The Green Oasis of Arava Valley: The Kibbutzim

The Arava Valley of Israel is dry desert, characterized by yellow and red mountains.  The average annual rainfall has been around 30 mm of water.  Last winter, however, was very dry with a little over 10 mm of rain.  This is barely anything, compared to the Northern or Central Israel, not to mention Finland, which is rich in water resources.


Dozens of date orchards are planted in the Arava valley, and each tree is individually irrigated to optimise the water use.  Date palms themselves need a large amount of water to produce commercial quantities of dates.  Just like all the other Kibbutzim along the Arava Valley, Kibbutz Ketura has its own date plantations, which are located between the Jerusalem-Eilat highway and the border with Jordan.


The main source of water is from the Valley’s aquifers, which are vital for the existence of agriculture.  The trees and other crops are been irrigated with this slightly saline water, while water for drinking is been desalinated.  Every time I travel in the valley either to south Eilat or to north Jerusalem, I can conclude that without these water resources, there would barely be any green to be seen besides the dry desert shrubs and trees, like acacia, that can survive with incredibly little water in the harsh climate.


The fact that Kibbutz communities exist in the valley can be seen and characterized as a miracle.  Without the hard labour and commitment of the residents to cultivate and develop the land, there wouldn’t be these green oasis-like communities.  Just like the early residents were considered pioneers, the same can be said about the nowadays residents who want to invest their life, their time and their skills to root themselves in the Kibbutz communities.


View of Kibbutz Ketura from a mountain facing southView of Kibbutz Ketura from a mountain facing south
Photo: Shmuel Willner


In the future, the government of Israel will have an even important role encouraging the regions developers to invest in the communities.  One of the strategic moves was the decision to build a new international airport at Timna that will eventually replace the airport in the city of Eilat.


Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) has played an important role in developing the Kibbutz movement from the early years of their establishment over hundred years ago, all the way until the late years of high-tech society.  By building residential and agricultural infrastructure, such as water reservoirs, forests and fields, the organization has helped to develop the region.


One of the major steps in increasing the attractiveness of the neighbourhoods is increasing the number of green areas.  This however is going to be challenge during times of general water scarcity, which leads to increasing water prices.  One solution is to find crops that survive with lesser amount of water, and with water that has salt content; another equally important measure is to further increase the efficiency of water use.


After spending nine months in Arava Valley so far, I can with certainty conclude that water is the source of life in the green oases of the Kibbutz communities.