Galon – Kibbutz Hashomer Hatzair
Gal On is located on the borders of the coastal plain and in proximity to the Hebron hills. It was established on October 6th, 1946, the afternoon of Yom Kippur, on Jewish National Fund land, with funding by the Keren Hayesod. It was founded along with 10 other settlements settled that day in the south and the Negev.
The name Gal On symbolizes the spirit of the settlers who found the strength and courage to settle in a dangerous area. In the 1948 War of Independence the kibbutz served as a base for the Israeli Defense Forces in preparation for their conquest of the nearby Arab town – Bet Guvrin.
Gal On stands on a hill 200 meters above sea level (about 20 kms. from the coast) and is one of the communities of the ‘Yoav’ Regional Council. The hill upon which Gal On is located borders on the Guvrin stream, an auxiliary of Wadi Lachish. As the area belongs to the Mediterranean climate, the rainfall is average. Due to it being distanced from the coast and situated on a height, humidity is low and dew meager.
The annals of the founders of the kibbutz began in the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist Youth Movement in Poland. The first founders (a group of 9) arrived in the Land of Israel in January 1939. These nine people formed the basis of the last Hashomer kibbutz which succeeded in leaving Poland before the Second World War. The first gathering place of the group was in Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz, in the Haifa area. When the group grew to number 30, they transferred to ‘Givat Michael’ in Nes Ziona, which, at that time, was an undeveloped town. In Nes Ziona they worked in the neighboring orchards and in road-building. Their economic circumstances were very dire. However, on Yom Kippur 1946, the group settled on the land as one of the 11 settlements which were established in the Negev.
An additional source of manpower was added to the kibbutz with the arrival of a group of Holocaust survivors who reached the country aboard the illegal immigrant ship ‘Exodus-1947’. In 1951, there arrived of a group of members from the Hashomer Hatzair movement in North America. With all the difficulties faced by the American group, today, after 60 years, they comprise part of the ‘veterans’ of the kibbutz.
In 1961, the kibbutz absorbed a group of Israelis, also members of Hashomer Hatzair, who linked up with the first children born on the kibbutz. In the course of time the kibbutz also absorbed a small group of members of Mapam from Uruguay.
The first children of the kibbutz were born in Nes Ziona. Many of the kibbutz children built their homes in Gal On, but even more are spread throughout Israel and the world. The kibbutz, as well, educated Youth Aliyah groups, new immigrants and native-born, who obtained an education and studies on the kibbutz.
In the year 2000, the kibbutz found itself in a poor economic and demographic condition. Accordingly, the kibbutz sought out changes in its way of life. It was decided by a vast majority of the chaverim to adopt a new form of operating – a ‘security net’. The changes stabilized the economic situation, but did not alter the demographic problem. Kibbutz children still do not join the kibbutz as members, but, as of late, many of them have begun to return to live on the kibbutz as residents.
For many years the economic situation of the kibbutz was difficult, despite the fact that it had available large tracts of land, though not all of it could be cultivated due to a critical lack of water. Gal On there had a well which supplied only 60,000 cubic meters of water a year – used mainly for drinking water and daily needs. Only when the ‘National Waterline’ was completed was it possible to expand the cultivated areas.
In the first days of the kibbutz a tool factory was established, which at that time was the fist factory in the country producing steel tools by modern methods. After a number of years it was shut down. A box factory was also set up, but it too was closed. After much searching a fan factory was found in Ramleh which was up for sale. For many years this factory played an important role in the kibbutz economy, until China began inundating the market with cheap fans. The factory changed over to producing electrical motors, but it too succumbed to China and closed down.
Today, the kibbutz lives mainly on agriculture and the salaries of members working outside the kibbutz. There is now a separation between the ‘economic branches’ and the ‘community’: the ‘economy’ is run by an ‘economic manager’ and the ‘community’ by an executive committee headed by the ‘community manager’. There is also a hired chairman who advises the kibbutz, mainly on economic matters.
(In the archives of the kibbutz there is much material and people are invited to visit.)