How to Set Up Settlements in the Negev Desert, Davar, September 6, 1946
This is a page from the newspaper Davar printed on September 6, 1946 showing photographs of Jewish development in the Negev desert.
The photograph on the top right shows the uninhabited desert, while the others show Kibbutz Dorot and Kibbutz Ruhama, located near the town of Sderot (established five years later). The photographs show newly planted trees, terrace-style farming, a cowshed, and people working the land. These photographs were meant not only to educate people about what was going on in the Negev but also to encourage others to join the challenge of making the desert bloom. Showing the dry, empty desert alongside growing trees and communities provided people with a vision of what was possible and what was becoming a reality.
Kibbutz Ruhama, the first kibbutz in the Negev, was established in 1911. It was then abandoned but rebuilt a few years before this page was printed. In 1944, Kibbutz Ruhama had a population of about 400 people. Ruhama comes from the Hebrew word meaning mercy or compassion, and the kibbutz was named after the verse from Hosea 2:25: “And I will sow her for me in the land, and I will have compassion upon the unpitied one.” Perhaps this biblical quotation reflected the pioneers’ hope that after farming the desert land, it would have mercy on them by rewarding their efforts.
Kibbutz Dorot was also established in the early 1940s in an effort to encourage people to settle and cultivate the desert. The word dorot means generations and was chosen from the hope that settlers would come, put down their roots, and maintain their presence in the desert for generations to come. Dorot is also an acronym for Dov, Rivka, and Tirtza Hoz, who died in a car accident the year before the kibbutz was founded. Dov Hoz was a leader of the Israeli Labour Zionist movement, one of the founders of the Hagana and a pioneer of Israeli aviation. He was killed in a car accident in December 1940 after visiting Hagana prisoners in the British prison in Akko together with his wife (sister of Moshe Sharett, who was to be the second prime minister of Israel) and their daughter.
One month after this page was published, eleven new settlements were founded in the Negev. This was part of the Jewish Agency’s Eleven Points of the Negev programme. The Negev comprises about 60% of Israel, and the Zionist movement and the leadership of Israel believed that settling the Negev was central to Israel’s future. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was also deeply committed to the project of “making the desert bloom.” He believed that settlement in the Negev would help provide national security as well as economic independence. His vision included scientific, agricultural, and technological studies that eventually led to the establishment of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. His kibbutz, Sde Boker, also located in the Negev, remains a testament to his dream.
Today, scientists and researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva work to promote Ben-Gurion’s belief that the future of the country lies in this region. The Jewish National Fund helps to fund communities interested in settling undeveloped areas of the Negev. They plant crops and work together with the IDF and Ben-Gurion University to encourage the growth of technology and the creation of jobs and to support the development of the area.
This page can be used in Geography lessons on Israel’s topography and, in particular, in specific units on deserts and living in the desert.
Jewish History teachers can integrate this page when teaching about the pioneers who settled in the Negev before the establishment of the State of Israel and about David Ben-Gurion and his passionate desire to transform the Negev into a productive area.
What is the title of this newspaper page?
What can be seen in the photographs?
What is common to all of the photographs?
Which kibbutzim are featured in the photographs?
What are the people in the photographs doing?
When was this published?
Reading Between the Lines
According to these photos, what was life like in the Negev in the 1940s?
What were the challenges of settling the Negev?
Why did the Zionist movement believe that it was important to settle the Negev?
What was the purpose of this page?
Who was the intended audience?
What happened in the Negev area one month after this was printed?
What was David Ben-Gurion’s relationship to the Negev?
What is the significance of the names of the two kibbutzim shown in the photographs, Kibbutz Ruhama and Kibbutz Dorot?
One of the photos shows terrace farming. Read more about this here. What is this? Why is it beneficial?
How is Ben-Gurion’s dream of cultivating the Negev alive today? Read this article to find out.
Find pictures of Kibbutz Dorot and Kibbutz Ruhama today using Google images and Google Earth. What similarities and differences do you notice?
Have you ever visited Be’er Sheva or any other places in the Negev?
Did it feel like a desert?
You are an aliyah advisor trying to convince new immigrants to move to the Negev. Develop a list of the advantages of settling in the Negev. Create a poster advertising your Negev settlement project.
Find out about Sde Boker and Ben-Gurion’s dream and personal example of cultivating the Negev. Choose a quote from Ben-Gurion on this topic and illustrate it, using either a current photo of the Negev or a drawing of your own. Alternatively, create a meme using one of the quotes via sites like this one.
Captions clockwise from top left:
Young trees at Dorot – the kibbutz is named for Dov, Rivka, and Tirtza Hoz.
This is the view of the Negev. It is a huge wilderness. Yet in the past it was and in the future it will be a flowering garden. The pioneers of Israel will do this.
The founders of Ruhama terrace the hills…
…and plant trees
The cowshed at Dorot