Eretz Israel



The Kibbutz


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Kibbutz Matzuba

Matzuba is a kibbutz in the Western Galilee in northern Israel. The village was established in 1940 by immigrants from Germany who were members of the Maccabi Hatzair Zionist youth movement. It was named after the nearby Ma'azub antiquities.

Settling the land at Matzuba

At the end of World War II the British Mandatory government prevented the immigration and settlement of the few survivors from Europe, and limited the purchase of land and building Jewish settlements. The western Galilee was a beautiful part of the country, rich in scenery and not settled by Jews then apart from Nahariya, Shavei Zion and Evron on the coastal strip. In March 1938, in the framework of the 'Tower and Stockade' settlement campaign, a 'conquering force' of 90 people went to Hanita, whose founding was extremely important, together with 400 members of the Hagana who came to help the settlers. They bore the equipment and the building materials on their shoulders since there was no paved road to the site. The very first night, before they had even finished building the stockade, Arab rioters attacked Hanita and the first two victims fell defending the settlement. A month later the road up the mountain was cleared and the settlers moved to their permanent location.

Kibbutz Eilon, the second settlement founded in the western Galilee, was established in November 1938, also in the framework of the 'Tower and Stockade' campaign. The area was mountainous and covered with natural forest of terebinth and oak trees - hence its name.

The third settlement, kibbutz Matzuba, was established in that area in February 1940, belonging to the United Kibbutz Movement. The land was acquired in 1939, and its original settlers, immigrants from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, were mostly members of the Kinarot group founded in Hadera in 1938. The kibbutz was built close to the Ma'azub ruins, and kept the ancient name, Pi-Matzuba, mentioned in the 2nd century CE Brayta (commentary) on the religious commandments concerning the land of Israel. The first settlers settled in Lower Hanita in 1939, and moved from there to the hill of Matzuba on February 14th 1940. During the first years they suffered from a severe shortage of living needs, water and land.

Photo, above: Shlomo with the flock.
Photo, right: The shearing season--Shlomo and friends shear sheep

Shlomo was at first a shepherd and conquered the western Galilee in the full sense of the word. With his friends, Eli Gil and Jehuda Ben Moshe, they spent long days shepherding in the fields and milking the flock. He almost met Shulamit, who became the love of his life forever, and his wife in 1946, out there in the hills.

Photo, above: Drilling for water
Photo, above left: Shulamit and Shlomo,
living in a tent in the early days

They lived in tents and afterwards move to huts. There were no asphalt roads, only dirt tracks. With no electricity they used primus stoves and oil lamps, and brought water in pails from the water tower. Only after they drilled and found water in 1947 did they enjoy running water and began their rapid agricultural development.

They worked the land with horses and donkeys harnessed to ploughs; they removed the rocks and stones with their bare hands. At night they kept guard lest there be Arab attacks, thieves and infiltrators. With progress and development in Israel they moved to permanent housing but the 'new' road to the kibbutz was only paved after blasting the lower hill in 1965.

Winter 1940 saw three Jewish settlements in the area - Matzuba, Hanita and Eilon - with only 500 families in an Arab mass of 50,000 hostile neighbors. Clinging bravely to the rocky ground despite the difficulties of survival and years of toil proved themselves more than demographic data and defeated the November 1947 UN decision to partition the country and allocate the western Galilee to the future Arab state. If it were not for the 500 settlers, Israel's border might have been set at Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa. In his memoirs Shlomo writes: "We huddled in the shelters during that decisive night of voting and raised our flag in the face of the hostile enemy surroundings. We knew that the sobering hour would soon arrive - we were outside, beyond the area allocated to the Jewish state.

"When the fighting started, Matzuba was in the process of a decisive community revolution. All our thoughts were directed towards how to best use our water supply. Plans were completed, pipes were brought, members were sent for training and we had made the first basic and costly investment in new branches ... This process, that opened new horizons and assured a future after many years of poverty and suffering, was suddenly interrupted because of political developments. What we had started we could not complete, and endless new roles and worries arose."

From March 17th they were under siege. The stock of food, fuel and provisions for the animals quickly ran out. Some supplies were sent by air, but a convoy of reinforcements did not arrive as hoped. Only when the western Galilee was conquered by the IDF, on May 14th 1948, could we evacuate the children to the Ahava institution in Kfar Bialik until the end of the Hiram campaign in October 1948.

Shlomo caught dysentery in the early fifties because of the poor living conditions and was hospitalized in Mula. He underwent abdominal surgery and almost died. After he recovered, he quit his pioneering agricultural work, chose education and youth absorption. The three shepherds, Shlomo, Eli and Jehuda, became teachers of the next generation. Shlomo gave the immigrant youth from Europe a home and warmth, and his devotion knew no limits. Matzuba was one of the first kibbutzim to successfully absorb children who arrived through the Aliyat Hanoar before the establishment of the State of Israel, and so the nickname "Yeled Chemed" (charming child) stuck. Most of the Matzuba veterans were members of Aliyat Hanoar.

Shlomo had an idea that was original for those times: To establish an integrated, mixed youth group of new immigrants and Israelis. The first group was called the Kfirim: 50 children who had studied for five years in the kibbutz from when they were 12-13 years of age. The group was particularly interesting, and the experiment was crowned with great success despite the preliminary difficulties and the logistic and social problems. Some of those youths remained in the kibbutz and raised their families there.



Shulamit began working in the Matzuba kitchen and later was the kibbutz specialist in home economics for about eight years, in other words, she was responsible for the kitchen, for the dining room (cooking and serving the diners) and for ordering food for the kibbutz.

In 1950 she began working as the nurse in the kibbutz clinic when the previous nurse quit. Israel had very few nursing schools in those days despite the great need for the profession, but the sick fund offered an accelerated training course.

photo: Shulamit in the vineyard, 1950

Shula also studied in a clinic in Haifa and received professional qualification; at the same time she was informed of the order according to which she would continue to receive training in the departments of the sick fund clinics while working. Over the years she participated in every possible study day, read and studied books and journals. The subject fascinated her and she accumulated tremendous medical knowledge.

Shula in the Matzuba clinic

Shula at work in the clinic

     Shula took responsibility for the health of Matzuba's members, including children and the elderly. The doctor lived in Hanita and the closest hospital was in Haifa. There was no telephone line yet and transportation was problematic. However, the nurse herself was most energetic, and running quickly through the kibbutz managed to help the sick. Expressions such as, "Going to Shula", "asking Shula", or "Shula said" were often heard from the members, since Shula was an institution in the kibbutz. Her work gradually expanded: As the nurse, she did not only handle the physical health, but also took responsibility for the mental health domain. She was the address for family and social problems with which social workers and psychologists usually deal, and when necessary sent them for outside advice.     
     Matzuba experienced very tough, and even unbearable times. Many natural miscarriages occurred because of the poor nutrition that weakened the women. Shula was the only nurse and the help she received was not professional. However, she overcame the difficulties and the tremendous tension involved in her work through her investigative eye, her great knowledge, her responsibility, her calm, the confidence she inspired and her quiet sense of humor.

     After a while she was joined by another nurse who came to share her work, and the members decided to whom to turn. As the population grew, so did the number of nurses.

After she had filled that position for more than 30 years, Shula spoke about her work as a nurse:
"Once people could talk to the nurse about their personal problems day and night. The difference between a nurse in a kibbutz and one in another social framework is tremendous. It is interesting and enriching to be a nurse in a kibbutz. It opens horizons and possibilities for independent study. I am very pleased that I was lucky enough to work in this profession. Dr. Grauss, of blessed memory, who was our doctor for 27 years, helped me a great deal. He taught me and in fact shaped the way I work.
     I don't know why young people are not attracted to the profession. We have good nurses who do not work in the profession, each for her own personal reasons. Some like the profession but do not want to work in the kibbutz. I was previously not particularly in favor of rotation, since I acquired ever more experience and did not want to stop. But recently, if a trained nurse could not cope with the pressure I could not help out I was very sad. I thought the time had come for the younger person to take my place and accept responsibility."


"In the beginning we only had one room in a hut, which was also the doctor's waiting room. There was no tap in the room. The conditions were extremely difficult, but the doctor took this well. In 1951, we moved into the new clinic. Meanwhile, it has grown and more rooms, a laboratory, medical equipment an office were added but the situation is still not satisfactory. We lack a store room for drugs, a dental clinic and so on."

"The health situation in the early years was poorer than average and infectious illnesses were common. The area was infested with malaria and Maltese fever that were transmitted by the flocks. These were then lengthy illnesses, but today, using antibiotic treatment, one can recover from them very quickly. The food was repetitive and lacked essential ingredients, such as meat. There were cases of diarrhea and infectious jaundice. The water shortage and bad sanitation also contributed to this.

We also knew the phenomenon of psychosomatic illnesses, mainly amongst the youth who did not find themselves in their place of work after joining the kibbutz. Some happily stayed at home and claimed they were sick. Only after they found a satisfactory place of work did the phenomenon cease.

In certain cases, the doctor limited the number of hours of the members' work for medical reasons, and sometimes difficulty was created in sending these members back to a full work regime. However my experience taught me that when morale was high, there was no such 'falling sick', especially amongst the adults who tried to overcome illness. Even if they felt unwell, they tried to work as best they could."


From Roni Peled, "Four Clover Leaves."





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