Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kibbutz Negba - By Chance

We were driving back from Ashkelon when we saw a sign for the Yoav Monument. Since the area we were in was called the Yoav Region, I thought that the Monument would reveal what "Yoav" was all about. (But that, my friends, is for another blog.)
I asked my husband to turn off the road to visit the Yoav Monument, and he agreed. After driving for about ten minutes in the middle of green fields, we still saw no monument, but we did spot a brown sign that read, "Tower and Stockade".
I knew about the Tower and Stockade (Choma and Migdal) kibbutzim from our travels to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the Negev and Kibbutz Chanita on the Lebanese border. Choma and Migdal kibbutzim were put up in the middle of the night in the Pre-State of the 1930s by young idealistic Jews who were trying to hold on to the Land of Israel before the British could partition it.

According to the Society for the Protection of Israel's Heritage Sites, "a wooden tower crowned by a searchlight for observation and signaling was constructed in the middle of the settlement, surrounded by a few huts. The entire area was enclosed by a wall, 1.80m. in height, built of two wooden fences, between which was a gravel infill as protection from bullets. Within less than three years, 55 new communities were established - a leap from nothing to a period of intensive progress. 'Tower and stockade' settlements were established throughout the country, from kibbutz Dan, in the North, to Kibbutz Negba in the Negev (South), many of them in areas where there was formerly no Jewish Yishuv (community)."
These settlements and their builders, my husband explained to me, were the forerunners of today's hilltop communities and the hilltop youth. The situation is just about the same - the land is threatened, Arabs are building and spreading out everywhere without stop, and the Jewish people were forbidden from building. IY"H, the results will also be the same - dozens of new communities throughout Eretz Yisrael.
Kibbutz Negba
As we entered Kibbutz Negba, founded in 1939 (then, the southernmost Jewish settlement in British Mandate Palestine), we were greeted by an actual Tower and Stockade. It was exciting to see right before me, what I had only read about in such heroic stories. We took a bunch of photos and then entered Negba, which is called an Open Museum.
On display right outside is an Egyptian tank, which was gifted to the children of Negba by the IDF. The young people of Negba fought the Egyptian forces for three months in 1948. They were members of Hashomer Hatzair from Poland. They fought valiantly. During the first onslaught of the Egyptian forces, about 150 young people held out against 1000 Egyptians. In the second onslaught 200 young people and reinforcements were faced with 2000 Egyptians. The kibbutz was destroyed and many of its defenders fell in battle.
Off to the left of the entrance of the kibbutz is a cemetery and a war memorial to those Negba fighters who died in battle.

But Negba wasn't only about war, it was about going on, growing and prospering. Across from the EgyptianBut Negba wasn't only about war, it was about going on, growing and prospering. Across from the Egyptian

But Negba wasn't only about war, it was about going on, growing and prospering. Across from the Egyptian tank is the settlement's first tractor and first plow. The ability to grow their own food, along with the building of its first water tower helped Negba survive.
Cart Town
As we walked around Negba, we noticed many little carts parked here and there. Meir Mindel, manager of the Negba Heritage Centre, told us that several of the young defenders of Negba were still alive, B"H. They're in their 90s, and since it's not so easy to get around, they all drive these little carts.
But the carts were all parked, and their drivers were no where to be found. Meir told us that while they couldn't get around physically so well, they still like to learn, and a bus picks them up every week and takes them to university for classes.
Meir said, "These people are the ones who made the history of this place." Perhaps when we return next time, we'll get to meet some of the original hilltop youth.
You can see here the IDF war memorial, the abandoned Egyptian tank, the shell scarred water-tower, and the first tractor to have ploughed the soil in this area. The Open Museum emphasizes major events of modern history of Israel: the Land Acquisition in 1930; the Immigration of the pioneers in 1933; the possession of the site in 1939; the War of Independence in which 150 defenders managed to hold off attacks by some 1000 soldiers of the Egyptian Army. And exhibition also relates to modern day Negba, a proud and optimistic kibbutz, that has found a successful mix of agriculture, industry and tourism.

For more information or even a tour by Meir Mindel, , , 0505560554.

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