15 Jul Kibbutz-ein-shemeer
Ein Shemer is a kibbutz in northern Israel. Located in the Shomron region to the south of Route 65, about 6 km northeast of Hadera, it falls under the jurisdiction of Menashe Regional Council. In 2018, it had a population of 553.
In 1913 a small group of young Jews belonging to the HaShomer (Watchmen’s) organization chose to establish a guard post near the entrance to Wadi ‘Ara, which would also serve as a way station for travelers between the Mediterranean coast and the Galilee.
From then on, the place was inhabited on-and-off by a few groups of pioneers, each of which was driven away by the harsh conditions – malaria, lack of water (until 1935, water had to be brought in by horse and cart from nearby Karkur), remoteness from any other settlement, and World War I which was raging and making life difficult.
In 1921, after British takeover of the land from the Ottoman Turks, members of Gdud HaAvoda, the Work Battalion, arrived in order to build a one-acre, fortified courtyard. They constructed a two-meter high stone wall with slits for shooting at attackers and a large, iron gate. A solitary, two-story stone building was also constructed which was intended to house the local people in times of trouble. The house was built in the style of 19th century houses in southern France and stands on the site to this day. Despite the large investment and effort expended on building the wall and the house, the members of Gdud HaAvodah left only a small contingent to stay on after completion of the construction. Of these, eventually only one person remained, who would later become the first member of Kibbutz Ein Shemer. His name was Shmuel Shuali and he was affectionately called Shmuel the First by his fellow kibbutz members and by what would be future generations of kibbutzniks.
In 1927, the first pioneers of HaShomer HaTzair arrived at the site. The group consisted of 18 women and 36 men, all in their late teens and early twenties. These youngsters left behind parents, homes, and future careers in order to fulfill their dream of revitalizing the Jewish people in its ancient homeland, to work the land with their own hands and to make the Zionist vision come true.
They had immigrated from Poland and had at first lived and worked at Ein Ganim near Petah Tikva, awaiting the opportunity to settle and make their contribution in Eretz Israel. Shavuot 1927 is considered the date of the founding of the kibbutz. In the coming years, more groups of HaShomer HaTzair pioneers from Poland joined the first group. Each group had its own name – Binyamina, Shomriya, BaDerech – which it kept even as its members were integrated into the kibbutz.
The hardships that these early settlers endured, like other pioneers who founded other kibbutzim, were great. Eighty years later, it is hard to grasp the enormity of the self-sacrifice that they made in leaving their childhood homes, families, relatives, language and native land. Many of them came from affluent families and most never saw their families again. The lives of the kibbutz members were almost unbearable and 80 of the 100 first members fell ill with malaria. In 1934 the kibbutz was finally hooked up to the electric grid, and only in 1935 water was found on the site, leading to a revolution in the development of the farmstead and to the erection of a local water tower. As members of HaShomer HaTzair, the founders sought ways to bring about cooperation and friendly relations with their Arab neighbors, and social contact was slowly made with the farmers of the area. Yet during the 1930s and 1940s there were security concerns and tension. In 1938 two members of the kibbutz were murdered in an attack by an Arab gang. Following World War II kibbutz members took part in the so-called “illegal” immigration of Holocaust survivors to the Land of Israel, which was prohibited under the British Mandate. When British soldiers raided neighboring Kibbutz Giv’at Haim in 1945, Ein Shemer members rushed to the defense of that kibbutz and of the right of Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel. In the ensuing combat one member, Elimelech Shtarkman, was killed and several others were wounded.
From the 1940s onward, scores of new members joined the kibbutz, some of them HaShomer HaTzair members from Egypt and the Balkans, which doubled the population of Ein Shemer. Others came through the Youth Aliya organization from Europe after the Holocaust and native Israelis also joined through several groups and individually. This diverse flow of new members greatly enriched the social character of the kibbutz. Ein Shemer gradually stopped absorbing groups; its population since then has increased mainly by absorbing the partners of the second and third generation of members who chose to make the kibbutz their home.
Kibbutz Ein Shemer is one of the founders of HaKibbutz HaArtzi, the settlement movement of HaShomer HaTzair, and was one of the first four such kibbutzim (today there are 85 in the movement out of a total of about 265 kibbutzim). Among Ein Shemer’s members have been prominent personalities in state and movement institutions, including: Zvi Lurie, one of the signers of the Israeli Declaration of Independence; Israel (Kurt) Hertz, one of the leaders of the Histadrut; Ya’kov (Kuba) Riftin, a six-time Knesset member from the Mapam party; and David (Dado) Elazar, a member of the Yugoslavian youth group on Ein Shemer who went on to become commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces.