Tuesday, May 15, 2012



1946 warning sign

Ruhama is a kibbutz in the Negev desert in southern Israel. The original
settlement established in 1911, is considered the first modern Jewish
settlement in the Negev,

Located around ten kilometres east of Sderot and surrounded by a
nature reserve, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Sha'ar HaNegev
Regional Council. In 2006 it had a population of 399.

Ruhama was first established in 1911 as a workers farm, on
land purchased in the same year from the village of Jamama by
the "Remnant of Israel" company, set up by Russian Jews in Moscow,
under the leadership of Simon Velikovsky to invest money in Jewish
agricultural settlements in the Land of Israel. At first all water had to
be bought and brought from the Arabs in the village. An artesian well
was dug in 1912, and a rather plentiful supply of water was found at a
depth of fifty meters. The group also included members of the socialist
Zionist movement Hashomer Hatzair. However, the initial settlers were
expelled by the Ottoman Turks in 1917; a dilapidated museum building
is all that is left of that original settlement. The artesian well prompted
the Allied forces under General Allenby to select Ruhama as their
headquarters from which base they conquered Palestine.

HaShomer used the Ruhama farm as its main forward base along the
Gaza-Beersheva line.

Two subsequent attempts to re-establish the settlement during the
period of the British Mandate were curtailed by the Arab riots in 1929
and 1936. The kibbutz was eventually successfully re-established in
1944. During what was called the “Black Sabbath” in 1946 the British
searched the kibbutz and found illegal arms. They destroyed the well.

In 1947 a pipe was constructed to bring water to the kibbutz, but the
Arabs kept damaging the pipe, so in 1948 a new well was built.

The kibbutz economy is based on four agricultural branches: field
crops, irrigated cultivation, orchards and henhouses, but agricultural
crops do not generate enough income to support the kibbutz, so to
earn a living, many of Ruhama's members have taken jobs outside
the kibbutz. The kibbutz operates a factory which produces brushes,
including toothbrushes, which are exported. In 1984, Ruhama
established a PCB design company.

Like many kibbutzim, Ruhama went through a process of privatization
in the late 1990s. A symbol of how greatly times have changed, the
kibbutz cut community services like the dining room, so that every
family now cares for itself.

Atar Ha-Rishonim, or The Negev Pioneers, just outside the fence
surrounding the kibbutz, is where the first Jewish settlers in modern
times settled in the Negev. The site includes several buildings and a
well, as well as farming tools used almost 100 years ago.

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