Saturday, January 12, 2013

Moshav Nir Yisrael

On Thursday, January 3rd, I enjoyed a morning walk with Adina, my hostess, around her moshav, Nir Yisrael.  The sun was shining brightly.

The moshav was created in 1949 and she and her husband came to the moshav in 1982.  Close to 350 families applied to join the moshav in 1979.  A committee reviewed the list and received ten families, including Adina and her husband Moshe.  They chose a variety of people from different backgrounds and professions.

Moshe worked in an agricultural lab and Adina was a teacher and a writer of mainly children's books.  She will soon have a page about her in the Hebew Wikipedia.  She is busy with translating, writing, grandchildren, etc.  She often bakes for the family.

 They also have 700 olive trees that he planted, and get amazing olive oil from the trees.

Adina and Moshe's home with daughter's family home on left
Bar-el's home from the front--Adina is in the photo

The main streets of the moshav are named for the seven species.
Grape, Pomegranate, & Fig Streets (and exit)

Corner of HaZayit  (Olive) and HaTamar (Date)

As the moshav members got older, it was deemed important to get younger people into the community.  In recent years, the 100 moshav families were allowed to build one or two homes on their property for their adult children.  You can see the house on the left of the above picture.  It belongs to Adina and Moshe's daughter and son-in-law so their 3 young grandsons live next door to them!  In addition, people that are not related to moshav members have also come to the community.  Now close to 250 families live here.

A few of the new  moshav members (non-related residents) have built some rather large homes. This one below is one of the biggest on the moshav.

One of the homes from 1949
 The first people to arrive got one- homes that were 4 meters by 6 meters approximately (13' x 19.5 feet) from the government.  The picture above shows a small building that was one of the original buildings.  It later became the community library.  In recent years it was a youth club and not it stands empty.
Wall of old youth club--cute hand prints
Another original home still in use for storage, etc.

Older home from early 1950s
In the early 1950s, the government provided slightly bigger homes.  The one above has been remodeled and is still in use today.  You can tell it is winter here as the yard is very green because of recent winter rains.

We walked toward one of the neighbor's. That family has the largest of the three remaining dairy cow herds in the moshav.  The family is also developing a dairy farm in Romania.  At one point in the past, most of the families here had dairy herds, but slowly they closed down because it was not economically feasible to run them.
I love the picture on the side of the building and the cow on the right, looking toward me.

The Fodor family also has a mini-farm.   Two adult sons work with their father.  The grandfather Yehuda was among the first to come to the moshav in 1949.   Adina and Moshe often take their grandchildren to see the animals.  I took a picture of a few of them.

Citrus tree next to dairy farmer's home
The woman across the road is a widow named Tzfira Sasson.  Her husband Johnny Avraham Sasson was originally a Jew from Burma.  His family had originally come from Iraq and they had a small Jewish community with a rabbi, synagogue, mohel, and cemetery.  Johnny and his brother came to Israel in 1948.   Her husband's brother is an optometrist in Ashkelon.  She used to have lemon trees and also raised geese before and now has recently planted mandarin oranges. They also grew gladiolas and once came in first in an international flower competition in Haifa.   They used to have a packing plant too.  They used to adopt soldiers and in 1982 got a special award from the army for such service.

Here is a picture of the family that was displayed in the booklet commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moshav in 1999.  Adina did an amazing job compiling this book.

  For more information on Jews in Burma, check out                 or

and a YouTube video:

We next walked past the synagogue of the moshav.  The women's entrance is around to the left and up stairs.  
Synagogue of the Moshav
The synagogue was not open when we walked by, but I could see some of the stained glass windows inside.  The stained glass windows inside were made by Ronen Kimmel, a member of the moshav who was also born here.
Synagogue's stained glass windows with reflection of greenery outside
We next stopped at the home of Elisheva and Giora Karni.  Giora died several years ago.  The couple were among the original residents here in 1949.

Elisheva and Adina

In Adina's presentation in Tucson, Phoenix, and Seattle about the moshav, she showed a photo of a woman feeding calves.  That was the same Elisheva.

 Elisheva’s husband was multi-talented.  He also was an amazing wordworking artist.  He had a wood shop behind the shop and taught classes there for people in the community and from the surrounding area.  Often they came from Tel Aviv to study with him.  Students still come to classes in the woodshop. Here is some of his work displayed in and around her home.
The front gate
A two-sided carving in the front yard
Living Room

Giora also did the drawing above Elisheva’s head in the picture above.  Today Elisheva is about 88 and still active.

 After meeting Elisheva,  we walked by a home that had a lovely garden.  Adina said that it was beautiful all year round.

We then walked past Yael Shavit’s home.  She is a sculptor with lovely pieces outside her home too.  In her backyard she has a great play area for her grandchildren and also a covered swimming pool!

Family name sign and ceramic man above it

I love this ceramic doggie--esp its smile!

To the right of the front door

Small statue in the back yard
Nearby cactus garden
The moshav gas station
I really enjoy murals painted on buildings, especially historical ones, whether in Toppenish, Washington, Alaska, or Israel.  Here are two that I captured at Nir Yisrael:

Even the bomb shelter entrances are painted, often with something connected to the moshav, like the dairy cows on this one:

And here is the town grocer, which recently expanded.  
The post office is next door.
Five members of the moshav have been killed over the years in battle.  They are remembered in a corner near the offices and community center.
One died in fighting in 1956, one in the 1967 Six-Day War, two in the Yom Kippur War, and another in 1993.

Their pictures appeared in the 50th anniversary book in 1999, their lives cut short as they help defend the country in time of war.

Also, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moshav, Adina and her daughter-in-law Sigal helped create a "symbol" of the moshav. Since dairy farming was so important in the history of the moshav, she used a large milk container as the format.   It appears below near the entry of the moshav.  You can see Adina and her daughter-in-law's name in the lower right corner.

There are a number of small covered areas throughout the moshav, mainly used as school bus stops.  All are colorfully painted, mostly with scenes from nature, and make me smile to see them.  Here is an example of one.
Bus shelter with 7 species
 There is a small gully by Adina's house that channels water when it rains.  When I first arrived at the moshav, it was empty.  Below you can see a photo that I took during the storm this past week:
One side, almost full, during the storm
The other direction with bridge on right
Same view, but after the water had receded some
Flooded street through car windshield

In heavy rainstorms, the channel used to overflow and flood the surrounding area.
The picture above was taken in front of Adina's home in 1987. The water came up a step or two but did not flood the house!  After that, the moshav re-dug part of the channel to keep such serious flooding from happening.

During the stormy week, we really appreciated the Franklin stove in the Bar-el home and the gentle smell of pruned olive wood burning.

There are many other businesses on the moshav.  One family changed the dairy cattle building into a spa, with hot tubs, 5 massage rooms, patio, small restaurant, etc.  It opened 3 years ago and is nice.
Iris' Spa

Another has a yoga studio.

"Beit Yoga" (house of yoga)
 Another is a painter and gives lesson and is on Facebook.
"Everyone can draw."
  There are also the following: a pilates studio, a pet food store with good prices and with an overnight hostel for pets, etc.  
Sign for pet store and "pension" compound

Pension for Pets

Micha, owner of the pet store compound
Micha is also a well-known karate trainer.  He trains his top students in his basement studio.
Pet Store items for sale

People on the moshav work in many different professions--including two documentary film makers, a judge,  dress designers, etc.

 There is also a furniture store factory and store. I bought some lovely "lemon grass" candles in a large warehouse gift store called Muskat across the street from Adina and Moshe.  Another person teaches people to swim.  Hava grows exotic fruit, makes jam, and then sells it.  Moshe and Adina have olive trees for olive oil.
Across from the pet store and pension, on the Bayarsky property, there are some amazing pieces of outdoor art in metal and wood, all created by the husband, David Bayarsky.
A bull
Three ducks
With the 4th duck lagging behind
A Giraffe

A cow in the shade

Violinist on a stand
Carving by the door
 A metal cow by the same artist used to be at the roundabout near the entry to the kibbutz but no longer grades that place.  It used to make me smile when I entered the moshav and I do miss it.

I also saw two fields of Paulownia trees, especially fast growing hardwood trees which are grown for wood for furniture.

For more information on this tree, please see
Thanks to Hemi Ramon, the editor of the moshav webpage for this information.  You can see the blog of the moshav at:

 Some people still farm a bit, but others rent out their fields

In February, the south-central part of Israel explodes in red, when wild anemones ("kalaniot") cover the landscape.  Part of the Hof Ashkelon region is the northern extension of such flowering.  About six years ago, the southern region of Israel decided to take advantage of this natural beauty and created the "Darom Adom" festival (the 'red south').  On Friday and/or Saturday, many moshavim and kibbutzim sell their products (fruit, art, books, cooked food) and also have demonstrations (rides on tractors, etc).  This is the first year that Nir Yisrael decided to participate, so Adina took me to a meeting where a representative group of moshavniks discussed strategy and publicity.  The whole south will put out a booklet (also to be on the internet) to bring visitors to the area.  This is the cover of the one from last year.
And this is the map on the back cover, showing where participants were from:
Pictures of Kalaniot, April 2, 2011, NW part of Nir Yisrael

We again took a long walk around the moshav near the end of my visit and I enjoyed photographing the many flowers around.
Very unusual cactus flower

Tiny flower with purple stripes

Inedible berries
Two small roses at ground level
A large rose shrub

Beautiful succulent in flower
I really enjoyed my time on the moshav, visiting the Bar-Els, and getting a feeling for the community.

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