Matzuba is a kibbutz in the Western
Galilee in northern Israel. The village was established in 1940 by
immigrants from Germany who were members of the Maccabi Hatzair
Zionist youth movement. It was named after the nearby Ma'azub
Settling the land at Matzuba
At the end of World War II the
British Mandatory government prevented the immigration and
settlement of the few survivors from Europe, and limited the
purchase of land and building Jewish settlements. The western
Galilee was a beautiful part of the country, rich in scenery and not
settled by Jews then apart from Nahariya, Shavei Zion and Evron on
the coastal strip. In March 1938, in the framework of the 'Tower and
Stockade' settlement campaign, a 'conquering force' of 90 people
went to Hanita, whose founding was extremely important, together
with 400 members of the Hagana
who came to help the settlers. They bore the
equipment and the building materials on their shoulders since there
was no paved road to the site. The very first night, before they had
even finished building the stockade, Arab rioters attacked Hanita
and the first two victims fell defending the settlement. A month
later the road up the mountain was cleared and the settlers moved to
their permanent location.
Kibbutz Eilon, the second settlement
founded in the western Galilee, was established in November 1938,
also in the framework of the 'Tower and Stockade' campaign. The area
was mountainous and covered with natural forest of terebinth and oak
trees - hence its name.
The third settlement, kibbutz
Matzuba, was established in that area in February 1940, belonging to
the United Kibbutz Movement. The land was acquired in 1939, and its
original settlers, immigrants from Germany, Czechoslovakia and
Hungary, were mostly members of the Kinarot
group founded in Hadera in 1938. The
kibbutz was built close to the Ma'azub ruins, and kept the ancient
name, Pi-Matzuba, mentioned in the
Brayta (commentary) on
the religious commandments concerning the land of Israel. The first
settlers settled in Lower Hanita in 1939, and moved from there to
the hill of Matzuba on February 14th 1940. During the
first years they suffered from a severe shortage of living needs,
water and land.
Photo, above: Shlomo with the
Photo, right: The shearing season--Shlomo and friends shear
Shlomo was at first a shepherd and
conquered the western Galilee in the full sense of the word.
With his friends, Eli Gil and Jehuda Ben Moshe, they spent
long days shepherding in the fields and milking the flock. He
almost met Shulamit, who became the love of his life forever,
and his wife in 1946, out there in the hills.
Photo, above: Drilling for
Photo, above left: Shulamit and Shlomo,
living in a tent in the early days
They lived in tents and afterwards
move to huts. There were no asphalt roads, only dirt tracks.
With no electricity they used primus stoves and oil lamps, and
brought water in pails from the water tower. Only after they
drilled and found water in 1947 did they enjoy running water
and began their rapid agricultural development.
They worked the land with horses and
donkeys harnessed to ploughs; they removed the rocks and stones with
their bare hands. At night they kept guard lest there be Arab
attacks, thieves and infiltrators. With progress and development in
Israel they moved to permanent housing but the 'new' road to the
kibbutz was only paved after blasting the lower hill in 1965.
Winter 1940 saw three Jewish settlements
in the area - Matzuba, Hanita and Eilon - with only 500 families in
an Arab mass of 50,000 hostile neighbors. Clinging bravely to the
rocky ground despite the difficulties of survival and years of toil
proved themselves more than demographic data and defeated the
November 1947 UN decision to partition the country and allocate the
western Galilee to the future Arab state. If it were not for the 500
settlers, Israel's border might have been set at Kiryat Bialik, near
Haifa. In his memoirs Shlomo writes: "We huddled in the shelters
during that decisive night of voting and raised our flag in the face
of the hostile enemy surroundings. We knew that the sobering hour
would soon arrive - we were outside, beyond the area allocated to
the Jewish state.
"When the fighting started, Matzuba was
in the process of a decisive community revolution. All our thoughts
were directed towards how to best use our water supply. Plans were
completed, pipes were brought, members were sent for training and we
had made the first basic and costly investment in new branches ...
This process, that opened new horizons and assured a future after
many years of poverty and suffering, was suddenly interrupted
because of political developments. What we had started we could not
complete, and endless new roles and worries arose."
From March 17th they
were under siege. The stock of food, fuel and provisions for the
animals quickly ran out. Some supplies were sent by air, but a
convoy of reinforcements did not arrive as hoped. Only when the
western Galilee was conquered by the IDF, on May 14th 1948, could we
evacuate the children to the Ahava institution in Kfar Bialik
until the end of the Hiram
campaign in October 1948.
Shlomo caught dysentery in the early fifties
because of the poor living conditions and was hospitalized in Mula. He
underwent abdominal surgery and almost died. After he recovered, he quit his
pioneering agricultural work, chose education and youth absorption. The three
shepherds, Shlomo, Eli and Jehuda, became teachers of the next generation.
Shlomo gave the immigrant youth from Europe a home and warmth, and his
devotion knew no limits. Matzuba was one of the first kibbutzim to
successfully absorb children who arrived through the
before the establishment of the State of
Israel, and so the nickname "Yeled
Chemed" (charming child) stuck.
Most of the Matzuba veterans were members of
Shlomo had an idea that was original for those
times: To establish an integrated, mixed youth group of new immigrants and
Israelis. The first group was called the
children who had studied for five years in the
kibbutz from when they were 12-13 years
of age. The group was particularly interesting, and the experiment was crowned
with great success despite the preliminary difficulties and the logistic and
social problems. Some of those youths remained in the kibbutz and raised their
SHULAMIT'S LIFE'S LABORS
Shulamit began working in the Matzuba kitchen
and later was the kibbutz specialist in home economics for about eight years,
in other words, she was responsible for the kitchen, for the dining room
(cooking and serving the diners) and for ordering food for the kibbutz.
In 1950 she began working as the
nurse in the kibbutz clinic when the previous nurse quit.
Israel had very few nursing schools in those days despite the
great need for the profession, but the sick fund offered an
accelerated training course.
the vineyard, 1950
Shula also studied in a clinic in Haifa and received professional
qualification; at the same time she was informed of the order according to
which she would continue to receive training in the departments of the sick fund clinics while
working. Over the years she participated in every possible study day, read and
studied books and journals. The subject fascinated her and she accumulated
tremendous medical knowledge.
Shula in the Matzuba clinic
Shula at work in the clinic
Shula took responsibility for the health of
Matzuba's members, including children and the elderly. The doctor lived in
Hanita and the closest hospital was in Haifa. There was no telephone line yet
and transportation was problematic. However, the nurse herself was most
energetic, and running quickly through the kibbutz managed to help the sick.
Expressions such as, "Going to Shula", "asking Shula", or "Shula said" were
often heard from the members, since Shula was an institution in the kibbutz.
Her work gradually expanded: As the nurse, she did not only handle the
physical health, but also took responsibility for the mental health domain.
She was the address for family and social problems with which social workers
and psychologists usually deal, and when necessary sent them for outside advice.
Matzuba experienced very tough, and even
unbearable times. Many natural miscarriages occurred because of the poor
nutrition that weakened the women. Shula was the only nurse and the help she
received was not professional. However, she overcame the difficulties and the
tremendous tension involved in her work through her investigative eye, her
great knowledge, her responsibility, her calm, the confidence she inspired and
her quiet sense of humor.
After a while she was joined by another nurse
who came to share her work, and the members decided to whom to turn. As the
population grew, so did the number of nurses.
After she had filled that position for more
than 30 years, Shula spoke about her
work as a nurse:
"Once people could talk to the nurse about
their personal problems day and night. The difference between a nurse in a
kibbutz and one in another social framework is tremendous. It is interesting
and enriching to be a nurse in a kibbutz. It opens horizons and possibilities
for independent study. I am very pleased that I was lucky enough to work in
this profession. Dr. Grauss, of blessed memory, who was our doctor for
27 years, helped me a great deal. He taught me
and in fact shaped the way I work.
I don't know why young people are not
attracted to the profession. We have good nurses who do not work in the
profession, each for her own personal reasons. Some like the profession but do
not want to work in the kibbutz. I was previously not particularly in favor
of rotation, since I acquired ever more experience and did not want to stop.
But recently, if a trained nurse could not cope with the pressure I could not
help out I was very sad. I thought the time had come for the younger person to
take my place and accept responsibility."
ABOUT THE CLINIC
"In the beginning we only had one room in a
hut, which was also the doctor's waiting room. There was no tap in the room.
The conditions were extremely difficult, but the doctor took this well. In
1951, we moved into the new clinic. Meanwhile, it
has grown and more rooms, a laboratory, medical equipment an office were added but the
situation is still not satisfactory. We lack a store room for drugs, a dental
clinic and so on."
OF ILLNESSES LONG AGO
"The health situation in the early years was
poorer than average and infectious illnesses were common. The area was
infested with malaria and Maltese fever that were transmitted by the flocks.
These were then lengthy illnesses, but today, using antibiotic treatment, one
can recover from them very quickly. The food was repetitive and lacked
essential ingredients, such as meat. There were cases of diarrhea and
infectious jaundice. The water shortage and bad sanitation also contributed to
We also knew the phenomenon of psychosomatic
illnesses, mainly amongst the youth who did not find themselves in their place
of work after joining the kibbutz. Some happily stayed at home and claimed
they were sick. Only after they found a satisfactory place of work did the
In certain cases, the doctor limited the
number of hours of the members' work for medical reasons, and sometimes
difficulty was created in sending these members back to a full work
However my experience taught me that when
morale was high, there was no such 'falling sick', especially amongst the
adults who tried to overcome illness. Even if they felt unwell, they tried to
work as best they could."