• Issue: August 1971
  • Designer: D. Pessach & S. Ketter
  • Plate no.: 323
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

"A complex of swamps, boundless reed, hot, dry, and suffocating. Swarms of mosquitoes buzzed over the marshes. The railway line that passed through is the only link with the external world. No other way or path leads elsewhere. In the whole area there is no sign of human existence. This is the 'Kingdom of Wilderness'".

This vivid description is taken from the memoirs of a visitor who had traveled through the Jezreel Valley (Emek Yizre'el) a short period before it was reclaimed.

By 1971, 50 years after the erection of the first Jewish settlement in the plains, the Jezreel Valley played a leading role in the agricultural productivity of Israel and came to symbolize the return to the soil.

The Emek, which is the largest of its size in the country is called "The Valley", as a result of its geographical size and as such due to its dominant task in the annals of settlement. Alluvial soil sweeping away from the mountains brought the valley a reputation as a land of fertility, but lack of diligent hands during the rainy seasons changed the valley into one big swamp.

The reception of green and deceptive scenery awaited the first settlers who came to build their home in the middle of the wilderness. Eventually the valley attracted the first waves of immigrants who arrived in the last years of the nineteenth century.

Yehoshua Hankin was engaged in land acquisition for Russian Jews in the Jezreel Valley when the Turks ordered the stoppage of Jewish immigration to the country. With such a political atmosphere the deal was distinctly unfavorable. Only four years before World War I, however, Hankin's effort was marked by a certain success when the land of Merhavyah was acquired.

The year 1921, undoubtedly is the year when Hankin's 30-year dream was fulfilled. In spite of the objection of the Zionist leaders, Hankin signed the contract with the landlord and the Jezreel Valley became a national property of the Jewish people.

This period under review is characterized by enthusiasm that thrilled the Diaspora. In Eretz Israel hundreds of pioneers (halutzim) who were employed as daily workers in the colonies were facing a new era of settling the land. Nahalal, the father of the cooperative settlement, was the first to be established.

On arrival, the founders met an old Arab who warned them that human life could not exist there because the water was undrinkable and anyone who drank it would die within three days. Medical surveys did not prophesy better results, but obstinacy of the settlers and their commitment proved successful. A drainage scheme was scheduled; channels were dug in the swampy area to divert the water and improve the land. Malaria, the troublesome inhabitant of the region, disappeared and soil replaced the swamps.

At the same time a group of tents was erected on the slopes of Mount Gilboa, close to the historical spring of En-Harod where the battle between Gideon and the Midianites took place and a new kibbutz became a reality.

The ensuing period witnessed a considerable increase in the number of new villages. The growth of the Jezreel Valley into a prosperous land served for years as a source of pride and confidence to all who were involved in Zionist activities.

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Jubilee Of The "Emeq" Settlement