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The Kibbutz Atop the Mountain

By Lauren Mescon on March 15, 2011

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The burn is on both sides  of us as we drive through the forest on the paved roads.  A beautiful makeshift memorial to those that lost their lives is on the curve where the bus was caught by the fires, where they crossed the road on foot trying to escape the fires.  The path the fire chose leaves green forest and trees in a puzzle pattern among the destruction and there is a stark beauty in the anemones as they bloom out of the ash.

Kibbutz Beit Oren began in 1935.  As the only kibbutz in the area, the kibbutz suffered from terrorism often.  They tried to evacuate the settlement early, but the chief of the Hagganah at the time insisted they stay and said, "we will not run away."  This is a community in the oasis of this amazingly vast and beautiful forest. Tamar from Kibbutz Bet Oren spoke to us. They were the first kibbutz to privatize. 350 people including the children live here.

We saw the 10 houses that were destroyed, saw the ones that will require removal, very careful removal so as not to damage the forest further.  There are families and young adults, finished with their army service, who are in small quarters, waiting for new housing.

Tamar explained that it was impossible to stand where we were standing in December. The fire began at 11:30 am and by 4:30 pm all the houses that we saw were burned. They heard on the news that Beit Oren was completely burned. She commented that the drama of the news was too much.  12 people remained in Bet Oren using buckets and anything else they could find to put water on the houses. Without them, the whole kibbutz would have been lost. "Everything has changed here," she says, "but we are trying to get back to life. We love the forest and will go on living here," she tells us, as we hear the children in the background, playing and laughing in the schoolyard.


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