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Beit Alfa

Coordinates: 32°30′58″N 35°25′49″E / 32.51611°N 35.43028°E / 32.51611; 35.43028
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Beit Alfa
בֵּית אַלְפָא
Beit Alfa, 1930s
Beit Alfa, 1930s
Beit Alfa is located in Jezreel Valley region of Israel
Beit Alfa
Beit Alfa
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; 35.43028
Country Israel
AffiliationKibbutz Movement
Founded4 November 1922
Founded byHashomer Hatzair
Children from Kibbutz Beit Alfa on Mount Gilboa, circa 1935

Beit Alfa (Hebrew: בֵּית אַלְפָא; also Beit Alpha, Bet Alpha and Bet Alfa) is a kibbutz in the Northern District of Israel, founded in 1922 by immigrants from Poland.[2] Located at the base of the Gilboa ridge, it falls under the jurisdiction of Gilboa Regional Council. As of 2022 its population was 1,386.[1]


The kibbutz was founded near a depopulated Arab village, Khirbet Bait Ilfa, at the bottom of the northern steep slopes of Mount Gilboa, on the eastern edge of the Harod Valley, between the Jezreel Valley and the Beit She'an Valley in the Lower Galilee.[3] The Gilboa mountain range stretches to its west, with the closest peaks Har (mount) 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. Adjacent to the kibbutz to the west is kibbutz Heftziba and Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park; Gan HaShlosha National Park is directly to its east; and kibbutz Ma'ale Gilboa sits on top of Mount Gilboa directly to the south. Other notable locations in the vicinity are kibbutzim Reshafim, Sde Nahum, and Nir David, Shita prison, and in the West Bank to the south, on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, is the Palestinian village Faqqua.[4][5]


A 6th century Jewish settlement–of which the Beit Alfa Synagogue formed a part–survived into Islamic times as Beit Ilfa. On 4 November 1922, Hashomer Hatzair settlers from Poland established the modern kibbutz, Beit Alpha, naming it after the nearby abandoned Arab village, Khirbet Beit Ilfa.[6][7][8]

The founding members gained their first experience in 1921, when they participated in the establishment of kibbutz Geva.[9] At first, the settlers 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. 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.[citation needed]

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.[9] In subsequent years the kibbutz was one of the centers used by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah.

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.[10]

After the 1948 Arab–Israeli 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 2006 Lebanon War, the kibbutz took in evacuees from the border villages that had been under rocket attack by Hezbollah militants 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.[citation needed]

Meir Har-Zion built a farm and house, "Ahuzat Shoshana", on a hilltop just north and in sight of Beit Alfa, right next to the ruins of the Crusader castle of Belvoir. The farm is named after his sister and her name is written on the gate to the farm.


Dairy: The kibbutz dairy was the first in Israel to use robotic milking technology.[citation needed]

Poultry: Beit Alfa operates three poultry houses in which the eggs are collected centrally on an egg conveyor belt.[11]

Furniture: Beit Alfa Home Furniture builds custom furniture for homes and offices. It is a recognized supplier for Israel's Ministry of Defense.[12]

Special Purpose Vehicles: BAT (Beit Alfa Technologies) began making fire trucks in 1966. Today it manufactures vehicles for rapid airport intervention that eject foam, water, and dry powder. BAT manufacturers Water Restraint Systems for non-lethal crowd control of dangerous inmates and correctional facilities.[13] BAT also expanded to become an international designer and manufacturer of special purpose vehicles for the military, law enforcement, and government and private sectors. BAT has sold riot control vehicles to more than 30 countries. According to The Guardian, BAT "developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles" to the apartheid regime in South Africa "for use against protesters in the black townships".[14] BAT's vehicles have also been used as riot control vehicles in Burundi to suppress protests against the unconstitutional extension of President Nkurunziza's presidency.[15]

Guest Houses: The kibbutz runs a guesthouse with 37 units, five of them with wheelchair access.[16]

Beit Alpha Cucumber[edit]

Since the 1930s a kibbutz member, Hanka Lazarson, was engaged in vegetable breeding; including: cucumber, onion, garlic, aubergine and cauliflower. Between 1931 and 1936 she developed a breed of cucumbers that came to be known as the "Beit Alpha Cucumber" (or "Beth Alpha Cucumber"). The breed became highly popular worldwide due to its excellent taste and high yield. The vegetable breeding program in Beit Alpha continued successfully over the next 30 years; constantly improving various varieties.[17]


Zodiac mosaic, Beit Alfa synagogue

When irrigation canals were being dug in 1928, an ancient mosaic was unearthed on Jewish National Fund land on the grounds of Kibbutz Hefzibah. The government of Palestine's Department of Antiquities granted permission for excavation to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations, led by Eleazar Sukenik, revealed a synagogue and a mosaic floor from the fifth century.[18][19]

The Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park established at the site contains an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue, with a mosaic floor depicting the lunar Hebrew months as they correspond to the signs of the zodiac.[20][21]

Notable people[edit]

Si Heyman performing at a rock festival in the Red Sea
Naomi Frankel

While serving as Israel's (12th) Chief of Staff and after retiring from the army, Moshe Levi lived in Beit Alfa. In his last years, he was the founding chairperson of the supervisory board of Highway 6, also known as the Trans-Israel Highway. Levi died from a stroke and was buried at the kibbutz, with eight generals carrying his body, top government officials, and hundreds who knew and worked with him in attendance.[22][23]

Actor, writer, producer, comedian Seth Rogen's parents met in Beit Alfa.[24]

Gabriel "Gavrush" Rapoport (1924–2001) was a Palmach and IDF combat veteran, who helped create Israel's famed heavy equipment rescue unit that has saved lives around the world. Gavrush was one of the first children born on the kibbutz. According to Haaretz, Israeli poet and writer Haim Gouri, a friend of Rapoport, said: "When Gavrush was born, the midwife fainted. Never before had an infant come out of the womb holding a revolver in one hand, and an adjustable wrench in the other".[25]

Israeli novelist Naomi Frankel (1918–2009) joined the kibbutz in her teens and left it in 1970. Although she later changed her political ideology from left to right, she asked to be buried on the kibbutz beside her first husband.[26][27][28] Frankel rose to fame with the publication of her trilogy Shaul ve-Yohannah (Saul and Joanna, 1956–1967), which depicted Jewish life in prewar Germany.[29][30]

Songwriter and composer Nachum Heiman, an Israel Prize laureate, moved to the kibbutz with his second wife, and their two daughters were born there, one of them singer Si Heiman.[31]

Israel Zamir (1929–2014), son of Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer, lived on the kibbutz for 77 years until his death in 2014.[32][33][34] After his passing, he was buried at the kibbutz.[32][34] Like his father, he was also a writer.[32][33][34][35]

In Israeli Culture[edit]

Beit Alfa is repeatedly mentioned in the Natan Alterman-penned lyrics to the classic 1934 song, "Shir HaEmek" (Song of the Valley),[36] about the Jezreel Valley.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Regional Statistics". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House. 1972. p. 714.
  3. ^ Joseph Gutmann (1997). "Beth Alpha". In E. M. Meyers (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. p. 299.
  4. ^ "Gan Garoo: The kangaroo petting zoo". Haaretz.
  5. ^ שירות בתי הסוהר ips.gov.il
  6. ^ G.J.H. Ovenden, 'Mount Gilboa,' Palestine Exploration Quarterly Vol. 56, Issue 4 1924 pp.193-195.
  7. ^ Erhard Gorys, Andrea Gorys, Heiliges Land: ein 10,000 Jahre altes Kulturland zwischen Mittelmeer, Rotem Meer und Jordan, DuMont Reiseverlag, 2006 p.216.'(The synagogue) was part of a prosperous village called Bet Alfa, which survived during the Islamic period as Beit Ilfa. Jewish settlers founded the Bet Alfa kibbutz in 1921 nearby the abandoned Arab village of Beit Ilfa.' Sie (the synagogue of that name) gehörte zu einem wohlhabenden Dorf mit dem Namen Bet Alfa, der in islamischer Zeit als Beit Ilfa fortlebte. . .In der Nähe des verlassenen arabischen Dorfes Beit Ilfa gründeten jüdische Siedler 1921 den Kibbutz Bet Alfa.'
  8. ^ Joseph Gutmann, 'Beth Alpha,' in E. M. Meyers (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, Oxford University Press 1997 p.299.
  9. ^ a b Jewish National Fund (1949). Jewish Villages in Israel. Jerusalem: Hamadpis Liphshitz Press. pp. 16–17.
  10. ^ Wilson, Dare (2008). With 6th Airborne Division in Palestine 1945-48. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-84415-771-6.
  11. ^ "Beit Alfa, most modern broiler breeder project in Israel".
  12. ^ "Google Translate".
  13. ^ "B.A.T - BEIT ALFA TECHNOLOGIES LTD - Special Purpose Vehicles". www.bat.co.il. Archived from the original on 2008-05-01.
  14. ^ Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria, Chris McGreal, The Guardian, 7 February 2006
  15. ^ "Burundian authorities repressed demonstrations as if they were an insurrection, and now the country appears to be on the verge of conflict, Amnesty International warned in a new report, Braving Bullets – Excessive force in policing demonstrations in Burundi, released today". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 2024-01-13.
  16. ^ "חיפוש אתר סברסים". 4 October 2011. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Beit Alfa Heirloom Cucumber Origin from 1931 to 1936". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  18. ^ "Beit Alpha - הארכיון הציוני". www.zionistarchives.org.il. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  19. ^ E.L. Sukenik (1932). The Ancient Synagogue of Beth Alpha. Oxford University Press. pp. 5, 7.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ Goldman, Bernard, The Sacred Portal: a primary symbol in ancient Judaic art, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1966
  22. ^ "Moshe Levy, 72, Israel, former Army Chief of Staff, Jan. 8, 2008". 9 January 2008.
  23. ^ "Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Levy dies at 72". 8 January 2008.
  24. ^ ""Neighbors," Soulmates and Israel". 13 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Obituary / Gained Israel fame for rescue missions". Haaretz.
  26. ^ Curtius, Mary (12 June 1988), "After 50 Years, She Finds a Home: Zionist's search ends in Israeli settlement", The Boston Globe
  27. ^ Leibovitz, Liel (25 November 2009). "Homeward Bound: How Naomi Frankel's life and work mirrored modern Jewish history". Tablet. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  28. ^ Ilani, Efri (23 November 2009). סיפורה של נעמי פרנקל: קול הדורות האבודים של ברלין וחברון [The Story of Naomi Frankel: Voice of the lost generations of Berlin and Hebron]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  29. ^ Kressel, Getzel (1 January 2007). "Frankel, Naomi". Encyclopaedia Judaica. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  30. ^ Kressel, Getzel. "Frankel, Naomi". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  31. ^ Nachum Heiman, One of Israel's Greatest Composers, Dies at 82, Haaretz
  32. ^ a b c Newman, Marissa. "Isaac Bashevis Singer's only son dies at 85". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  33. ^ a b "Israel Zamir, son of Isaac Bashevis Singer, dies at 85". Haaretz. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  34. ^ a b c "Funeral Monday for Israel Zamir, only son of Isaac Bashevis Singer". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. 23 November 2014. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  35. ^ "Israel Zamir, a Man Who Was Far More Than Isaac Bashevis Singer's Son". The Forward. 6 December 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-07-06. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  36. ^ Shir Ha'Emek with 1934 Daniel Samburski Film - Ofra Haza, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2021-06-05


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