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This is part of our Travel Diary series where our travelers write about their experiences abroad and share it with our readers.

Thank you very much Stacey, for sharing and allowing us to share with all of our readers! 

Click here to read Part I - Thoughts of a Traveler: Settling in to Tel Aviv

Click here to read Part II – Thoughts of a Traveler: Israel Vacation

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Aerial view of a KibbutzBy IsraelTourism [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

Aerial view of a Kibbutz
By IsraelTourism [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

We have visited a number of kibbutzim (i.e., plural of kibbitz) during our stay in Israel, and have been curious about the different “flavors” of communal living available today.

Our most recent guide, who led us through the Negev to Jordan, lives on one of the “newer” kibbutz, where he contributes 30% of his income in return for which he and his family live in a safe “gated” community and have access to excellent schools, childcare and healthcare. He does not eat communal meals with the other residents nor do he and his neighbors actually work on the kibbutz.

The word kibbutz means “gathering” or “clustering” and is a collective community originally tied to agriculture. Kibbutzniks (i.e., members of a kibbutz) founded the first one in 1909 based on the ideals of a utopian society, socialism, and Zionism. Today, Israel has 275 kibbutzim with a population of approximately 143,000 (less than 3% of Israel’s population).  Kibbutz life had been in decline for years until the last decade when increasing numbers of families (like our guide) became attracted to the increased space and security offered by kibbutz living.

Kibbutz life today appears to bear little resemblance to its utopian beginnings. Less than a quarter of the kibbutzim follow the

Exploring a kibbutzBy Stacey S. via Gil Travel

Exploring a kibbutz
By Stacey S. via Gil Travel

original construct of taking care of every members’ needs regardless of how much or how hard the member works.  Many of the others have introduced wage differentials for those employed by the kibbutz–meaning one is paid based on one’s measured productivity. At the vast majority today, members work outside the kibbutz and contribute a portion of their salaries to the collective.  And communal child rearing has disappeared entirely from kibbutz life even at the more traditional ones.

While the original Kibbutzim were primarily agricultural, many have added non-agricultural businesses. This is largely because agriculture in Israel today requires many fewer workers so they need to create additional jobs for their members.

We visited one such example–Kibbutz Ketura located deep in the Arava Rift Valley in the middle of the desert. Kibbutz Ketura was founded in 1973 by young American immigrants, and continues to operate under a modified version of the traditional collective model.

At Katura, the members recently eliminated its long- standing cattle and poultry operations, and started two serious and sizable businesses: a solar panel electric generating business, and an algae growing and harvesting business (for powerful antioxidants).

Exploring a kibbutzBy Stacey S. via Gil Travel

Exploring a kibbutz
By Stacey S. via Gil Travel

Their model is to create these businesses and then bring in key strategic investors to grow the businesses. The members only own 20% of these new ventures while outside professional investors own the rest.

A major difference in the way almost all kibbutzim are now run is the emergence of professional management. Sometimes (as at Katura), the manager is a kibbutz member. At others, they hire outsiders, and delegate and incentivize the manager to succeed.

Katura’s residents receive the same salary regardless of whether they work on or off site and regardless of productivity.  However, the kibbutz is very selective in accepting new members. All new applicants (including children raised at Katura who want to stay on as adults) have to go through a five year probationary period to see if they are a good fit.

We are off to Jerusalem for several days next week.

Sending you much love,
Stacey

View of the Galilee from Mount of BeatitudesBy Itamar Grinberg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

View of the Galilee from Mount of Beatitudes
By Itamar Grinberg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

The Mount of Beatitudes has a strong significance in Christian and Jewish history; many of the faithful believe that it is the location where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Located in Tabgha, Israel, The Mount of Beatitudes is quite the tourist attraction on the northwestern shore of the Galilee.

 

 

Structures and Attractions near the Mount

The Mount is approximately 17.5 meters above the Sea of Galilee and from the Mount; visitors can see the eight-sided Church of Tours a Israel en Español-Israel Dorado (Mount of Beatitudes)Mount of Beatitudes. The Church is located on the slope of the mount. According to some sources, the basilica of the church was built sometime between 1936 and 1938, designed by Antonio Barluzzi, a famous Italian church architect.

The eight sides of the church are symbolic of the eight beatitudes:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Gardens and a monastery have been erected in the area of the Church of Mount of Beatitudes; visitors can gather in the gardens to contemplate or to listen to sermons or observe other religious rituals. The monastery was completed in 1922 and houses the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There, visitors can attend prayer courses and study. There are plans to expand the housing facility to increase the number of rooms for visitors in the guest house and to create a retreat center.

Notable Sites Visible from the Mount and the Church of Beatitudes

CapernaumBy Bon Adrien [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

Capernaum
By Bon Adrien [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

From the Mount of Beatitudes and the church, visitors can see the locations where Jesus ministered in Galilee, including his home, three kilometers away in Capernaum; Sower’s Cave, where Jesus is said to have taught the Parable of the Sower from a boat in the bay.

The Mount of Beatitudes is believed to be the site where Jesus came to his disciples after his resurrection and instructed them to go out into the world. Monuments on the crest of Eremos Hill feature quotes delivered by Jesus – including Matthew 28 16-20, when Jesus told his disciples to “go teach all nations.”

Located along the Jesus Trail in the Holy Land, the Mount is open to visitors from 8 am-11:30am & 2:30pm-4:40pm and admission is 5 shekels per car.

 

If you’re interested in scheduling a vacation to explore the Mount of Beatitudes and the nearby locations, we can help you to create the perfect Christian Israel tour to the Holy Land.

We would like to offer this selection of churches in the Holy Land that are off the beaten trail for you, please click to download.

 

This is part of our Travel Diary series where our travelers write about their experiences abroad and share it with our readers.

Thank you very much Stacey, for sharing and allowing us to share with all of our readers! 

Click here to read Part I - Thoughts of a Traveler: Settling in to Tel Aviv

———-

Shalom from Israel—we are now reaching the end of our second week, and just came back from spending several days in the North, including along the Syrian and Lebanese borders. Israel has so much more going for it than its complex geo-political situation though; one could easily come to Israel for a month and focus on any of the following pursuits:

Archaeological Study
Beit Shean Ruin archaeological

Bet She’an National Park
By Gil Travel

Israel has among the most significant archaeological sites in the world, many of which are UNESCO Heritage Sites. Israel supervises about 300 annual excavations. We visited one of these sites last week–Bet She’an, an ancient city in the northern Jordan Valley dating from the 5th century BCE.

Eating
israel street food fair spices and food

Israel Street Food Festival
By State of Israel [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

You could literally eat your way through Israel. It is a major foodie paradise largely because of Israeli creativity, the mélange of middle eastern cuisines (Arab, Persian, Iraqi, Moroccan, and Yemeni), and strikingly fresh produce.

The “street food” alone is amazing, and we find ourselves having far too many choices and not enough days! U.S. gourmet magazines have ranked Tel Aviv-Jaffa among the world’s most serious culinary destination. In TA alone, there are 4,536 eateries and three enormous fresh food markets.

Active Travel
Hula Valley crane migrationBy Itamar Grinberg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

Hula Valley crane migration
By Itamar Grinberg [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

Israel is a hikers’ paradise with 5,500 miles of marked trails. We did hikes this week at the Agamon Hula Nature Reserve (stopover point for 20,000 cranes migrating to North Africa) and Banias Nature Reserve, both of which were well-marked, clean, and replete with interesting tidbits about what we were seeing.

Israel is undergoing a biking renaissance, which has led to thousands of  trails being marked across the country from the Negev to Galilee in the north.  In TA, biking has become a popular means of getting around the city with a fairly functional bike rental scheme called Tel-O-Fun.  I say “fairly functioning” because Ira and I have had some amusing struggles trying to use the system!

Holy Sites
Approximately, 3.5 million tourists come to Israel each year (2014 being an aberration), many of whom come as part of a religious pilgrimage. Many sites are pilgrimage destinations for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Bahá’ís.

Israel has a Gospel Trail which incorporates over 60 kilometers of specially sign-posted footpaths and roads so that visitors can experience the biblical landscapes and sites in which Jesus and the early Christians lived. Ira and I stayed in Tiberias at The Scots’ Hotel, which is owned and managed by the Church of Scotland, based on its earlier use as a “mission” hospital set up by a Scottish surgeon in 1894.

We are heading South next week to the Negev and Jordan.

Sending you much love.

Stacey