Trumpeldor House in Danger of Ruin Despite National Heritage Status

Recent rain torrents on Trumpeldor House on Kibbutz Tel Yosef penetrated museum's walls, damaged documents in it.

The recent rain torrents on Trumpeldor House on Kibbutz Tel Yosef penetrated the museum's walls and damaged the documents in it.

As the museum's voluntary curator lays out wet documents on the table to dry, the light goes off. "It's another power failure," says Rachel Zaas, a kibbutz member devoting her time to preserving the museum and archives.

"I'm afraid one day I'll switch the light on and the whole building will catch fire, with all the valuable documents in it," says Zaas, pointing to the wall, to one of several leaks that must have short-circuited the building.

Trumpeldor House appears on the list of national heritage sites that the cabinet announced last month it intends to preserve. Zaas is pinning her hopes on this decision, which she sees as the museum's last chance of survival.

The museum's crumbling building reeks of mildew. The walls are black with mold, and the plaster is peeling and keeps falling on the floor. Zaas has placed two old ventilators in the museum in an attempt to combat the dampness, and says she hopes the museum's appearance on the government's list of heritage sites will save it from destruction.

Trumpeldor House is named after the early Zionist activist Joseph Trumpeldor, who died defending the Tel Hai settlement in 1920 and subsequently became a national hero. His famous last words were "Never mind, it is good to die for our country."

The building was constructed in 1949, 29 years after Trumpeldor's death. Shortly after his death, Kibbutz Tel Yosef was founded at the foot of Mount Gilboa and named after him.

The museum became an archive for documents and records of the Kibbutz Movement and Gdud Ha'avoda, the "Workers Battalion" movement that funded several communities, including Tel Yosef, before its dissolution in 1927.

"This is really total destruction," says Zaas in despair. "Today we have a state - can't they do something to protect this important archive? For NIS 10 I have to ask the kibbutz secretary. There isn't a penny for the museum's maintenance. I want nothing for myself - I'm doing it voluntarily."

The museum's greatest attraction is Trumpeldor's prosthetic arm, which has remained in a glass case in Trumpeldor House, despite prolonged wrangles with the Tel Hai museum over it. "The arm is also in danger. It's 105 years old and it, too, needs looking after and preservation. I'm really afraid for the exhibits' future. Something must be done urgently to save this place," says Zaas.

"This is why the government's plan to preserve national heritage sites is so important," cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told Haaretz. "The objective is first of all to save sites, buildings, archives and collections from extinction. We want to preserve and maintain national historic treasures like Trumpeldor House.

"We also want to update these sites and bring them into the 21st century. This means digitizing documents and making them accessible to the public. We are throwing away historic and cultural treasures. A properly run state cannot act this way," he says.