Mishmar HaEmek

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Mishmar HaEmek

מִשְׁמַר הָעֵמֶק
השומריה - עמק יזרעאל והגלבוע (3).JPG
Mishmar HaEmek is located in Jezreel Valley region of Israel
Mishmar HaEmek
Mishmar HaEmek
Coordinates: 32°36′34.91″N 35°8′30.48″E / 32.6096972°N 35.1418000°E / 32.6096972; 35.1418000Coordinates: 32°36′34.91″N 35°8′30.48″E / 32.6096972°N 35.1418000°E / 32.6096972; 35.1418000
AffiliationKibbutz Movement
Founded byHaShomer HaTzair
Name meaningGuard of the Valley

Mishmar HaEmek (Hebrew: מִשְׁמַר הָעֵמֶק, lit. "Guard of the Valley")[2] is a kibbutz in northern Israel. Located in the western Jezreel Valley, it falls under the jurisdiction of Megiddo Regional Council. Mishmar HaEmek is one of the few kibbutzim that have not undergone privatization and still follow the traditional collectivist and socialist model.[3] In 2018 it had a population of 1,255.[1]

The kibbutz was established in 1926 by members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, who moved to Mandatory Palestine during the Third Aliyah from Poland,[4] it was the first Jewish settlement in the southern part of the Jezreel Valley.[5] It quickly became a center of the Hashomer Hatzair, especially after the Kibbutz Arzi chose to build their first regional school in the kibbutz. In April 1948 the kibbutz was the epicenter of an important battle when it successfully repelled the first major offensive of the Arab Liberation Army commanded by Fawzi al-Qawuqji, during the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine.[6]

Throughout its years, the economy of the kibbutz was based on agriculture. Today it also operates a plastics factory in partnership with Kibbutz Gal'ed;[6] the forest near the kibbutz was planted by its residents and is listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.[7]

At least six former members of the Knesset hail from Mishmar HaEmek.


Mishmar HaEmek is located in the southwestern part of the Jezreel Valley, between Highway 66 and the foot of the Menashe Heights. Next to the kibbutz is the manmade Mishmar HaEmek forest, planted by the Jewish National Fund and members of the kibbutz, it is a section of the Megiddo park (formerly named "Ramot Menashe park"), listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.[7][8][9]


Prestate history[edit]

Mishmar HaEmek with Manasseh Heights in the background, 1933

During the Fourth Aliyah (1924–1928), the Jezreel Valley was the top priority of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF wanted to settle the valley in order to establish a significant Jewish agricultural community in the arable valley, and to create a contiguous bloc of Jewish settlements in the valley, connecting Haifa with the already existing bloc of Jewish settlements between Afula and Beit She'an. In 1924 the JNF bought some 30,175 dunams of land from Arab villages next to Nahalal in the western part of the valley. On this land, Sarid, Ramat David, Gvat, Kfar Baruch and Mishmar HaEmek were established.[10]

The kibbutz started as a portable community (gar'in) called "Kibbutz Hashomer Hatzair Bet"[11] (Bet is the second letter in Hebrew), its pioneers gathered on 21 January 1922 in Neve Sha'anan, Haifa by Polish Jews, of Hashomer Hatzair movement from Galicia who arrived during the Third Aliyah.[4] The members came from a group named "Dror" from Afula and from two other groups who worked near Jerusalem, as well as a few unaffiliated pioneers. At its formation the kibbutz had 80 members. During its first year, the number of members shrank to 65.[12] In the summer of 1922 the members moved to Nahalal where they helped with swamp drying and road paving. At Nahalal some members suffered from diseases and lack of livelihood.[5] In early 1924 the number was at 60, as old members left and new ones joined. Most of the reasons for leaving were the difficulty adjusting to the kibbutz life. Others left because they wished to continue their academic career, others because of their families and some because of ideological opposition.[12] In 1925 the kibbutz, which consisted of 60 adults and six children, moved to Afula.[5]

In Afula, the kibbutz united with another HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz called "Kibbutz HaShomer HaTzair Dalet" (the fourth letter in Hebrew), which was formed in Hadera in 1924. After the unification the number of members rose to 90;[12] the members were given the land for settlement in November 1926 and 15 men and women left Afula and settled in a khan on Tel Shush next to the Arab village of Abu Shusha, where they worked the land. In the next year two mules were bought and 120 dunams of fields of wheat and barley were sowed until the kibbutz moved to its current location.[5]

Mishmar HaEmek in historical context
Mishmar HaEmek defenses, 1948
Members of the Yiftach Brigade, 1948

It was the first Jewish settlement in the southern part of the Jezreel Valley.[5] After disagreements the members of the kibbutz accepted the proposal by Menachem Ussishkin to name the kibbutz "Mishmar HaEmek" in November 1928.[13]

On 26 August 1929, during the 1929 Palestine riots the kibbutz was attacked by an Arab mob equipped with firearms; the villagers and Arab policemen managed to fend away the rioters. British policemen told the kibbutz to evacuate and promised to take care for their property and the kibbutz left the following day. On 28 August, Arab rioters burned the kibbutz's barn, uprooted trees, stole corn from the fields and vandalized two gravestones in the kibbutz's cemetery, it was the only time in the history of the kibbutz it was abandoned and during the riots 16 other Jewish communities were evacuated.[14]

In early 1930 the rest of the kibbutz, which consisted of 85 adults and 16 children, left Afula and joined the members in Mishmar HaEmek. In the next years the members planted 50,000 trees, built a cowshed, planted a vineyard and various fruit trees, dug wells and built the first two permanent buildings: A double story children's house made of concrete and a water tower;[13] the children's house was the educational institution of the kibbutz and was planned in 1931 but only built in 1937 after the needed funds were raised. It was built by the kibbutz members to reduce the costs, on a small hill near the Kibbutz. At the it was completed, it was among the biggest structures in the region and was nicknamed "the Big House".[15] In 1936 graduates of Hashomer Hatzair established a gar'in and settled in the kibbutz until they moved to Rishon LeZion in 1937 and in 1946 they established the kibbutz of Hatzor.[16] In 1931 the kibbutz absorbed a group of Hashomer Hatzair members from the United States, who numbered 17 and in 1933 their number grew to 30. In 1934 the Americans moved to a plot of land near Hadera.[17]

School building, Mishmar Haemek, December 1938

The residents of Mishmar HaEmek were represented the left-wing of the Israeli Labor Movement, which was more peace-seeking and humanistic towards the Arabs; some of the movement's leaders hailed from the kibbutz, such as Mordechai Bentov and Ya'akov Hazan. During the early days of the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine the kibbutz found it self under constant attacks by the nearby Arabs,[18] under the command of Ahmad Attiyah Awad and after his death in March 1938, the command was transferred to Yusuf Abu Durra;[19][20] the attacks came in the form of repeated arson attacks on grain fields and forests, which were described by one of the members as a "crime greater than murder", as the burning of the wheat fields denied the members of their main food source. Some 30,000 trees in the vicinity of the kibbutz were destroyed and an enormous amount of property was lost. There were no direct attacks on the kibbutz itself, but almost every night were single shots fired in its direction. Many of the kibbutz men had to spend time guarding instead of working the fields.[18] British High Commissioner Arthur Grenfell Wauchope visited the kibbutz and appointed 15 members as guards and gave them firearms but in August 1936 the situation worsened; the British government sent 60 soldiers to guard the kibbutz and in October the attacks on the kibbutz ended.[14] During the attacks, tens of thousands of trees were burnt.[13] Israeli poet and later member of the Knesset, Uri Zvi Greenberg, criticized the residents of Mishmar HaEmek for not taking the law into their hands after the attacks on their fields and in a poem he wrote on the events he changed the name of the kibbutz from "Mishmar HaEmek" (Guard of the Valley) to "Hefker HaEmek" (Abandonment of the Valley).[21] On 2 February 1938 a member of the kibbutz named Abraham Goldschleger who was a guide for Ein HaShofet was ambushed and murdered by residents of Al-Kafrayn. Two residents of Ein HaShofet who accompanied him were also killed in the attack. One of the shooters was caught and executed;[19] the Palmach (an elite force of the Jewish Haganah underground organization) used the trees in the nearby forest as cover for their main training camp and its fighters worked in the kibbutz.[13]

In the fall of 1942, when there were fears of a German victory in the Middle East, Mishmar HaEmek was used as a training camp by the British army. 160 Jewish volunteers, who would later become members of the Palmach branch of the Haganah, were trained by Royal Engineers in sabotage and wireless operation. Several tons of explosives were hidden in caches in case the area came under German occupation; this program was terminated immediately upon the training of the volunteers, and orders issued for the collection of all equipment and explosives to be returned to the British.[22]

In 1947, Mishmar HaEmek had a population of 550; the Jewish National Fund and Worton Hall Studios made a 1947 movie called The Great Promise (Dim'at Ha'Nehamah Ha'Gedolah), and a number of the scenes were filmed here.[2]

Battle of Mishmar HaEmek[edit]

During the 1947–48 civil war, on 4 April 1948, the kibbutz came under full-scale attack by the Arab Liberation Army (ALA);[23] the leader of the ALA, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, planned to seize Mishmar HaEmek to clear the way between Jenin and Haifa.[24] The attack began with an artillery barrage from seven artillery pieces supplied by the Syrian army.[25] During the shelling of the kibbutz, houses were destroyed, civilians and soldiers were killed as well as livestock[14] and the prominent white school building was heavily damaged; a bomb shelter was later built at the school.[15] On April 6, 1948, the women and children of the kibbutz were evacuated with the aid of the British to other kibbutzim in the Jezreel Valley[14] and a British-brokered ceasefire began.[26] During this period, Jewish forces fortified the kibbutz and dug trenches around its perimeter.[14] Qawuqji reported that the kibbutz was captured by the Arab forces and the "conquest of Mishmar HaEmek" was celebrated in Arab newspapers, which also reported heavy casualties among the Jewish forces, although the Arab forces had yet to enter the kibbutz; the ALA sent terms to the Haganah, saying they would raise the siege of the kibbutz, regroup and move toward Haifa, if in return the Jewish forces would accept not to retaliate against the nearby Arab villages. The Jews declined the offer and the Arab offensive resumed on 8 April. In the night between 8–9 April, the Jewish forces launched a counter-attack under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh and captured Al-Ghubayya al-Fawqa in a fierce battle. In the next days, forces of the Carmeli Brigade and the Palmach captured several other villages near Mishmar HaEmek and nearby Ein HaShofet, and all of them were destroyed.[26]

During the second phase of the war, on 24 December 1948,[11] Iraqi planes bombed the kibbutz, hitting the children's house, killing four children and injuring another four. Historian Yoav Gelber thinks the Iraqis wanted to attack Ramat David Airbase but hit the kibbutz instead.[27]

After the establishment of Israel[edit]

Kibbutz children dancing on a hilltop, 2012

In 1950, a factory called "Tama" (Mishmar HaEmek Industries) was established which became a central part of the kibbutz' economy. In the 1980s the kibbutz suffered an economic crisis that ended in the late 1980s when Tama began to manufacture harvesting tools for export.[13]

In 1950 a village and ma'abara (immigrant transit camp) called Keren Yesha was established by the Jewish Agency for Yemeni Jews next to Mishmar HaEmek,[28] it was located atop Tel Shush next to Abu Shusha where the first members of the kibbutz first settled in 1926. The kibbutz helped the new community by providing various services.[29] In 1953 the village was abandoned and the residents moved to Midrakh Oz.[30]

In the 1970s, after the expansion of the Tama factory, a 20% stake (later 25%) was sold to Kibbutz Gal'ed; the kibbutz built a new dining room, a movie theater and a public pool.[5]

In the 1980s the kibbutz suffered from the bank stock crisis; the end of the crisis began in the end of the decade, and Tama began manufacturing plastic netting used for bundling crops. Several successful business moves by Tama in the early 1990s led the kibbutz to an era of economic prosperity and high quality of life. At that time, education in the kibbutz was reformed and the children societies were abolished and the students were moved to schools outside of the kibbutz; this led the kibbutz to extend existing houses and set up new neighborhoods. The prosperity has led the kibbutz to increase the salaries of its members, to create personal funds for families and to institutionalize culture and recreation activities, as the number of work days per week was reduced to five.[5]

In 2010 the kibbutz decided after four gatherings to appoint a team of members to discuss the privatization of electricity, food, mail, barbershop and cosmetics. Other services were to be kept under the responsibility of the kibbutz, these include healthcare, education and welfare; the dispute mainly concerned the privatization of the dining room.[31] At the end of the discussions, most privatization initiatives were rejected, and only a few minor changes that had no practical effect on the collective lifestyle were accepted.


Mishmar HaEmek is one of the richest of the kibbutzim in Israel,[32] it is based on a socialist structure where all assets are communally owned and all residents earn the same amount of money. The economy is also based on intensive farming, including field crops, orchards, dairy cattle and poultry.[32][33]

The kibbutz owns 75% of Tama (Mishmar HaEmek Industries), it operates a factory on its grounds in partnership with Kibbutz Gal'ed, which owns 25% of the company.[32][34] In 2015 it was estimated that the company had an annual sales revenue of 1.5 Billion NIS.[34] The factory has about 250 workers, over a quarter are residents of the kibbutz, and manufactures plastic netting used for bundling crops. Tama is one of the world's biggest players for this product and works companies such as John Deere, it has factories in three countries with a total number of 900 workers. In the factory the employees and executives who are residents of the kibbutz all earn the same while the non-kibbutz residents who are employed in the factory earn according to their work.[35]

The agriculture, which was the early base of the kibbutz's economy continues to exist and keep the character of the kibbutz. Since the 2000s, the main focus of the agriculture in the kibbutz is chickens, milk, almond and olive trees, and various field crops.[15]

Various services have developed in the kibbutz, some of them are operated privately by the kibbutz members;[15] these include IDEA Information System, which provides software for 70% of the museums in Israel, including Yad Vashem.[36]


Music lessons on the kibbutz, 1956

Early childhood education is provided at Mishmar HaEmek; the children of the kibbutz study in an elementary school in HaZore'a and then move on to Megiddo secondary school near Ein HaShofet. Until the 1990s, students in grades 7-12 attended Shomeria secondary school.[15]

The Shomeria school, established in 1930,[15] was the first regional educational institution of the Kibbutz Artzi movement (later merged with other movements to the Kibbutz Movement),[33] it operated as a boarding school and put into practice Hashomer Hatzair's socialist ideology, creating an independent "children's society". The pupils saw their parents on the holidays or special visiting days throughout the year; the children had a daily schedule, with the mornings devoted to education, the afternoons to labour, and the evenings to cultural activities. At first, the school consisted of makeshift cabins, but the Kibbutz Artzi movement soon commissioned a building for this purpose, it was designed by architect Joseph Neufeld and was built in 1937. Its location on a hill higher than the rest of the kibbutz symbolized the importance of education. Apart from Mishmar HaEmek, the institution provided education to four other kibbutz communities that were established in the Jezreel Valley: Beit Alfa, Sarid, Mizra and Merhavia, later joined by children from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel and youth from the Youth Aliyah. After the establishment of the State of Israel, similar schools were established in other kibbutzim.[15]

Over the years, various additions were made to the complex, which continued to serve the kibbutz for informal education; the original building designed by Neufeld is no longer in use as a school,[15] and following a renovation it now houses offices and a library.[37]


Year Population
1931 122[38]
1945 390[39]
1948 549[40]
1961 704[40]
1972 923[40]
1983 822[40]
1995 878[40]
2008 956[41]
2018 1,255[1]

In the 1931 census of Palestine, Mishmar HaEmek had a population of 122, all Jewish, in 59 occupied houses.[38] In the 1945 survey the kibbutz had a population of 390 and had a total land area of 4,850 dunams, of which 114 are publicly owned and the rest (4,736) are owned by Jews;[39] the population of Mishmar HaEmek was recorded in Israeli censuses: In 1948 the kibbutz had a population of 549; In 1961 the population was 704; In 1972 the population was 923; In 1983 the population was 822; In 1995 the population was 878;[40] In 2008 the population was 956.[41] On 31 December 2018 the population estimate was 1,255.[1]

According to the 2008 census, 22% of the residents were aged below 17, 64% aged between 18 and 64, and 14% were aged above 65; the median age was 30. The number of residents born abroad decreased from 32.8% in 1972 to 20.9%. Out of these, 41.5% immigrated until 1960, 21.3% immigrated between 1961 and 1989, 24.7% between 1990 and 2001, and the remaining 12.5% after 2002. The average number of children born per woman decreased from 2.5% in 1972 to 1.7%.[42]

41.4% of the residents older than 15 worked in manufacturing, 16.4% in education, 11.6% in agriculture, 7.9% in community, social, personal and other services, and 5.4% in real estate, renting and business activities. 9.8% of the residents older than 15 worked outside of the locality.[42]

The residents of Mishmar HaEmek are secular Jews.[43]


The Palmach Cave is located in the outskirts of the kibbutz, near the forest, it was used by the Palmach unit of the Jewish militia during the Intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine. The cave was chosen by the Palmach upon its establishment in 1941, as a training site for the Palmach's special undercover units; the cave was also used for meetings between the commanders of the Palmach. Before it was used by the Palmach it was used as a playground by the kibbutz' kids, and before that it was used as a shelter for Bedouin nomads during their voyages. Today the cave is a tourist attraction and educational site run by a member of the kibbutz.[44]

Mishmar HaEmek's cemetery is located in the outskirts of the kibbutz, next to the Palmach Cave. Members of the kibbutz from its past are buried in the cemetery, including five members of the Knesset, many known personalities from the fields of culture and society and a few high-ranked military officers; some of the people buried in the cemetery are not from the kibbutz but have some connection to it.[45]

Pinat HaGola ("Diaspora's Place) is a memorial site for the children who died in the Holocaust; the monument was built by the sculptor Zeev Ben-Zvi, between 1945 and 1947. He built it with the students of the kibbutz and it was the earliest memorial site for the Holocaust in Israel. During the battle of Mishmar HaEmek in 1948, the site was damaged by a shell, but Zeev Ben-Zvi refused to repair it.[46]


In Mishmar HaEmek there is a prehistoric and protohistoric site called "el-Ghaba et-Tahta"; the site covers about 40 dunams and contains a tell which can not be seen from the surface. Seven strata (layers) were found, which date between the early Neolithic period and the late Ottoman period. A trial excavation took place in February 2007.[47] An excavation season was conducted in August–September 2007[48] and another two in July–September 2010 at an area that was designated for a new residential extension.[49]

The earliest remains are from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. Many flint tools such as sickle blades, arrowheads and knives. An enclosure, paved by stones was found as well as at least eight burials of seven adult males and one female; some of the burials feature funerary offerings such as arrowheads, a leg of a wild bull and a pierced shell (probably a pendant). A sample of the animal bones reveals none of them were domesticated and almost half of the bones belonged to wild bulls; the remains of a large structure were uncovered, and within it pottery of the Yarmukian and Lodian cultures, dating to the Pottery Neolithic. Remains of a Yarmukian culture activity included flint sickle blades, saws and arrowheads as well as a likely tomb with human bones, some inside a jar. Three rectangular shaped stone rows were found and their use is unclear. Pottery belonging to the Wadi Rabah culture were found and dated the site to the Early Chalcolithic period.

A tomb and several round or elliptical buildings from the Bronze Age period with an abundance of pottery were found, some with a resemblance to structures found near the city of Kiryat Ata. Pottery from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age and floors of poor dwellings from the Middle Bronze Age period were also found. From the Roman period a structure from the Roman period was also found; some pottery dated to the early Byzantine period (3rd to 4th century CE) were found, which were probably used for fertilizing the land and do not indicate any serious permanent settlement in that period. In the highest layer a courtyard surrounded by several rooms, believed to be part of a large building was discovered, it is likely it was built in the 19th century and roof tiles found in it originated from the port of Marseilles in France. According to a resident of the kibbutz said the building wasn't standing when the kibbutz was established.[49][47][48]

Notable residents[edit]

Members of Knesset


  • Eli Amir, author. Moved to the kibbutz in 1950 from Iraq and lived there until he moved to Jerusalem in 1953, his novel Tarnegol Kaparot was inspired by his time in the kibbutz. It is considered one of the twenty books that are the foundations modern Hebrew literature.[54]
  • Shulamit Bat-Dori, producer and director of kibbutz theatre in Israel. Joined the pioneers of the kibbutz in 1923, when they stayed in Nahalal. In 1925 she was sent to Poland by the HaShomer HaTzair movement, she returned to the kibbutz in 1935, where she established the theater of the Kibbutz Artzi movement. She died in 1985 and is buried in the kibbutz.[55]
  • Hillel Omer, poet and writer. Born in the kibbutz in 1926. Served as a scout during the Battle of Mishmar HaEmek, and later served in the Palmach and fought in the south of the country with the Negev Brigade. Left the kibbutz in 1954 to Jerusalem.[56] Died in 1990 and is buried in the kibbutz.[45]
  • Adin Talbar, athlete and sports official
  • Zellig Harris, linguist
  • Bruria Kaufman, physicist. Wife of Zelling Harris.
  • Svein Sevje, Norwegian ambassador to Israel. Volunteered in the kibbutz after the Six-Day War during the late 60s and learned Hebrew in the kibbutz.[57]
  • Shneior Lifson, chemical physicist
  • Irma Lindheim, Zionist fund-raiser and educator. Moved to the kibbutz in 1933 from the United States and was a member until her death in 1978, she is buried in the kibbutz's cemetery.[58]


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