70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

Hungarian kibbutzim and moshavim

By Zsuzsa Shiri - 2018-02-27

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

The map of Israel would be unimaginable without the kibbutzim and the moshavim, founded by Hungarians.


Even prior to WWII, many Hungarian Zionists arrived in the country individually, to join the various groups that chose farming as their vocation.  One of the most famous members of such a group was Hanna Szenes, that is, Anikó Szenes, who intentionally had chosen this route before the Jewish Brigade's arrival that sent her to Hungary. After having completed an agricultural school in Nahalal, she settled down in Sdot Yam, joining a group from Germany.

Gaaton kibutz’ first barracks.

Many others arrived in the 1920s, particularly from Transylvania and the Felvidék where the Zionist movement flourished more than in Hungary, because the Jews living there found it problematic to maintain their Hungarian identity when emigrating and so Jewishness became their priority.

Gaaton kibutz’ sandal makers 1945 - 1948.

The Hungarian Jewish Zionist groups’ kibbutz founding effort was already significant, but it reached its peak after WWII, towards the end of the 1940’s. The young survivors of the war have created flourishing Zionist youth movements in Hungary, with the guidance of their comrades who had grown up with the Zionists in Slovakia. In Szeged and in the vicinity of Lake Balaton they were educated in farm training camps, hachsarah, to master the basic tasks of farming. Then they were grouped to make aliyah in 1946-47-48-49 to start a new life in Eretz Israel, then in Israel. Numerous early groups, trying to get into the country via the illegal aliyah bet, had been forced to rest - months, years - in Cyprus, but eventually they also arrived in Haifa.

Givat Oz's new dining room.

In Israel, they were brought into older villages and kibbutzim for further training in garin, "seeds", in groups of twenty or thirty, to see how these communities work in practice.

The just-founded State then sent the enthusiastic Zionist groups to the borderlands and sparsely populated peripheral areas. They only got the most important things to settle down: a water carriage, spades and other tools, some wire fence, and of course a few rifles to protect themselves. Many of them have freshly arrived after the War of Independence; they knew how to use their weapons. They were shown the land allocated for them, and the construction could begin.

Beit Kama in the 1950’s.

Thus, for example, Givat Oz, Parod, Beit Kama, Beit Haemek, Gaaton were created; the list is long. In time, more garin arrived from other countries, and today it is difficult to find a "real" Hungarian kibbutz and moshavit. In the 1950s, all they wanted was to become "real" Israelis and speak Hebrew, and after the trauma of the post-war era, Hungarian roots were often purposefully forgotten. Israel is a melting pot of Jews from all over the world, and after a few generations, only the very old people speak Hungarian in most places, and the Hungarian founding became a local legend.

Givat Oz in the 1960’s.

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