Degania Alef was the very first Kibbutz, established in 1910. Located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, more than 200 meters below sea level, it oozes pioneering spirit and living history. The core group of pioneers was a dozen intrepid young people who settled in a wooden hut in Um Juni and started to work the land. The hut was reconstructed for Degania's Centenary, and today, surrounded by the majestic date plantation, it houses a display of period photographs and artefacts. It overlooks Tel Abudiya, where archaeologists found the earliest man-made tools (now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem). Legend has it that this was the site of the Garden of Eden, and it's not difficult to believe. The place definitely has amazing atmosphere and energy.
Degania Alef's permanent buildings have been built closer to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There is a natural history museum, Bet Gordon, set up by A D Gordon, with a tower and observatory on top. Today it is a museum of museums, needing some renovation, but is full of fascinating items and books which deserve to be preserved. There is a museum about the kibbutz in the original communal dining hall. Our guide told us that labels in English are being prepared. Tours are available.
Degania has a modern olive oil press producing award-winning high quality oil. It has a shop, which sells the olive oil, and almonds, grown in Degania's fields on the nearby hill tops.
It is fascinating to look around the kibbutz, a living social experiment, still thriving after more than 100 years. There is an industrial diamond tool factory, cow shed, chicken houses, communal dining hall, children's houses, a pioneer courtyard, a beautiful Bauhaus style white house where young people live today, the museums, a small zoo, a beautiful shady graveyard by the Jordan River. Several well-known figures from modern Israeli history are buried here.
At the entrance to the Kibbutz stands a famous rusty Syrian tank, on the spot where it was heroically stopped in the War of Independence in 1948. It is a constant reminder not to take the beautiful pastoral life today in Kibbutz Degania Alef for granted. A young teenage girl is among those who fell in that battle for Degania.
Today there is a gourmet restaurant called 1910 in the Pioneer Courtyard, named for the year Degania Alef was founded. This restaurant is of the highest standard and is extremely popular. It is best to book to avoid disappointment.
A visit to Kibbutz Degania Alef is suitable for the whole family. It is inspiring to experience living history, as this unique community continues to evolve.
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