HATZERIM

KIBBUTZ HATZERIM

 

THE VILLAGES (HATZERIM) THAT KEDAR DOTH INHABIT    (Isaaih 42:11)

HATZERIM in the Bible: Permanent dwellings.

Inhabited villags, enclosed by stone walls,

Providing protection for man and animal.

 

HATZERIM in ancient Ugaitic: Coral.

HATZERIM in Arabic: Permanent Settlement.

 

At the beginning of the Jewish year of 5757, in September 1996, on the evening followung Yom Kippur, Kibbutz Hatzerim celebrated the 50h anniersary of the settling of small group (hed. Gar`in) of graduates of Israel Scout Movement in the northern Negev, on a piece of land then known in Arabic as Kelta.

 

Hatzerim is located about 6 km west of Beer Sheva, in a relatively arid area with an average annual rainfall of about 180 mm. There are many years of drought, when rainfall doesn`t even reach 100 mm.

 

The young group of Girl and Bog Scouts (Tzofim Gimel, asthey were called in Hebrew.) Stayed at that time at two Kibbutzim located at the Jordan valley, Degania Aleph and Afikim. There they joined with a peer group of young immigrant refugees who had come to  Israel by way of Iram and hus known as `The Children of Teheran`, in order to serve together in the prestigious Palmach unit of the Anti-British Hagana underground forces. They all received agricltural as well as military training.

 

As was the custom in those pre-state days, our united group inteended to work in one of the small towns (hed Moshavot) and await our turn to receive land on which to settle. The events of those day , the publication of the British `White Paper` restricting Jewish acquisition and settlement of land and the struggle of the Yishuv, (the Jewish community of per state Palestine) being then at its peak changed our plans; just as we were making our final plans to leave the Jordan Valley, we were told that we would be of eleven groups targeted to settle immediately at one of the strategic points in the Negev.

 

Five young women and 25 young men comprised the original gar`in. The enthusiasm was high and didn`t drop even when we discovered at day break that our new home was simply a barren hill in the heart of an expansive dasert area with only a single acacia tree  to be seen against the horizon.

 

During the first year we worked at various jobs outside of our settlement, the most important of which was the laying of a weter line (a 6 inch pipe) from the area of Gvar`am nir am, two Kibbutzim about sixty km. North of us, along public roads and drip paths to Hatzerim. Within a year of our arrival we received our first water supply and immediately began to prepare the land for irrigation. The water in the pipes brought us joy, but our future in agriculture was still uncertain as all we had were 600 dunams (150 acres) of cultivatable land.

 

Our first attempts to use the water for agriculture were cruhed when the U.N. Resolution (November 29th 1947) calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Paletine brought about a wave of Arab rioting and terror, one of the first events being the cutting off of the pipeline carrying water to the Negev settlements. We remained without water until the end of the war of Independence. We nevertheless realized that our settlement served an important political purpose, for it brought about the recommendation of the United Nation to include the northern Negev, i.e. the entire area south and west of Hahzerim within the future Jewish Satate, close to Arab Beer-Sheva.

 

During the War of Independence, we were an outpost settlement defending ourselves and serving as a springboard for the conquset of Beer-Sheva and later for the liberaation of the entire southern Negev.

 

 


With the end of the war, we again turned to agricultural activity. We no longer had a problem of land since great expanses were now available to anyone who would cultivate them. The pipeline was quickly repaired and once again supplied us with water. The land was irrigated, seeds were planted, and we anxiously awaited the crops, but these did not come. Further investigation over more than three years revealed that the soil upon which we had settled was saline and not suitable for agriculture, at least not by conventional techniques. Season after season, we met with disappointing results, and found no suitable solution to the problem.

 

Durijg those years, our first children began to grow up. The problem of educating a small number of children prought home to us more than ever, the reality of our being an isolated settlement, far from other Kibbutzim.

 

The problem of the soil and our disappointments in agriculture, wuth the feeling of isolation, caused us several times to experss doubts about remaining at that particular spot. Members left the kibbutz during those difficult years and the problem 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 someplace else. During those difficult and soul-searching deliberations it became clear to us that the problemsof soil salinity affected not only Hatzerim, but also most of the lands in the Negev, east and south of us.

 

We had had ten years of experience in dealing with this problem and we knew that there were few other farmers who had the experience and knowhow of our members and could contrbute to solving the problem and enabling this expansive area to be settled.

 

This realization and the determination of the authorities, brought us to a firm decision to remain here and to find an acceptable solution to the problem of soil improvement. Today we all know that this was a wise decision for in the two years following, 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 atop that same hill where 45 years ago you would look at the dry wilderness, you now see a mosaic of greenery and cuiltiated expanses, gardens, trees and groves. You sniff not the desert dust but the scent of flourishing fields and you hear the sound or tractors with the lauhter of children, in place of the lonely whistling of the desert winds.

 

Our rapid growth and development created a problem of manpower. Despite the constant flow of new members from the Israel Girl and Boy Scouts Movement (Tzofim), we had a strong desire to combine with immigrants from Zionist Youth Movements in the diaspora. We were eventually connected to A South-American movement called Ichud Habonim. Our first Shlichim (emmisaries) went to Argentina In 1962, and the rirst future members from that country arrived in 1965. Today, they number approximately half of our membership. Their integration into Israel society is complete and their contribution to the building of the Israel society and economy has been great. We can not immagine our community withhout them.

 

 


In 1990 our Kibbutz was declared the target settlement of a Brazilian Zionist Youth Movement called Habonim Dror. Various groups of that mavement stay and work eith us periodically as part of their educational program in Israel. Movement graduates who decid to make Aliya (immimgrate) to Israel consider Hatzerim as their home and the base from which they continue their higher education. The first Brazilian immigrants have already become kibbutz members.

 

One of the conclusions of the 1959 crisis was not rely any more on agriculture as the sole means of livelihood and look for an industrial project that will suit our needs and our talents. The need for such a project bacame even more acute since our agricultural expansion was limited by the amount of water allocated to us.

 

Our factory,  Netafim, started in 1965. We produce and market mainly low flow irrigation products and drip systems. The business developed more rapidly that even our greatest expectations. Netafim pioneered drip irrigation in the sixties and is today Israel` leading producer in that area as well as a world-wide pioneer in the development of modern irrigation methods.The three Kibbutzim of which the Netafim complex has been comprised untill recently (Magal in the central part of the country, Yiftah in the nort, and Hatzerim) intend to merge into one corpoation. At Hatzerim itself about 210 people are employed on site, 170 of whom are residents of the Kibbutz.

 

Because of our belief in the kibbutz principle of    Self Labo, we do our best to minimize the employment of hired labor. Even during periods of growth and greatly

Expaanding exports, we chose to enter into cooperative arrangements with other Kibbutzim who joined us in the work of production, marketing and export.

 

Farming on the Kibbutz has been greatly reduced Agriculture consists nowadays of a considerable milk fram, an avocado and jojoba plantations. The jojoba plantation is part of a new industrial venture,   Jojoba Israel, initiated by us recently. We extract oil out of jojoba fruit and export it to the cosmetics industry. In addition to all these we continue to cultivate unirriggated crops about sixty km, north of the Kibbutz.

 

Other profitable branches of the Kibbutz are a law office, a smithy and a craft shop. Our entire economy is based on the work of about 370 members, doing our utmost to stay faithful to the principle of self-labor.

Children of our second generation heve already become Kibbutz members; others have chosen a different way of life. A large number of our children, over 100, are currently engaged in a veriaty of activities, community service`(High School graduates who so wish, are able to deffer their draft into the Army for a year and do community service in an approed city. The military authorities are very much in favor of it), military service, higher edocation, or at home-not yet having made a final decision as to where they will reside. The kibbutz grants its children the right to 15 years of education. 

 

There are currently about 260 youngsters up to the age of 18, when they enter the army. Our elementary school is magnet school dedicated to the promotion of Community, Nature and Art values. Our high school students study at the near by Eshel Hanassi Regional Comprehensive High School.

 

Since 1978 our childern sleep at home in their parents` apartment (currently up to the age of 15).

 

 


Hatzerim today is a multi-generation community-members, children and grandchildern. We have been joined by retired parents of members, from Israel and abroad. The founding members have already reached retirement age. The kibuutz sets aside appropriate savings for pension funds and for grants to children who decide to live outside the Kibbutz.

As kibbuz with many members, who rae graduates of the Tzofim and of Habonim Dror, we take part in the ongoing educational work of these movements, including sending  shlichim (educational emmisaries) abroad. During the seventies and eighties we adopted and helped two young Kibbutzim, Ktura in the Arava valley near Eilat and Har-Amasa in the Hevron area in their initial steps. Togeter with a group of educators, we initiated during that period the establishment of an educational youth village scholl, Kedma, situated aboout 80 km, north of as.

Our members continue to fulfill central positions in the United Kibbutz Movement with which we are affiliated, and in the Israel society.

 

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.

 

Presently we concentrate on integrating elementary school students of Ethiopian immigrants in our local magnet school. 

 

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

We offer them to live with us for about a year, accompany and assist them in their initial steps in the country.

A few years ago we started an Ulpan, (a Hebrew language study center) that has already served a few hundred new immigrants students.

 

We are well into our sixth decade and firmly believe in our special way of life. We are also aware of the crisis the Kibbutz Movement is going through due to the constant questioning in the Israeli society and the world over of the validity and relevence of

Values like mutuality, togethrness, sharing and cooperative living.

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