Making the desert green, has long
been the goal of Israeli visionaries. At Kibbutz Revivim what began as a
dream is blooming into reality.
Experimentation using local underground
brackish water began in 1943 when Kibbutz Revivim was first established on
land bought by the Jewish National
Fund from local Beduoin.
The original, male-only, group began
working the land as part of a work brigade from Rishon LeZion (near Tel Aviv);
they were members of the Hanoar Haoved Youth Movement, and originally from
Germany and Italy.
Seeing sand and not much of anything
else for kilometers around, the group was challenged to create a self-sustaining,
agricultural-based cooperative community. The group of 21 young men learned
to dwell in the desert and founded Kibbutz Revivim. The first four years
of Kibbutz Revivim were devoted to agricultural experiments sponsored by
JNF and the Jewish Agency. Pioneer engineer, Dov Dublanov, developed a water
project to channel the flood waters of the Revivim stream for use in agriculture.
As the Revivim was then the southernmost
Jewish settlement in the Negev and therefore in a strategic location, the
Shedma Advance Group of the Palmach arrived in Revivim in 1945. Later during
the War of Independence, the Palmach defended the Negev settlements and organized
the Horev Campaign.
When the United Nations drew up the Partition Plan, Revivim was included
in the Jewish state. It is believed that the impressive work of the founders
of Revivim greatly influenced the decision by the U.N. to include this Negev
settlement within the borders of the Jewish state.
With the construction of the Yarkon-Negev
pipeline, significant assistance finally arrived in 1955. The water not only
lifted spirits, it paved the way for development.
Today transported sweet water is not
the only water source that makes the fields around Revivim bloom. Under
the direction of veteran kibbutz member and recipient of the Israel Prize,
Yoel DeMalach, it was discovered that the 10,000 year old brackish underground
water was excellent for irrigating desert crops,
resulting in particularly sweet fruits and vegetables.
Among the photographs on display in
the club house of Mitzpe Revivim, is a photo of Mr. DeMalach as a young man,
newly arrived from Milan, Italy. We recognized him immediately in the picture,
although it had been taken close to 60 years ago. Our tour of the greenhouses
and desert agriculture projects with Mr. DeMalach took on a special poignancy
after we realized he was one of the original settlers – we were walking with
Kibbutz Revivim today is home to 320
members, with more than 900 residents. Kibbutz income comes from various
sources including, the Raviv Plastics and Precision Molding Factory, Gvanim
Enamel Products, and desert agriculture.
In 1983, the 40th anniversary of the
kibbutz, the Mitzpe [hilltop] was turned into an outdoor museum. The original
buildings were restored and visitors can walk through the site where the
first settlers lived, and later fought during the War of Independence. Here
you can learn about the beginnings of Zionist settlement in the Negev. A
visit to Mitzpe Revivim allows us to imagine what it was like to walk from
Rishon LeZion in the center of the country, with only a backpack, to the
stark desert. Water, food and shelter south of Be’er Sheva were hard to find,
yet the pioneers succeeded. With foresight and courage, they built the fort-like
compound. As you tour the Mitzpe [hilltop], be sure to check out the long
range views from on top of the highest building. First look north and imagine
what they saw in every direction and then turn around and see the kibbutz
they established. The furniture, books, pictures and letters tell an important
first-hand account of how the pioneers relaxed in their spare time.
Be sure to watch the video — great overview of the history of the area. The
video presentation is in the same building as the cafeteria and restrooms.