Dismantled Kibbutz Revived Online

"The heart skips a beat at the beauty of the landscape, refusing to believe the end has come."

Thus wrote poet Moshe Tsoref, shortly after he and fellow members of Kibbutz Alumot heard their kibbutz was going to be dismantled. Almost 40 years have passed since the Kibbutz Movement's decision to dismantle the kibbutz, whose homes overlooked Lake Kinneret, and its members still harbor feelings of insult and anger.

The discovery that the archives that documented life on their kibbutz were damaged and ruined at the new kibbutz founded under the same name felt like salt poured into a fresh wound.

Recently, however, the photos, songs and documents from the old Kibbutz Alumot are being resurrected on a new Web site that will be a "virtual museum," dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the original kibbutz.

Alumot was founded in 1936 by graduates of the Ben-Shemen Agricultural School. Thirty-four years later, the kibbutz, which suffered from a shortage of water, agricultural land and new members, was dismantled.

A year later, new immigrants from Argentina established a new kibbutz on the Poriya ridge and called it Alumot. Tsoref and his comrades, who were busy trying to rebuild their lives, were shocked to discover that the archive that documented their kibbutz years, and which was stored at the new kibbutz, had been destroyed, apparently by rainwater.

In recent months, Tzoref's daughter, Dr. Ofra Keinan, has begun to reconstruct the original Alumot's past. Keinan, an expert in historical geography and museumology, has launched a Web site called Alumot Shelanu (Our Alumot). "My idea is to build virtual museums for communities and organizations that have no physical museum," says Keinan, who asked former kibbutz members to give her photos, documents and bulletins. "I began to accumulate highly important archival material and started to build the museum, which is constantly growing. It is like reconstructing a computer file that was erased."

The community that has begun to form around the museum consists not only of former Alumot members, but also their children and grandchildren, some of whom live abroad and were not even born there, but who grew up hearing their parents' stories and wanted to join.

The most famous member of Kibbutz Alumot is President Shimon Peres, who lived there from 1942-1952. The museum houses a 1952 letter from David Ben-Gurion to kibbutz members, in which Israel's first prime minister asks for comrade Peres to be released from the kibbutz in order to become director general of the Defense Ministry.