about us

 

 

HATZERIM in the Bible: Permanent dwellings.

Inhabited villags, enclosed by stone walls,

Providing protection for man and animal.

 

HATZERIM in ancient Ugaritic: Coral.

HATZERIM in Arabic: Permanent Settlement.

Kibbutz Hatzerim is located about 8kms west of Beer Sheva in a relatively arid area with an average rainfall of up to 180mm., there have been years of drought when the rainfall did not even reach 100mm.

The kibbutz was established in October 1946 – the original name being Kelta.

We were a young group of girl and boy scouts (Tzofim Gimel – in Hebrew) who were located at two kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley, Degania Aleph and Afikim. We were joined there by a group of young immigrant refugees who had come to Palestine by way of Iran and were known as “The Children of Teheran”. There we all received agricultural as well as military training in order to serve together in the prestigious Palmach division of the Haganah ground forces.

As was the custom in those pre-state days we were due to work in one of the small settlements (Moshavot) and await our turn to receive land on which to settle. However these plans were changed with the publication of the British White Paper which restricted Jewish purchase and settlement of land. As we were making final arrangements to leave the Jordan Valley we were told that we would be one of eleven groups that were targeted to settle immediately at one of the strategic points in the Negev during the hours of darkness in October 1946. 

Our original group (gar’in) was comprised of five young woman and 25 young men.

The enthusiasm was high and didn’t even drop when we discovered at daybreak that our new home was simply a barren hill in an expansive desert area with only a single acacia tree to be seen against the horizon.

 

During the first year we worked at various jobs outside of the settlement, the most important being the laying of a six inch water pipe from the area of Gvar’am/Nir’am, two kibbutzim about 60 kms north of Hatzerim. A year after our arrival we received our first water supply and immediately began preparing the land. The water in the pipe brought us joy but our future in agriculture was still uncertain as all we had were 600 dunams (150 acres) of cultivatable land. 

Our efforts to use the water for agriculture were crushed with the passing of the UN Resolution on 29th November 1947 calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine. This caused a wave of Arab rioting and terror including the cutting off of the pipeline carrying water to the Negev settlements. We remained without piped water until the end of the War of Independence. However we realized that our settlement served an important political purpose as it brought about the UN recommendation of including the entire area south and west of Hatzerim within the borders of the future Jewish State.

During the War of Independence we were an outpost settlement defending ourselves and serving as a springboard for the conquest of Beer Sheva and later for the liberation for the whole of the southern Negev.

With the end of the war we again turned to agricultural activity. We no longer had a problem of lack of land as great expanses were now available to anyone prepared to cultivate them. The water pipeline was quickly repaired and once again supplied us with running water. The land was irrigated, seeds were planted and we anxiously awaited the first crops but they did not come. Investigation over a three-year period revealed that the soil on which we had settled was saline and not suitable for agriculture, at least not by conventional methods. Season after season we met with disappointing results but found no suitable solution to the problem. 

 

During those early years our first children were growing but the problem of educating a small number of children brought home to us more than ever the reality of our isolation, far away from other kibbutzim.

The problem of the saline soil and our disappointments in agriculture along with the feeling of isolation caused us several times to express doubts about remaining at this site. During these difficult years some members left the kibbutz and the problems became more and more critical even to the point where in 1959 we were on the verge of a decision to leave and re-establish our settlement in another place.

However during those difficult and soul searching deliberations it became clear to us that the problems of soil salinity affected not only Hatzerim but also most of the lands in the Negev, east and south of us. We had already gained ten years of experience in dealing with this problem and we knew that there were few other farmers who had the experience and know-how of our members and who could contribute to solving the problem and enabling this expansive area to be settled.

So this realization plus the determination of the authorities for us not to move brought us to a decision to remain here and find a solution to the soil problem.

Today we all know that this was a wise decision for in the following two years we successfully flushed the soil, brought in suitable crops and to our joy began to see results.

Our settlement now had an agricultural base, which could economically support its members.

Standing on the same hill where 60 years ago you could only see a dry wilderness, now you see a mosaic of cultivated groves, gardens and trees. Where before you smelt the dessert dust now you smell the scent of flourishing fields and you hear the sound of tractors and the laughter of children in place of the lonely whistle of the dessert wind.

Our rapid growth and development however created a problem of manpower.

Despite the constant flow of new members from the Israeli Scout Movement (Tzorfim) we decided to absorb new immigrants from the Zionist youth movements in the diaspara.

We made contact with Ichud Habonim in South America, subsequently our first emissaries (Shlichim) went to Argentina in 1962 and our first future members from that country started to arrive in 1965. Today they number about half of our membership, their integration into Israeli society is complete and their contribution to the economy has been great. We cannot imagine our community without them.

In 1990 Hatzerim was chosen as the target settlement for the Brazilian youth movement Habonim Dror. Various groups from that movement stay, learn and work with us as part of their educational program in Israel. Graduates from the movement who decide to make Aliya consider Hatzerim as their base from where they can continue their higher education. The first immigrants from Brazil are already members of the kibbutz and the numbers are increasing.

One of the lessons that we learnt from the 1959 soil crisis was that we could not rely on agriculture alone as our sole means of livelihood so we started to look for an industrial project that would suit our needs and talents. The need for such a project became even more acute since our agricultural expansion was limited by the amount of water that was allocated to us.

In 1965 our factory Netafim was established. We produce and market mainly low flow irrigation products and drip systems.(http://www.netafim.com/)

The business developed more rapidly than even our greatest expectations. Netafim pioneered drip irrigation in the sixties and is today Israel’s leading producer in that field as well as being a world leader in the development of modern irrigation methods.

Netafim in Israel is comprised of three manufacturing plants at three different kibbutzim, Yftach in the north, Magal in the center and Hatzerim in the south.

 

Due to our belief in the kibbutz principle of self-labour we do our best to minimize the employment of hired labour and during the periods of huge growth we chose to enter into cooperative arrangements with other kibbutzim in the area.

 

Farming on the kibbutz has been greatly reduced lately and our agricultural side now consists of the milk farm and jojoba plantations. Jojoba Israel is a relatively new industrial venture established by the kibbutz to extract oil from jojoba beans, which is exported for use in the cosmetics industry.

In addition to these we continue to cultivate non-irrigated crops about 60km north of the kibbutz.

Other profitable branches of the kibbutz are the law offices, a craft shop and a smithy.

Our entire economy is based on the work of more than 400 members and in total there are about 1000 people who live on the kibbutz.

Some children born on the kibbutz have already become members while others have left and chosen a different way of life. A large number of our children who have left school are currently engaged in various activities. These include a years community service for high school graduates who are allowed by the army to defer their draft for a year, military service for both boys and girls, higher education or working on the kibbutz while they decide what they want to do. The kibbutz grants its children 15 years of education.

At present there are about 260 children up to the age of 18, at which age they are due to enter the army.

Our kibbutz elementary school is a local school dedicated to the promotion of the values of community, nature and art and our high school students study at the nearby Eshel Hanasi Regional Comprehensive High School.

Since 1978 our children up to the age of 15 sleep at home, after that if they wish they can transfer to the youth area.

Hatzerim today is a multi generation community, with members, children, grandchildren and we have been joined by retired parents of members from Israel and abroad.

The founding members have reached retirement age but still contribute where they can to the kibbutz. The kibbutz has set aside appropriate savings for pension funds and for grants to children who decide to leave the kibbutz.

As a kibbutz with many graduates of the scouts and of Habonim Dror we take an active part in the ongoing educational work of these movements including sending educational emissaries (shlichim) abroad.

During the seventies and eighties we adopted and helped two young kibbutzim during their early days, Ketura in the Arava valley near Eilat and Har-Amasa in the Hebron area.

Together with a group of educators we helped to establish Kedma, an educational youth village situated about 80kms north of us.

Our most significant on-going social undertaking is the absorption of Israeli youth within the framework of Youth Aliya. Four such groups have completed their high school education with us since 1976.

At present we concentrate on integrating Ethiopian immigrants into our elementary school.

In recent years we have absorbed a number of young families from the cities and other kibbutzim and in addition we have undertook the task of helping new immigrants from the former Soviet Union as part of a project known as “First Home in the Homeland”.

They live with us for about a year on the kibbutz, gaining valuable help and advice from us as they take their initial steps to integrate into Israeli society, learn Hebrew and find work.

A few years ago we started a Hebrew language study center (Ulpan) that has already served many hundred of new immigrants and students from all over the world.

 

We are well into our sixth decade and firmly believe in our special way of life.

We are also aware of the crisis that the Kibbutz Movement is going through, the constant questioning in Israeli society and the world over of the validity and relevance of values like mutual respect, togetherness, sharing and co-operative living.

Our kibbutz home is open to new members who identify with us and wish to come and share our special way of life.