Kibbutz Movement's One Hundredth Anniversary at
Degania Reconstructed Founders' Shack
In honor of the one hundredth anniversary of Kibbutz Degania and the kibbutz movement, the original site of Kevutzat Degania, which is considered the "mother" of the kibbutzim, was reconstructed. The historical site of Umm Juni, including a reconstruction of the founders' shack where the members of the commune lived, was dedicated in the presence of the president of Israel.
"At this site, twelve members built a shack where they worked and dreamed," said President Shimon Peres
. "Today, this shack is a gate of victory. This is a historical victory, which took one hundred years to realize, thanks to dedication and faith."
KKL-JNF was responsible for infrastructure and development work at the reconstruction site, along with the preparation of paths and building an observation point. A number of senior KKL-JNF officials took part in the dedication ceremony, including World Chairman Mr. Efi Stenzler, Director General Ms. Yael Shealtieli, Executive Director of the Research and Development Division, Mr. Avi Dickstein, and the director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, Dr. Omri Boneh. The Manitoba Minister of Water Stewardship, Ms. Christine Melnick, also participated in the ceremony, along with representatives of additional organizations who took part in the project: The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, the Ministry of Education, the Kinneret Drainage Authority, the Emek HaYarden Regional Council, and the Degania Aleph kevutza.
"Umm Juni is not a memorial, but rather a road sign that shows us the way," said Efi Stenzler
. "One hundred years may have passed, but the shack of the founders of Degania still broadcasts the same message: Only if we believe in our own strength will we succeed in maintaining the Zionist enterprise."
The signposts at the site and the pictures in the exhibition in the shack tell the story of Degania's founders. In October 1910, the members of a commune from Hadera arrived at Umm Juni – ten men and two women, who dreamt of establishing an independent communal community of Jewish workers in the national homeland. They lived in huts and in the shack, and gave themselves the name "Degania" from the Hebrew word dagan, which means grain. The members worked about 1,500 dunams, thereby laying the foundation for future agriculture. About two years later, the kevutza moved to the outlet of the Jordan River by the Kinneret, where Degania still stands today.
The secretary of the kibbutz movement, Mr. Ze'ev (Velveleh) Shore
, noted that the person with the idea of founding the kevutza was Dr. Arthur Rupin, the father of early Zionist settlement activities. His son, Rafi Rupin, and two of his grandchildren, participated in the dedication ceremony of the reconstructed site. "We have rebuilt Umm Juni as a testimony and symbol to the establishment of the kibbutzim, which are a significant part of the Zionist project," Shore said.
The shack is situated in the heart of the breathtaking landscape of the Jordan River and the Jordan Valley, in the midst of the Degania date palm plantations. Omri Shalmon
, deputy director of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, noted that the same shack and the same scenery were here when the first pioneers of Degania settled the region, so visitors to this heritage site will have a sense of where we came from and where we are headed.
Many veteran members of Degania participated in the ceremony, along with young couples and their children, who are also local residents. Shai Shoshani
, the secretary of Degania Aleph, noted that present-day Degania continues in the footsteps of the founders, who created "an amazing human mosaic that is based on belief in man and society."
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the president of Israel, the KKL-JNF
chairman, the grandchildren of the first members of the commune and the
other dignitaries all climbed to the porch of the shack to pose for a
replica of the famous historical picture of the pioneers of Degania.
The original photograph was taken in 1910 by Avraham Susskind. At that
time, the young pioneers, who dreamt of an independent Jewish labor
force, posed for the picture. 100 years later, there are still people
following in their footsteps at the same exact spot, proving that the
Zionist spirit is still alive and vibrant in modern times.
At the end of the site's dedication ceremony, an official government
ceremony was held in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the
first Jewish kibbutz. About 6,000 people participated in the event,
including President Peres and the Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak. The
evening was emceed by the actor Shelomo Bar-Abba, and the Givatron band
provided musical entertainment. Two weeks from now, an official
government meeting will be held in Degania in honor of the founding of
the kibbutz movement.
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