The Kibbutz Institute for Holidays and Jewish Culture
The Institute was founded by Aryeh Ben-Gurion, nephew of Israel’s first Prime Minister and a member of Kibbutz Beit Hashita. In the 1930’s he envisioned a center for the documentation of the pioneering and dynamic spirit of festivals as celebrated in the Kibbutz movement, and began collecting printed materials and memorabilia.
In time, the collection of bits of paper filed away in milk crates under his bed became an expansive archive, relating a story of communal creativity applied to the eternal roots of Jewish sources.
In the 1990’s the archive evolved into an educational institute, under the stewardship of Binyamin Yogev (Bouja). To this day the Institute is situated at Beit Hashita in the picturesque and historic Jezreel Valley, symbols of Jewish renewal and a beacon to Israeli society.
Mission and Purpose
The Institute’s mission is the creation of a significant pluralistic dialogue about Jewish cultural activity, with focus on Jewish festivals and life-cycle events in Israel.
We seek to reinforce humanistic values in Israeli society with emphasis on helping individuals, their families and their communities to connect to the heritage of Judaism and Eretz Yisrael.
The roots of the Institute can be found in the pioneering spirit of Israel’s collective settlements, expressed in a century of Jewish cultural creativity.
We view ourselves as a spiritual and cultural home for idealistic Jewish communities and Zionist youth movements.
We firmly believe that emphasis on community cultural expression can be instructive in aiding innovative Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora.
Communities – Adult Jewish education, development of community leadership, youth activities, cultural absorption of immigrants, communal celebration of Shabbat and holidays;
Schools – Teachers’ training seminars, development of on-campus cultural centers, Judaeo-therapy, aftermath of the Lebanese War from Jewish perspectives, student seminars on Jewish culture and Zionism;
Tourism Plus – Group and family package tours of the Lower Galilee with the added value of walking in the footsteps of Biblical heroes, hands-on understanding of the early 20th century pioneers, workshops on the Gilboa mountains, and group celebration of the Shabbat;
Youth Movements – Leadership training and development of Jewish skills among youth leaders, with emphasis on festivals, Jewish and Zionist identity, and the renewed spirit of pioneering and settlement;
Shlichim Training – Development of skills to enhance greater appreciation of festivals and the Jewish calendar with Eretz Yisrael as a central axis; provision of online counseling to overseas Shlichim;
Lectures – Our academic and professional staff are invited to lecture all over the country;
Website – Our site (www.chagim.org.il) has for years been the cutting-edge leader in presenting Jewish holidays on the Web to Hebrew readers; a copious collection of sources, ideas, songs, recipes, games, quizzes, prose, pictures, all in an atmosphere of pluralism and variety;
Archives – Scholars and laymen, doctoral students and schoolchildren, all make use of the archives containing 80 years of dynamic Jewish cultural expression;
New Projects and Initiatives
‘Sadeh’ – A year-long bi-weekly seminar of academic learning and discussion geared toward business leaders, top-level educators and municipal figures; in cooperation with the Yeshiva at Maale Gilboa, the program focuses on creating directions for the future of Israeli society;
‘Tahal’ – A weekly Beit Midrash forum for leaders in the field of informal education; this years’ topic: ‘Humanistic Perspectives on Jewish Festivals’;
‘The Valley is a Dream’ – Leaders of the Machanot Haolim youth movement are enabled as professional guides in the Lower Galilee area, gaining knowledge and skills in history, Bible, flora and fauna from Israel’s leading expert, Azariah Alon of Beit Hashita;
Our staff is a unique pluralistic combination of senior educators as well as young dynamic leadership, secular and religious. All have vast experience in formal and informal Jewish education with adults and youth. Fields of academic expertise range from Jewish texts and culture to Zionism and the pioneering movement, Holocaust studies, Hebrew literature and poetry, special education and group dynamics.
The variety of talents, backgrounds and accomplishments of our staff allow for a great degree of versatility together with certainty of vision.
We invite you
to join us as partners
in renewing the face of Jewish culture in Israel
and helping the seeds of creativity grow and flourish
The Kibbutz Institute for Holidays and Jewish Culture
Kibbutz Beit Hashita, 18910, Israel
Ben Gurion – Aryeh, not David
Pioneering spirit of first PM's nephew is core of pluralistic Jewish culture center that celebrates Zionist spirit of early Chalutzim
As a rule, when we think of Chalutzim or of Kibbutzim, the first image that comes to mind is of farm laborers with dirty hands and muddy shovels, physically building their future state. Relatively few people today are aware of the fact that in the heart of this Zionist endeavor, another, no less important dynamic was budding in the fields of Jewish spirit and culture.
In the fourth decade of the 20th century a young pioneer named Aryeh Ben-Gurion came to Kibbutz Beit Hashita in the Yizrael valley. Intuitively, he immediately saw how the most revolutionary elements of Zionism were not just in those things previously foreign to Jews, i.e. physical labor, security, and settlements. The core of the revolution was, indeed, in Jewish culture itself.
Aryeh, nephew of David Ben-Gurion, identified this outburst of Jewish creativity as it developed in the early Kibbutzim. He perceived the necessity of documenting various initiatives of communal celebration of festivals and holidays.
He began collecting and preserving every page containing descriptions of how young Chalutzim designed Jewish festivals, the Shabbat, marriage ceremonies, indeed any event of Jewish communal life. These individual pages were collected into crates Aryeh obtained from the nearby Tnuva factory, and gradually came together to emerge as Aryeh's life-long project: "The Holiday Archives of the Kibbutz Movement".
As a visionary, Aryeh Ben-Gurion did more than simply document the inspirational creativity of new Jewish life on the Kibbutzim. Aryeh personally educated entire generations of teachers, youth leaders, and culture personnel in the Kibbutz Movement and throughout Israel and the Diaspora, while earning many accolades and recognition from the State of Israel, as well as from a variety of funds and foundations supportive of Jewish pluralism.
In time, the archive became the core of Machon Hachagim, a center for pluralistic Jewish culture and education which maintains the Zionist spirit of the early Chalutzim. That pioneering spirit remains extremely relevant to contemporary issues of Israeli-Jewish identity, celebration of festivals in a way that synthesizes the traditional with the modern, and events of the Jewish lifecycle.
Jewish pluralism with 'Eretz Yisrael' flavor
For many years, the Machon has been a harbinger of Jewish renewal in many ways, particularly through the "Chagim" website, still the most popular Hebrew-language site on Jewish festivals in the world.
Educators and students, community leaders and organizers of Jewish cultural events, together with families and individuals throughout the world, enjoy the wide range and variety of texts and activities displayed in the many sections of the Website. Some have suggesteded the uniqueness of the site is in the way it attaches to Jewish pluralism a special 'Eretz Yisrael' flavor.
This year Israel marks 100 years to the establishment of the first kibbutz, Deganya. Together with many others throughout the country, Machon Hachagim is actively designing school lessons, youth activities, regional events, and media programs as part of the celebration of this centennial landmark.
The Machon believes these programs of Jewish renewal could also be implemented in the Diaspora, and actively seeks ways to make its materials accessible to speakers of English, Russian, French, and Spanish. We invite anyone who can be of help to visit the site, see its special qualities, and feel free to contact us.