Mishmar HaEmek (Hebrew: מִשְׁמַר הָעֵמֶק, lit. "Guard of the Valley") is a kibbutz in northern Israel. Located in the western Jezreel Valley, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Megiddo Regional Council. Mishmar HaEmek is one of the few kibbutzim that have not undergone privatization and still follow the traditional collectivist and socialist kibbutz model. In 2018 it had a population of 1,255.
|Founded by||HaShomer HaTzair|
|Name meaning||Guard of the Valley|
The kibbutz was established in 1926 by members of the HaShomer HaTzair ("The Young Guard") movement, who came from Poland to Mandatory Palestine during the Third Aliyah. It was the first Jewish settlement in the southern part of the Jezreel Valley. It quickly became a center of HaShomer HaTzair, especially after the Kibbutz Arzi chose to build their first regional school in the kibbutz. In April 1948 during the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine the kibbutz was the epicenter of the Battle of Mishmar HaEmek when it successfully repelled the first major offensive of the Arab Liberation Army commanded by Fawzi al-Qawuqji.
Since 1926 the economy of the kibbutz was based on agriculture. Today it also operates a plastics factory in partnership with Kibbutz Gal'ed. The forest near the kibbutz was planted by its residents and is listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. Two ancient settlements dating back to prehistoric times are found in the kibbutz.
At least six former members of the Knesset hail from Mishmar HaEmek.
Mishmar HaEmek is located in the southwestern part of the Jezreel Valley and stretches to its northeastern side, between Highway 66 and the foot of the Menashe Heights to its southwest. Next to the kibbutz is the manmade Mishmar HaEmek forest, planted by the Jewish National Fund and members of the kibbutz. It is a section of Megiddo Park (formerly named "Ramot Menashe park"), listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Through Mishmar HaEmek is a tributary of the Kishon River, named after the kibbutz. In Arabic, the stream is known as "Wadi Abu Shusha," like the Palestinian Arab village that used to exist near the kibbutz. It begins south of the kibbutz, between the hills of the Menashe Heights, collecting rainwater from all of its valleys. Some of the waters also come from the Spring of Shulamit, also known in Arabic as Ayn As-Shaghara Al-Fauqa, meaning "Spring of the High Tree." The stream flows through the kibbutz into the Kishon River in the middle of the Jezreel Valley approximately 4 kilometers north of the kibbutz.
During the Fourth Aliyah (1924–1928), a time of Jewish migration to the British-controlled Mandatory Palestine, the Jezreel Valley was the top priority of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF wanted to settle the arable valley in order to establish a significant Jewish agricultural community and to create a contiguous bloc of Jewish settlements connecting Haifa with the existing bloc of Jewish settlements between Afula and Beit She'an. In 1924 the JNF purchased lands owned by the Christian Lebanese Sursock family near Nahalal. Afterwards it decided to expand south and in 1926 purchased most of the land of Abu Shusha, where Bedouins and Turkmens lived.
The pioneers of Mishmar HaEmek came to Mandatory Palestine during the Third Aliyah. They were Polish Jews from Galicia and were members of three groups affiliated with the HaShomer HaTzair movement (one from the town of Afula and two from the Jerusalem area. On 21 January 1922, they, along with some unaffiliated people, joined together in Neve Sha'anan, Haifa to form the gar'in (Hebrew: גרעין, lit. "Seed/Grain") of a future settlement. It was initially named "Kibbutz Bet" (Bet is the second letter in Hebrew). At its formation the gar'in had 80 members, but a year later the number reduced to 65. In the summer of 1922 they moved to Nahalal where they participated in swamp drying and road paving. At Nahalal some members suffered from diseases and lack of livelihood. In early 1924 the member count was at 60 as old members left and new members joined. The main reason for leaving was the difficulty some members experienced while trying to adjust to the kibbutz lifestyle. Some left because they wished to continue their academic career, others because of family reasons and some because of ideological opposition. In 1925 the kibbutz, which consisted of 60 adults and six children, moved to Afula where they did road paving and worked in construction.
In Afula, the kibbutz united with another HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz called "Kibbutz Dalet" (the fourth letter in Hebrew), which was formed in the town of Hadera in 1924. The unification ceremony was performed like a Jewish wedding, in which the "groom" (Kibbutz Bet) and the "bride" (Kibbutz Dalet), were betrothed and a Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) was read in front of the crowd. On 3 November 1926, the members (numbering 90 after the unification) were given land for settlement next to the Arab village of Abu Shusha. At first, 15 men and women left Afula and settled in a khan on the nearby Tel Shush where they began working the land. In the next year two mules were bought and 120 dunams of fields of wheat and barley were sowed until the kibbutz moved to its current location, starting its history as a single Jewish settlement in this part of the valley. On November 1928 the kibbutz was renamed "Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek" as proposed by Menachem Ussishkin after its members could not agree on a name.
On 26 August 1929, during the 1929 Palestine riots, the kibbutz was attacked by Arab rioters equipped with firearms. The members, with the aid of Arab policemen, managed to fend away the rioters. British policemen ordered the kibbutz to evacuate and promised to take care for their property and so it was left the following day. On 28 August, Arab rioters burned the kibbutz's barn, uprooted trees, stole corn from the fields and vandalized two gravestones in the kibbutz's cemetery. It was the only time in its history where it was abandoned and it joined 16 other Jewish communities that were also abandoned during the riots. Unlike others, Mishmar HaEmek was resettled after six days. The evacuation was intended to protect human lives, but many saw it as abandonment and it was described as a "sin with no atonement", while others said that when there are not enough weapons it is better to evacuate and preserve human life.
In early 1930 the rest of the members left Afula and joined the members in Mishmar HaEmek which brought the population of the kibbutz to 85 adults and 16 children. In the following years the members planted 50,000 trees, built a cowshed, planted a vineyard and various fruit trees, dug wells and built the first two permanent buildings: a two-story children's house made of concrete on a small hill near the kibbutz and a water tower. The children's house was the educational institution of the kibbutz and was planned in 1931 and built in 1937 after the funds were raised. It was built by the kibbutz members to reduce costs. When completed it was among the biggest structures in the region and was nicknamed "the Big House".
Planting the forest was part of the JNF policy. A third of Mishmar HaEmek's territory consisted of rocky hills unsuited for agriculture. The JNF wanted to cement the Jewish ownership over lands it had purchased and therefore decided to plant forests, including the one next to Mishmar HaEmek. The forests were also projected to provide material for a local wood industry, and for decades provided a source of income for the kibbutz.
Berta Guggenheimer set up playgrounds all over the country and Irma Lindheim, who was a member of the kibbutz and the Berta's niece, used her help to set up a children's playground in the kibbutz. In the 1930s there was an arrangement to allow Arab children from the nearby villages to visit and play with the kibbutz children making it a unique place for the kibbutzim movement.
In the 1930s, Mishmar HaEmek hosted two separate groups of HaShomer HaTzair. The first group had 17 people and was from the United States and first settled in the kibbutz in 1931. In 1933 their number rose to 30 and in 1934 they moved to an area near the town of Hadera. Another group settled between 1937 and 1938 and later established the kibbutz of Hatzor in 1946.
In 1947 Mishmar HaEmek had a population of 550. The Jewish National Fund and Worton Hall Studios made a 1947 movie called The Great Promise (Dim'at Ha'Nehamah Ha'Gedolah), and a number of scenes were filmed in the kibbutz.
The residents of Mishmar HaEmek represented the more Arab-friendly and peace-oriented left-wing of the Israeli Labor Movement. Some of the movement's leaders, such as Mordechai Bentov and Ya'akov Hazan, hailed from the kibbutz.
Great Arab Revolt and World War IIEdit
At the start of 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, Mishmar HaEmek found itself under constant attack by nearby Arabs villagers under the command of Ahmad Attiyah Awad. Yusuf Abu Durra took over after Awad's death in March 1938. The attacks came in the form of repeated arson attacks on grain fields and forests. They were described by a member as a "crime greater than murder," as the burning of the wheat fields denied the members their main food source. Around 30,000 trees in the kibbutz's vicinity were destroyed and an enormous amount of property was lost. There were no direct attacks on the kibbutz itself but almost every night there were stray shots fired in its direction. Many of the kibbutz men had to spend time guarding instead of working the fields. British High Commissioner Arthur Grenfell Wauchope visited the kibbutz and armed 15 members he appointed as guards; however in August 1936 the situation worsened and attacks became more frequent. The British government sent 60 soldiers to the kibbutz and in October the attacks on the kibbutz ended. Tens of thousands of trees were burnt in the attacks. Uri Zvi Greenberg, Israeli poet and later member of the Knesset, criticized the residents of Mishmar HaEmek for not taking matters into their hands after the attacks on their fields. In a poem he wrote about the events he changed the name of the kibbutz from "Mishmar HaEmek" (Guard of the Valley) to "Hefker HaEmek" (Abandonment of the Valley). On 2 February 1938 Abraham Goldschleger, a kibbutz member and guide for Ein HaShofet was ambushed and murdered by residents of Al-Kafrayn. Two residents of Ein HaShofet who accompanied him were also killed in the attack. One of the shooters was caught and executed. The Palmach (an elite force of the Jewish Haganah underground organization) used the trees in the nearby forest as cover for their main training camp and its fighters worked in the kibbutz.
In the fall of 1942, during World War II, Mishmar HaEmek was used as a training camp by the British army. 160 Jewish volunteers, who would later become members of the Palmach branch of the Haganah, were trained by Royal Engineers in sabotage and wireless operation. Several tons of explosives were hidden in caches in case the area came under German occupation. This program was terminated immediately and orders were issued for the collection of all equipment and explosives to be returned to the British.
Battle of Mishmar HaEmekEdit
During the 1947–48 civil war, on 4 April 1948, the kibbutz came under full-scale attack by the Arab Liberation Army (ALA). The leader of the ALA, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, planned to seize Mishmar HaEmek to control the route between Jenin and Haifa. The attack began with a barrage from seven artillery pieces supplied by the Syrian army. During the shelling of the kibbutz, houses were destroyed, civilians, defenders, and animals were killed and the prominent white school building was heavily damaged. A bomb shelter was later built there. On 6 April 1948, the women and children of the kibbutz were evacuated with the aid of the British to other settlements in the Jezreel Valley and a British-brokered ceasefire began. During this period, Jewish forces fortified the kibbutz and dug trenches around its perimeter. Although the Arab forces had not entered the kibbutz, Qawuqji reported that the kibbutz was captured and the "conquest of Mishmar HaEmek" was celebrated in Arab newspapers, which also reported heavy casualties among the Jewish forces. The ALA sent terms to the Haganah, saying they would lift the siege of the kibbutz, regroup and move toward Haifa, if the Jewish forces would not retaliate against the nearby Arab villages in return. The Jews declined the offer and the Arab offensive resumed on 8 April. In the night between 8–9 April, the Jewish forces launched a counter-attack under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh and captured the nearby Arab village of Al-Ghubayya al-Fawqa in a fierce battle. In the next days, troops of the Carmeli Brigade and the Palmach unit captured several other villages near Mishmar HaEmek and nearby Ein HaShofet, and all of them were destroyed.
During the second phase of the war, on 24 December 1948, Iraqi planes bombed the kibbutz, hitting the children's house, killing four children and injuring another four. Historian Yoav Gelber speculates that the Iraqis wanted to attack Ramat David Airbase but hit the kibbutz instead.
After the establishment of IsraelEdit
In 1950, a factory called Tama was established and became a central part of the kibbutz's economy. It soon became one of the main plastics factories of the kibbutzim movement. In the 1970s, after the expansion of the Tama factory, a 20% stake (later 25%) was sold to Kibbutz Gal'ed.
In 1950 a village and ma'abara (immigrant transit camp) called Keren Yesha was established by the Jewish Agency for Yemeni Jews next to Mishmar HaEmek. It was located atop Tel Shush next to Abu Shusha where the first members of the kibbutz first settled in 1926. The kibbutz helped the new community and provided various services. In 1953 the village was abandoned and the residents moved to Midrakh Oz.
The kibbutz built a new dining room, a movie theater and a public pool.
In the 1980s the kibbutz suffered from the 1983 Israel bank stock crisis. Tama began manufacturing plastic netting used for bundling crops at the end of the decade when the crisis ended. Several successful business moves by Tama in the early 1990s led the kibbutz to an era of economic prosperity and high quality of life. At that time, education in the kibbutz was reformed, children's societies were abolished, and the students were moved to schools outside of the kibbutz. This allowed the kibbutz to extend existing houses and set up new neighborhoods. Prosperity led the kibbutz to increase the salaries of its members, to create personal funds for families, and to institutionalize culture and recreation activities as the number of work days each week was reduced to five.
In 2010 the kibbutz decided after four gatherings to appoint a team of members to discuss the privatization of electricity, food, mail, barbershop and cosmetics. Other services were to be kept under the responsibility of the kibbutz, including healthcare, education and welfare. The dispute mainly concerned the privatization of the dining room. At the end of the discussions, most privatization initiatives were rejected and only a few minor changes that had no practical effect on the collective lifestyle were accepted.
The kibbutz started a project to build 110 housing units on its eastern side.
Mishmar HaEmek is one of the wealthiest kibbutzim in Israel. It is based on a socialist structure where all assets are communally owned and all residents earn the same amount of money. The economy is also based on intensive farming, including field crops, orchards, dairy cattle and poultry.
The kibbutz owns 75% of Tama (Ta'asiyot Mishmar HaEmek, "Mishmar HaEmek Industries"). It operates a factory on its grounds in partnership with Kibbutz Gal'ed, which owns 25% of the company. In 2015 it was estimated that the company had an annual sales revenue of 1.5 billion NIS which rose to over 2 billion NIS by 2019. The factory has about 250 workers, of which over a quarter are residents of the kibbutz. It manufactures plastic netting used for bundling crops. Tama is one of the biggest companies making this product and works with companies such as John Deere. It has factories in three countries with a total number of 1600 employees. In the factory the employees and executives who are residents of the kibbutz all earn the same while non-kibbutz residents who are employed in the factory earn according to their work.
Various services have developed in the kibbutz; some of them are operated privately by the kibbutz members, such as the "IDEA Information System", which provides software for 70% of the museums in Israel, including Yad Vashem.
In 2019 the kibbutz made a deal with the kibbutzim of Evron and Sa'ar to buy a quarter of their share of a company called Bermad, estimated to be worth around 450 million NIS. The company manufactures water control products that are provided to over 70 other companies with an annual revenue of half a billion NIS and employs around 700 workers.
Early childhood education is provided at Mishmar HaEmek. The children of the kibbutz study in an elementary school in HaZore'a and then move on to Megiddo secondary school near Ein HaShofet. Until the 1990s, students in grades 7-12 attended Shomeria secondary school.
The Shomeria school, established in 1930, was the first regional educational institution of the Kibbutz Artzi movement (later merged with other movements to the Kibbutz Movement). It operated as a boarding school and put into practice HaShomer HaTzair's socialist ideology, creating an independent "children's society." The pupils saw their parents only on holidays or special visiting days throughout the year. The children had a daily schedule, with the morning devoted to education, the afternoon to labour, and the evening to cultural activities. The school was housed in makeshift cabins until the school building commissioned by the Kibbutz Artzi movement and designed by architect Joseph Neufeld was built in 1937. The location of the building on a hill higher than the rest of the kibbutz symbolized the importance of education. The institution provided education to four other kibbutz communities that were established in the Jezreel Valley including Beit Alfa, Sarid, Mizra and Merhavia, later joined by children from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel and youth from the Youth Aliyah. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, similar schools were established in other kibbutzim.
Over the years, various additions were made to the complex, which continued to serve the kibbutz for informal education. The original building designed by Neufeld is no longer used as a school, and following a renovation it now houses offices and a library.
In the 1931 census of Palestine, Mishmar HaEmek had a population of 122, all Jewish, in 59 occupied houses. In the 1945 survey the kibbutz had a population of 390 and had a total land area of 4,850 dunams, of which 114 are publicly owned and the rest (4,736) are owned by Jews. The population of Mishmar HaEmek was recorded in Israeli censuses: In 1948 the kibbutz had a population of 549; In 1961 the population was 704; In 1972 the population was 923; In 1983 the population was 822; In 1995 the population was 878; In 2008 the population was 956. On 31 December 2018 the population estimate was 1,255.
According to the 2008 census, 22% of the residents were under 17 years of age, 64% between 18 and 64, and 14% were over 65. The median age was 30. The number of residents born abroad decreased from 32.8% in 1972 to 20.9%. Out of these, 41.5% immigrated until 1960, 21.3% immigrated between 1961 and 1989, 24.7% between 1990 and 2001, and the remaining 12.5% after 2002. The average number of children born per woman decreased from 2.5% in 1972 to 1.7%.
41.4% of the residents older than 15 worked in manufacturing, 16.4% in education, 11.6% in agriculture, 7.9% in community, social, personal and other services, and 5.4% in real estate, renting and business activities. 9.8% of the residents older than 15 worked outside of the locality.
The Palmach Cave is located in the outskirts of the kibbutz, near the forest. It was used by the Palmach unit of the Jewish militia during the Intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine. The cave was chosen by the Palmach upon its establishment in 1941, as a training site for the Palmach's special undercover units. The cave was also used for meetings between the commanders of the Palmach. Before it was used by the Palmach it was used as a playground by the kibbutz children, and before that it was used as a shelter for Bedouin nomads during their voyages. Today the cave is a tourist attraction and educational site run by a member of the kibbutz.
Mishmar HaEmek's cemetery is located in the outskirts of the kibbutz, next to the Palmach Cave. Members of the kibbutz from its past are buried in the cemetery, including five members of the Knesset, many known personalities from the fields of culture and society and a few high-ranked military officers. Some of the people buried in the cemetery are not from the kibbutz but have some connection to it.
Pinat HaGola ("Diaspora's Place") is a memorial site for the children who died in the Holocaust. The monument was built by the sculptor Zeev Ben-Zvi between 1945 and 1947. He built it with the students of the kibbutz and it was the earliest memorial site for the Holocaust in Israel. During the battle of Mishmar HaEmek in 1948 the site was damaged by a shell, but Zeev Ben-Zvi refused to repair it.
The main site next to Mishmar HaEmek is Tel Shush, which is just north of the kibbutz's buildings. It is a tell with an area of 40 dunams (10 acres) situated on one of the Menashe Heights hills. The mound rises to a height of 50 meters above the valley below it. The site was surveyed in 1949 and 1975. Among the discoveries are the remains of an earth ramp around the mound dated to the Middle Bronze Age, and underground stores attributed to the Crusader period. Many coins bearing the name "Geva‘" were collected on and around the mound. The site contained potsherds of every historical period between the Middle Bronze Age and modern times. The mound was identified by Israeli geographers and archaeologists as Geva‘ Parashim from the time of the Hasmonean dynasty, Gaba Philippi from the rule of the Roman Empire, or Geva, which appears in the list of cities conquered by 15th century BCE Egyptian king Thutmose III.
In Mishmar HaEmek there is an archeological site called "el-Ghaba et-Tahta". The site covers about 40 dunams and contains a tell which cannot be seen from the surface. Seven strata were excavated, which date between the early Neolithic period and the late Ottoman period. A trial excavation took place in February 2007 followed by an excavation in August–September 2007 and another two in July–September 2010. After the excavations a new residential extension was built on top of the site.
The earliest remains are from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. Many flint tools such as sickle blades, arrowheads and knives were found. An enclosure, paved by stones was found as well as at least eight burial sites: seven for adult males, one for an adult female. Some of the burials feature funerary offerings such as arrowheads, a leg of a wild bull and a pierced shell (probably a pendant). A sample of the animal bones reveals none of them were domesticated and almost half of the bones belonged to wild bulls. The remains of a large structure and pottery of the Yarmukian and Lodian cultures, dating to the Pottery Neolithic were uncovered. Remains of a Yarmukian culture included flint sickle blades, saws and arrowheads as well as a likely tomb with human bones, some inside a jar. Three rectangular shaped stone rows were found and their use is unclear. Pottery belonging to the Wadi Rabah culture were found and dated the site to the Early Chalcolithic period.
A tomb and several round or elliptical buildings from the Bronze Age period with an abundance of pottery were found, some with a resemblance to structures found near the city of Kiryat Ata. Pottery from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age and floors of poor dwellings from the Middle Bronze Age period were also found. From the Roman period a structure from the Roman period was also found. Some pottery dated to the early Byzantine period (3rd to 4th century CE) were found, which were probably used to fertilize the land and do not indicate any serious permanent settlement in that period. In the highest layer a courtyard surrounded by several rooms, believed to be part of a large building was discovered. It is likely it was built in the 19th century and roof tiles found in it originated from the port of Marseilles in France. According to a resident of the kibbutz said the building was not standing when the kibbutz was established.
Members of Knesset
- Mordechai Bentov, the brother of Shulamit Bat-Dori, government minister and signatory of the Israeli declaration of independence. Member of the Mapam political party.
- Ya'akov Hazan, member of Knesset. (Mapam, Alignment)
- Amnon Linn, member of Knesset. (Mapai, Alignment, Likud). Born in 1924 to members of the kibbutz. Left the kibbutz to Haifa in 1950.
- Emry Ron, member of Knesset (Alignment). Born in the kibbutz in 1936 and stayed there until his death in 2013.
- Emma Talmi, member of Knesset (Mapam). Originally from Ein HaHoresh, she joined Kibbutz Dalet in 1927, which later united with Mishmar HaEmek. Died in 2004 and buried in the kibbutz.
- Moshe Shamir, author, playwright and a member of the knesset (Mapam). He was a member of the kibbutz between 1944 and 1946.
- Eli Amir, author. Moved to the kibbutz in 1950 from Iraq and lived there until he moved to Jerusalem in 1953. His novel Tarnegol Kaparot was inspired by his time in the kibbutz. It is considered one of the twenty books that are the foundations modern Hebrew literature.
- Shulamit Bat-Dori, producer and director of kibbutz theatre in Israel. Joined the pioneers of the kibbutz in 1923, when they stayed in Nahalal. In 1925 she was sent to Poland by the HaShomer HaTzair movement. She returned to the kibbutz in 1935, where she established the theater of the Kibbutz Artzi movement. She died in 1985 and is buried in the kibbutz.
- Hillel Omer, poet and writer. Born in the kibbutz in 1926. Served as a scout during the Battle of Mishmar HaEmek, and later served in the Palmach and fought in the south of the country with the Negev Brigade. Left the kibbutz in 1954 to Jerusalem. Died in 1990 and is buried in the kibbutz.
- Adin Talbar, athlete and sports official
- Zellig Harris, linguist
- Bruria Kaufman, physicist. Wife of Zelling Harris.
- Svein Sevje, Norwegian ambassador to Israel. Volunteered in the kibbutz after the Six-Day War during the late 60s and learned Hebrew in the kibbutz.
- Shneior Lifson, chemical physicist
- Irma Lindheim, Zionist fund-raiser and educator. Moved to the kibbutz in 1933 from the United States and was a member until her death in 1978. She is buried in the kibbutz's cemetery.
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