Tourist Tip #194 Mitzpe Revivim

Revivim, with its groves of olive trees, is the epitome of David Ben-Gurion's call to make the desert bloom. Even Golda Meir made it her home.

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The Negev desert in winter and springtime is famous for its wildflowers and temperate climate; the weather is perfect at this time of year to make a day trip to Revivim part of your Passover vacation itinerary. Like everywhere else in Israel, heritage is never very far away. And in a country filled with dramatic stories, the one you’ll hear at Kibbutz Revivim will stand out.

Revivim has been in the news lately because of another reminder of Passover – a plague of locusts of biblical proportions that has descended on the entire region in recent weeks, threatening the community’s famed olive groves. The olive groves of Kibbutz Revivim thrive in unforgiving desert soil, making pioneering use of saline water for irrigation to produce prize-winning oil. One man’s (or woman’s) desert is another’s Garden of Eden, which is precisely what Kibbutz Revivim proved. It is the epitome of what Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was hoping to achieve in his calls for young people to settle the Negev.

Another prime minister, Golda Meir, put Revivim on the map by moving there to live alongside her daughter and family. The expansive Jewish National Fund Golda Meir Park, with its lake, lawns and picnic areas, on the banks of the Reivivim Stream, not far from the kibbutz, makes a good companion visit for this day.

Kibbutz Revivim was established in 1943 as a desert “agricultural research station”; its optimistic (perhaps ironic) name is a biblical word for rain showers. The quotes around "research station" are not entirely necessary – it did indeed fulfill that function. However, in the days when the British Mandate authorities were restricting Jewish settlement, even in the inhospitable Negev, calling the kibbutz a research station was the only way to keep it standing.

The Mitzpe Revivim visitors' center occupies the compound that was the collective’s original home – it wasn’t until the 1970s that the community moved to its present adjacent premises. The center offers a film about the kibbutz and a visit to the ancient cave that served the pioneers as a bunker and field hospital during the War of Independence, with original equipment and a soundtrack bringing the scenes to life. A climb to the lookout tower (the "mitzpe" in Mitzpe Revivim means lookout) will reveal the landscape in all its austere magnificence.

Officially, the visitors center and museum are open Sunday-Thursday 8 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. Friday and holiday eves 8 A.M. – 12 P.M., and other times by appointment. Larger groups must make a reservation and the management recommends that small groups and individuals call ahead (08-6562570) rather than just dropping by. Ask about their agricultural tour; it’s geared toward larger groups but arrangements can also be made for smaller interested parties.

Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev desert, about a half hour south of Beer Sheva.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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