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Beit Alfa, 1930s
|Founded||4 November 1922|
|Founded by||Hashomer Hatzair|
Beit Alfa (Hebrew: בֵּית אַלְפָא) (also Beit Alpha and Bet Alpha) is a kibbutz in the Northern District of Israel. Located near the Gilboa ridge, it falls under the jurisdiction of Gilboa Regional Council. 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 2014 its population was 969.
The kibbutz sits on the bottom of the northern steep slopes of Mount Gilboa, on the eastern edge of the Harod Valley. It lies between the Jezreel Valley and the Beit She'an Valley in the Lower Galilee, with the Gilboa mountain range stretching to the 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. In its vicinity are the kibbutzim Heftziba, Sde Nahum, Nir David and Ma'ale Gilboa, and to the south, in the West Bank on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, is the Palestinian village of Faqqua.
The kibbutz was founded on 4 November 1922 by Hashomer Hatzair alpha pioneers, with the first members coming from Poland. 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. In subsequent years the kibbutz was one of the centers used by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah.
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.
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.
While serving as Israel's Chief of Staff and after retiring from the army, Moshe Levi lived on 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 was buried at Kibbutz Beit Alpha, with eight generals carrying his body, top government officials, and hundreds who knew and worked with him in attendance.
The Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park, located at the adjacent 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.
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." Beit Alfa Trailer Company counters that its intention to sell equipment to a location such as Zimbabwe is actually humane, that "demonstrators would be faced with water cannons, not live ammunition".
- 2014 populations Israel Central Bureau of Statistics
- Joseph Gutmann (1997). "Beth Alpha". In E. M. Meyers. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. p. 299.
- Jewish National Fund (1949). Jewish Villages in Israel. Jerusalem: Hamadpis Liphshitz Press. pp. 16–17.
- Wilson, Dare (2008). With 6th Airborne Division in Palestine 1945-48. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-84415-771-6.
- "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.
- Goldman, Bernard, The Sacred Portal: a primary symbol in ancient Judaic art, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1966
- Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria The Guardian, 7 February 2006