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You are about to read a tale of blood, sweat and tears the story of the cooperation in Merchavia, which took place in the Great Courtyard. It is a narrative that stems from a fervent Zionist dream, continues through hard, exhausting labor and ends in a total collapse and bitter disappointment.
Nevertheless, a hundred years later, the cooperation ideas reappear in the Kibbutz Movement who undergoes a great transformation from equal wages to individual salaries but strives to maintain the principle of joint ownership of the kibbutz manufacture resources. This same principle was at the core of professor Alexander Oppenheimers cooperation plan.

Formerly a house from the cooperation period

The Great Courtyard of Merchavia was built in the years 1911-1912. It was not deserted after the cooperations failure and thus did not fall into ruins. It has always been a lively place, well maintained by the kibbutz, protected by law and assisted by the Council of Sites and Settlement Buildings Preservation. In the beginning of the 90s the kibbutz decided to establish an educational visitor center in the Great Courtyard. Originally a living quarter, the northern building was converted into an archive.

Another building, Yaari House, is dedicated to the memory and achievements of kibbutz member Meir Yaari, who was among the founders of the Hashomer Hatzair movement and the Workers Movement in Israel.

The model of the great courtyard in Merchavia
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Yet the dominant building in the Great Courtyard is the old barn, fashioned as a solid stone fortress (see its picture in our home page). Its ground floor serves as a visitor center and inhabits an exhibition describing the unique history of the site through the use of various methods as well as a interesting film. This visitor center shows the metamorphosis of the cooperation concept from its formation a hundred years ago to contemporary times, starting from the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 when it was decided to actively encourage masses of Jews to immigrate to Israel and the Keren Hakayemet was founded, and continuing in the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 in which Oppenheimer first introduced his model of cooperative agricultural settlement in Israel, and the Ninth Zionist congress in 1909 where Oppenheimers model was approved and Shlomo Kaplansky was appointed to collect a 100,000 frank in order to finance the plan. The visitor center also portrays the eight years of the models implementation and elaborates on the reasons for the revolutionary projects collapse. Our basic approach in planning the visitor center exhibition maintained that it is useless to build yet another museum where old items from the same period are piled in a jumbled heap - weve had our share of such sites. Instead, we wanted to design a display where the spectator will participate in a singular cooperative experience and take part in its peoples debates and decisions. Therefore, the visitor center is based on four elements: large panels that relate the story of the cooperation using text and pictures; models and threedimensional displays that demonstrate the reality as opposed to the dream; a film whose five parts are projected in the centers five sections and a computer system where guests can access the visitor centers interactive site which includes stories, pictures, songs from those times and activities for pupils.

 

Our location

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Regional map

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Kibbutz Merchavia is situated right at the center of the Yizreel Valley, surrounded by many interesting sites that appeal to tourists who come here from all over the world. These historical and archeological sites are significant to both Jewish and Christian tourists.

Access map

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To arrive at our visitor center, take the Beit Shean exit from Afula and turn left (east) at the first roundabout on road number 7511 which goes up to Merchavia (see the regional map).
(Regional map) Immediately upon arriving at the kibbutzs gate, turn left, leave your car at the adjacent parking lot and walk up the pavement that leads to the Great Courtyard through an old cypress grove. Walk along the Farm Building and follow the signs until you reach the visitor center entrance (see the access map). 

Air photo 1917

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In historical terms, if we wanted to get to Merchavia in 1917, we would have to navigate according to the aerial photograph you can see at the bottom, taken by the German pilots of the Bavarian Squadron 304 who were temporarily stationed in Merchavia. The photographs lower part shows the Great Courtyards square shape, and, above it, the visible ruins of the Crusader fortress La Feve encircled by a deep moat. The tents and buildings of the squadron are located at the upper part of the photograph.

In order to coordinate your visit the Great Courtyard,
please call Shlomo Sdeur and inform him of the date and hour you will be coming. Mr. Sdeurs cell phone number: 052/3638156.