Kibbutz Reshafim, 10905, Israel  

Where

Map of Israel- Kibbutz Reshafim is situated in the Beit Shean Valley in Northern Israel, about five kilometres west of the town of Beit Shean. The land it was founded on in 1948 was known as "Ashrafia", Gifts, as the British Mandatory Government had given them as gifts to leading Palestinian families.

Map of northern Israel In the '30s they were bought back and held by the authorities, who had plans of settling there landless Palestinian farmers. The state of Israel took over the land and allotted it two kibbutzim, Reshafim and Shluhot.

 

Map of the Beit Shean Valley Rainfall in the Beit Shean region is sparse, about 300mm per year during the winter months only. Agriculture relies heavily on irrigation. The water comes from artesian wells at the foot of the Gilboa mountain just south of the kibbutz.

The climate with temperatures usually between 10 and 40°C is appropriate for growing subtropic crops such as citrus fruit avocadoes, mangoes and dates, but a few frost nights a year prevent the growing of more delicate crops such as bananas. Snow fall is extremely rare and has happened just twice in the last fifty years.

 

 

 

The town of Beit Shean is very ancient. A gateway between the desert to the east and the flourishing coastal region, it was a city of major importance, mentioned for the first time in Egyptian writings of the 19th century BC. After the Israelite conquest of Palestine, Beit Shean continued to be in the hands of the Canaanites. In the days of king Saul, Philistines held the city. It was taken during the reign of David (10th century BC). In the era of the second temple Beit Shean was a centre of Hellenism called Skythopolis. The sons of the Hasmonaean Yohanan conquered it, expelling the Hellenists. They returned after the Roman conquest. In Roman times it became a Free City and was part of the Dekapolis. Under the rule of the Byzantines, it served as the capital of the Galilee and the Golan, inhabited by many Jews. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century and never regained its former importance.
During the British Mandate, it was a minor township named Beisan inhabited by some 5000 Arabs. In the first days of the month of May 1948 the Arab Legion ordered the evacuation of the town's women and children [1] and the men were forced to remain [2]. On 12th May Israeli forces took the town. [4] The remaining 300 inhabitants were evicted on 28th May, and most of them opted to go to Nazareth. [3] The fall of the town caused most of the remaining Arab inhabitants of the Beit Shean valley to flee to Jordan, the rest were expelled. About 20,000 Arabs of the region became refugees. [4]
 

The Archaeological Excavation of Roman Beit Shean

Excavations at Beit Shean

3. theatre , further to the South, there is an Amphitheatre
4. baths
5. mosaic
6. road with pillars
7. temple
9. road with pillars
10.monument
11.basilika
12.a row of pillars
13.Byzantine street with shops

Today Beit Shean has about 20,000 residents, many of whom originated in Morocco. It is surrounded by many kibbutzim and moshavim. The peace treaty with Jordan is expected to have a positive influence on its development.
The kibbutzim were inhabited predominantly by European Jews and were during the early years of the state of Israel employers of many Beit Shean residents, being reluctantly forced into this role by the government which wanted to provide the new immigrants with employment. Being the bosses they were considered to be rich and overbearing by many inhabitants of Beit Shean and much bad blood was created. This animosity was further exacerbated by the late prime minister Menahem Begin, who used these feelings of discrimination to reach power in 1977.

Since the beginning of the economic crisis most kibbutzim were in in the 1990s, much of the former bad will has disappeared and we are seeing a flourishing of cooperation throughout the region.


 

Footnotes:
[1] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press 2004, ISBN 0521009677, p.174
[2] Morris, op.cit., p.179
[3] Morris, op.cit., p.228
[4] Warwick P. N. Tyler, State Lands and Rural Development in Mandatory Palestine, 1920-1948, Sussex Academic Press 2001, ISBN 1902210751, p.79

 

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July 1999