Beit Alfa

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This article is about the modern Kibbutz Beit Alfa. For the sixth-century Beth Alpha synagogue, see Beth Alpha.
Beit Alfa
בֵּית אַלְפָא
Beit Alfa, 1930s
Beit Alfa, 1930s
Beit Alfa is located in Israel
Beit Alfa
Beit Alfa
Coordinates: 32°30′58″N 35°25′49″E / 32.51611°N 35.43028°E / 32.51611; 35.43028Coordinates: 32°30′58″N 35°25′49″E / 32.51611°N 35.43028°E / 32.51611; 35.43028
District Northern
Council Menashe
Affiliation Kibbutz Movement
Founded November 21, 1962
Founded by Hashomer Hatzair
Population 1,100

Beit Alfa (Hebrew: בֵּית אַלְפָא) (also Beit Alpha) is a kibbutz in the Northern District of Israel, near the Gilboa ridge. The kibbutz as well as the archaeological site nearby containing the remains of an ancient synagogue, got their name from the Arab village that once stood here, Khirbet Bait Ilfa, in the presumption that it conserved the name of the ancient Jewish settlement at the site.

Location[edit]

The kibbutz is located on the eastern edge of the Harod Valley, which lies between the Jezreel Valley and the Beth She'an Valley in the Lower Galilee. To the south and west are the steep slopes of the Gilboa mountain range. The closest peaks are Har Barkan (497 m) and Har Gefet (318 m). The area north and east of the kibbutz is flat, but falls to the east towards the Jordan Rift Valley. To the north of the kibbutz flows the Harod stream, whose waters are used to fill numerous ponds. 2.5 km southwest of the kibbutz runs the security wall separating Israeli territory from the Palestinian Authority. In its vicinity are the kibbutzim Heftziba, Sde Nahum, Nir David and Ma'ale Gilboa. On the Palestinian side is the village of Fakua.

History[edit]

In the 6th century there was a Jewish settlement here, of which the synagogue has been found. It was followed by the Arab village of Bait Ilfa, which was eventually abandoned.

The kibbutz was founded on November 4, 1922 by Hashomer Hatzair alpha pioneers. The first members came from Poland.[1] They had won their first experience in 1921 when they participated in the establishment of kibbutz Geva. At first, the pioneers suffered from very severe operating conditions in the swamps and malaria was widespread. In April 1927 the kibbutz was visited by the Czechoslovak president Tomáš Masaryk. It was the first visit of a head of state in the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1928 the members of the adjacent kibbutz Heftziba discovered on their grounds the remains of the Beth Alpha synagogue, dating back to the Byzantine period. During the Arab riots of 1929 the kibbutz was attacked and its fields destroyed. When in April 1936 the Arab uprising broke out, the Arabs again set fire to the surrounding fields.

In 1940 some of the members, affiliated with Hashomer Hatzair, moved to kibbutz Ramat Yohanan, in exchange for supporters of Mapai from Ramat Yohanan. According to the Jewish National Fund, this move was prompted by an ideological split.[1] In subsequent years the kibbutz was one of the centers used by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah.

Zodiac mosaic, Beit Alfa synagogue

On 1 April 1948 the kibbutz was attacked by Arab mortar fire. The Arabs withdrew as a platoon from the 1st parachute battalion of the British 6th Airborne Division approached.[2]

After the 1948-49 war, the Gilboa Educational Institute was established in the northern part of the kibbutz. The institute, which served as a school for the surrounding area, offered boarding and had an array of sports facilities and workshops enabling professional training. At the end of 2003 the institute was closed and the complex of buildings has since been used for various educational courses. During the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, the kibbutz took in evacuees from the border villages that had been under rocket attack by Hezbollah terrorists from southern Lebanon. After the war an absorption center for Ethiopian immigrants was set up here. Some 600 people are offered boarding, Hebrew language courses, and are prepared for integration in the Israeli society.

The kibbutz dairy was the first one in Israel to use robotic milking technology.

Archaeology[edit]

The Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park, located at the nearby kibbutz Heftziba, contains an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue, with a mosaic floor depicting the lunar Hebrew months as they correspond to the signs of the zodiac.[3][4]

Controversy[edit]

One of Beit Alfa's main industries is riot control equipment. According to The Guardian, Beit Alfa sold water cannons to the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s in a "secret pact."[5] Beit Alfa says that using water cannons to disperse riots instead of live ammunition can save human lives.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jewish National Fund (1949). Jewish Villages in Israel. Jerusalem: Hamadpis Liphshitz Press. pp. 16–17. 
  2. ^ Wilson, Dare (2008). With 6th Airborne Division in Palestine 1945-48. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-84415-771-6. 
  3. ^ "Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park (on Kibbutz Hefzibah)". Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  4. ^ Goldman, Bernard, The Sacred Portal: a primary symbol in ancient Judaic art, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1966
  5. ^ Guardian February 7, 2006 Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria Alongside the state-owned factories turning out materiel for South Africa was Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles for use against protesters in the black townships.
  6. ^ "Israeli Riot-Gear Sale Fuels Concern," Christian Science Monitor, 23 August 2001

External links[edit]