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Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker – Lessons In Simplicity

Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker – Lessons in Simplicity

Ben Gurion's Museum and Tomb

Gardened entrance to Ben Gurion and Pola's tombs at Sde Boker
Leading to Ben Gurion's tomb in Sde Boker is a beautiful park.

Getting There

The Camping

I stayed in a camping site in Mizpe Ramon – Me’ever. Originally  a hangar in an industrial part of the town, it served a the perfect hub for my national parks sojourns in the area, including Mamshit, Ein Avdat and the Ben Gurion sites. I was familiar with the place, having been there for festivals. I now found out it also served as an accomodation.

The atmosphere in Me’ever is always great, everybody is super friendly, and freedom is the name of the game. 

I am posting these pictures here also to show that simplicity is still a tradition in the desert. Many younger and older folk choose to go basic, voluntarily, just like Ben Gurion did at the time, when he moved with his books from the city to the Negev. 

By my new tent at Meever camping, Mizpe Ramon

In hammock by my tent at Meever, Mizpe RamonMy camping scene at Me’ever accomodation and event center, Mizpe Ramon

Preparing food in Me'ever, Mitzpe Ramon

Wooden hammock in Me'ever, Mitzpe RamonScenes from Me’ever camping, hostel and event center, Mizpe Ramon

Ein Avdat National Park

Combining visits to several sites on this outing, I first drove to Ein Avdat, a wonderful Nature Reserve and National Park, and from there to the the Ben Gurion Museum and Tomb. Everything is located off Road 40 north of Mitzpe. The drive to Ein Avdat starts at the Ben Gurion Tomb, so you get two national parks in very close proximity. The viewpoint over Ein Avdat is located more to the south.

Eternal Peace in the Desert - Here Lie David and Paula Ben Gurion

Right at the parking place, I was welcomed by a herd of free-roaming ibex, who come regularly from the desert to enjoy water and food remnants available around human dwellings.

A pretty, manicured, rock-gardened lane (see pic above) leads to the eternal resting place of David and Paula Ben Gurion. The tombs are placed at a gorgeous high spot with a breathtaking view over the cliffs and valleys in the vast expanse below.

Lying side by side, Paula and David’s twin tombstones are the quintessence of simplicity. Following Jewish custom, visitors put little rocks over the tomb from a special container on the side.

Ben Gurion's tomb, Sde Boker, NegevBen Gurion’s tomb at Sde Boker

I sat for a long while on the surrounding wall, meditating over the magnificence below and the olden days of this country.

View from Sde Boker over deert View from Ben Gurion's tomb estate over desert

Views over desert from Ben Gurion’s tomb estate

Moses and Ben Gurion in Conversation

From the tomb compound I drove a bit north to the actual Kibbutz, where the Ben Gurion Museum and house are located.

I got there late – four o’clock was closing time.

The entrance was as simple and humble as expected:

Welcome sign to Ben Gurion's desert home museum, Sde BokerWelcome to Ben Gurion’s hut

Walking through, I bumped across an educational show for kids that was taking place on the grounds. A lady dressed in a long white robe with a long white beard represented Moses. The small boy by her side had a (not very good) Ben Gurion headdress…The show was at its last moments, so I did not get the jist of the play, but Revital Twito, the adult performer, explained to me later that she was posturing as Moses passing the torch to a young Ben Gurion.

  Show for kids at ben Gurion's shack in Sde Boker   Moses and Ben Gurion in show for kids. Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker

Revital Twito putting an educational show for kids at Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker (picture on right courtesty R. Twito)

Revital told me the place was closing, but lit up when I said I was planning to write about it for my blog. She made efforts to let me in for a few extra moments.

Clearly the Kibbutz and the museum were suffering due to the coronavirus crisis. Tourism was dead, and only recently some internal tourism had started arriving.

The museum is highly kid oriented, like most sites in Israel, with a special interactive educational game show:

Interactive educational show for kids at ben Gurion Museum, Sde BokerInteractive educational games for kids at Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker

We exchanged phones and she sent me a few extra pictures.

On the grounds outside, Ben Gurion, notorious for his love of Yoga, was still standing on his head:    

Classica: Ben Gurion standing on his head. Sde Boker

Ben Gurion on his head in front of museum, Sde Boker

Ben Gurion Museum - The Hut

When I looked out my window today and saw a tree standing before me, the sight awoke in me a greater sense of beauty and personal satisfaction than all the forests that I have crossed in Switzerland and Scandinavia. For we planted each tree in this place and watered them with the water we provided at the cost of numerous efforts.

Ben Gurion

Neither hut nor house 

The highlight for me was, of course, Ben Gurion’s actual house. It wasn’t a wooden shack, but was something between a hut and a house.

Revital Twito grew up on the Kibbutz, and introduced me to her father, one of the founders. Now she actually lives elsewhere, but comes to the Kibbutz when help is needed.

Sde Boker Kibbutz was founded in 1952, and Ben Gurion moved here in 1953, the year I was born… 

Here is Revital (after taking off her Moses beard), posing in front of the house:

Revital Twito in front of Ben Gurion's house museum in Sde BokerRevital Twito in front of Ben Gurion’s hut. Sde Boker

A dose of nostalgia 

On the inside, I found what I expected: a house simple in furniture, but rich in intellectual content, a lot like the house I grew up in.

Below is a photo of the living room, which also served to entertain and recieve foreign diplomatic guests and delegations. Revital almost apologized that this room was not as humble as everything else. Oh, well…Compare this to Bibi’s residences, or to presidents and prime ministers’ houses elsewhere in the world…

Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker - the living roomBen Gurion Museum – The Living and Guest Rooms

The following pictures show Ben Gurion’s and Paula’s bedrooms. There are multiple books by his bedside. Since he was reading late, Paula had her own bedroom, so she can sleep peacefully.

On one of the walls in his bedroom, he hung a picture of Mahatma Ghandi, a figure he held in high esteem.

 Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker - his bedroomBen Gurion Musuem – books by the bedside

Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker. Typical period furniture

Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker – The bedroom furniture

I took a picture of this closet, as it so resembled the one I had in my own bedroom as a kid.

Well, the country was small, poor and young those days. I assume the plastic shutters on the windows were put in later. In those days, shutters were metal or wood.

Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker - pictur of Ghandi in bedroomGhandi’s picture at Ben Gurion’s bedroom

Ben Gurion Museum Sde Boker - Paula's bedroomPaula’s bedroom at Ben Gurion Museum

The video below shows the extensive library Ben Gurion left in his will to the state, together with the house. 

My father had a similar room with books from floor to ceiling on all sides, another reminder of my own upbringing and the mentality of the period.

Ben Gurion's Museum - Pictures from a Life

A few curious photos from the museum:

 

 Ben Gurion and friends at door of hut. Sde Boker Ben Gurion expressing ambivalence about circumcision, Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker  Ben Gurion promoting large families, Ben Gurion Museum, Sde Boker

Left to rigth: with friends in front of the hut; Expressing ambivalence about circumcision; Four children are a minimum 

Regarding the “four children minimum”, lamentably Ben Gurion could not foresee that this recommendation, supported by Biblical commandments regarding procreation, and his early error of exempting Yeshiva guys from military service and work, was going to cause the severe demographic problem our country is now facing.

Ben Gurion with combat engineer troops who guraded over himWith combat engineer troops

These are postcards sent to him by children for his 80th birthday. Most start with addresses like: “To the great leader”…

Children's birthday greetings for Ben Gurion at 80. Museum at Sde BokerChildren’s blessing cards for his 80th birthday

If "The Old Man" is Walking, So Can You

Ben Gurion used to take guests, including politicians and foreign visitors, out for walks. If people annoyed him, he would outwalk them, thus cutting off the conversation, and then taking his prompt leave…

In the following photo, a Kibbutznik is displaying a sign telling outsiders to park outside the Kibbutz, with the explanation that if “the old man”‘, the common nickname for Ben Gurion, is walking around by foot, so can they!!!

No entrance to foreign vehicles. If the old man walks so will you. Sde BokerNo entry to foreign vehicles: “If the Old Man walks, so can you”

Here we can see Ben Gurion walking around the Kibbutz with friends, and perhaps a guard. Except for him, everybody is wearing shorts. Air conditioning was unheard of at the time, even in the desert…

Ben Gurion afternoon stroll with Kibbutz members. Sde BokerBen Gurion’s afternoon stroll around Sde Boker, his retirement pioneering home in the Negev desert

Where We Stand Now - Just Saying

Less then 70 years have passed since Ben Gurion moved into a hut in the desert, and now we have a very different leadership:

Our current prime minister, Mr. Netanyhu, lives far from simplicity. Bibi seems willing to violate the law and try to deligitimize the courts in order to acquit himself and his wife of charges having to do with his corruption and their love of luxuries.

Those include a one million dollar car and a private jetand now, during corona times and coalition negotiations, Bibi needs Israel to help him pay for a fourth house.

His love of luxuries led him to his famous court cases:

From the BBCCase 1,000Charges – Fraud and breach of trust

 This case concerns the prime minister’s relationship with two businessmen: Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood film producer, and James Packer, an Australian billionaire.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit alleged that Mr Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, received various goods from the businessmen, “mainly cigar boxes and cases of champagne”.

They were allegedly given in a continuous manner, “such that they became a sort of ‘supply channel'”. The value of the goods was approximately 700,000 shekels ($198,000; £162,000).

File photo showing Arnon Milchan and Benjamin Netanyahu (28 March 2005)Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47409739, Getty Images

As I write, demonstrations and protests are held in front of Bibi’s (Netanyahu’s) house in Jerusalem. 

Israel′s anti-government protests deepen Netanyahu′s problems ...Source: https://www.dw.com/en/israel-protests-cause-netanyahu-problems/a-54243996

Aftermath

Our religion was born in the desert, in a land of scarcity and simplicity. I hope the clean air of the Negev, that Ben Gurion was so drawn to, will again serve to purify the corruption, extremism and anger we see everywhere around us today, as new plans to settle the Negev will take effect.

This post belongs in a post series about Israeli Nature Reserves and Parks, under the general category of  Israel’s Best at Planet’s Daughter Website.

This is an ongoing project currently under construction. 

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