The original buildings are now restored,
enabling visitors to imagine what the original kibbutz looked like.

Original house made of mud bricks

Photo by M. Kaplan-Green

Among the original buildings was an
entrance or receiving hall known as the madafa. Rather than impose
European customs on the area, the young men adopted the Beduoin model of hospitality.
The madafa
was a sheltered space used to greet visitors and offer refreshment
and shade from the desert sun.

The medial clinic, operated by Dr. Diamant, was located there as well. As
word of the new kibbutz and the doctor spread, local Bedouin would come for
medical treatment. Additionally there was a bakery which was later used
to supply bread to the fighting soldiers in the area during the War of Independence.
Yeast supplies were dropped onto the grounds of the outpost each day. One
of the pilots was none other than Israel’s past president, Ezer Weizman. 

A heavily locked room was once the
diamond cutting and polishing workshop of Avraham Rabinovitch. A certificate
of his memberhsip in the Israel Diamond Exchange hangs on the wall and the
original equipment is on the work table. The photographs on the wall of the
people of Gvulot from the 1940s and 1950s are particularly interesting.

Text by J. Isaacson


The site is open daily:

Sun-Thurs 9 AM to 3 PM

Fri and holiday eves: 9 AM to 1 PM

Sat: 10 AM to 4 PM

Tel: 08-9983195

Kibbutz Gvulot is located just off Route 222.

Lodging: Kibbutz Gvulot Guest House: clean and comfortable.

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