Kibbutz Sdot Yam and the Story of Hannah Senesh

| October 10, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Kibbutz Sdot Yam

Next door to Caesarea, in fact just bordering it, is Kibbutz Sdot Yam. The kibbutz was originally founded in 1936, in a spot just south of Haifa, further north than its present location.

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved Sdot Yam Beach

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved
Sdot Yam Beach

It was established primarily as a buffer against the British who held the mandate to rule Israel at the time and who were trying to severely limit the immigration of Jews into the country. The kibbutz members used to meet quietly and absorb illegal immigrants from boats which made their way to the shore under cover of darkness before the British could spot them. This was only possible due to the kibbutz’s coastal location. In 1940, Kibbutz Sdot Yam moved to its present location; since then, a high percentage of its income has been derived from the tourism facilities on the kibbutz itself.

Hannah Senesh House

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved Sculptures on the Lawn

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved
Sculptures on the Lawn

Hannah Senesh is not only a legend, but a Jewish heroine from an era long before feminism arose. Born into a wealthy, assimilated, Hungarian family, no one would have expected her to leave home and her easy life in 1939 to go and help the fledgling Jewish state-in-the-making.  After studying in an agricultural college she joined Kibbutz Sdot Yam and the Hagana, the paramilitary forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces. By this time it was becoming clear that the Jews of Europe were in terrible danger and the Israeli paramilitary groups decided to temporarily join forces with the British army to fight the Nazis.

After training with the British in Egypt, Hannah was one of 37 volunteers who parachuted into Nazi Europe on a mission to assist Jews fleeing Europe. Tragically, Hannah was captured, tortured, and eventually – after not giving out any information regarding her mission – was sentenced to death and killed by a firing squad.

She left behind in Sdot Yam a suitcase full of her poetry and writings, including a diary she had started when she was still a Hungarian teenager.  It captured much of her life as the entries date right up until she left on her mission to Europe.  Her sensitive writing is best exemplified by her most famous poem, “Walk to Caesarea,” an Israeli classic set to music.

Be sure to visit the modest building dedicated to her memory, the Hannah Senesh House, where you can see a film about her life and her writings and view her diary and photographs.

Sdot Yam and Caesarea: The Antiquities Museum

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved Museum of Antiquities

Ann Goldberg  All Rights Reserved
Museum of Antiquities

Many of the treasures discovered by the Underwater Archaeological Museum in Caesarea are now housed in the Antiquities Museum in Sdot Yam. Amongst the collection are ancient coins and gems that members of the kibbutz found as they started to plough their fields when the kibbutz was first founded in the 1940s.

Although relatively small, it houses many fascinating artifacts, including several headless columns of Caesars. Although what happened to their heads remains a mystery, the design of the column indicates that they were heads of state. There are also artifacts from Muslim, Crusader and Byzantine eras including coins, jewelry and pottery.

In the museum courtyard there is a display of Roman columns and large sculptures. The kibbutz is also home to many modern sculptures decorating the paths and lawns.

Hannah Senesh: Did You Know?

In August 2012, 68 years after her death, one of Hannah Senesh’s poems, sent from Cairo while she was training with the British, was discovered and published by her daughter. The poem had been found amongst her mother’s possessions.


Category: Caesarea, Museums

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