A Visit to the Beit Hashomer Museum

A Visit to the Beit Hashomer Museum

© David Burton 2022


     During the winter of 2007, my wife and I, along with 8 other residents of the Greater Boston area, spent some 6 weeks in the Haifa area of Israel doing volunteer work, in a program organized under the auspices of the Boston-Haifa Connection of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).

     One Sunday near the end of February, one of our Israeli hosts took my wife, myself and another volunteer to the kibbutz of Kfar Giladi, which is located in the northern Galilee region of Israel. As we started out, the weather wasn’t promising – heavy overcast, some thunder and lightning, and rain showers. As we drove east and then north from Haifa to bypass Akko, the rains held off. Some miles east of Akko, we turned east again, bypassing the town of Safed, and we drove until we came to the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee, (Kinneret). There, at the Ami’ad Junction, we stopped for coffee at a small restaurant with a beautiful view of the Kinneret. After coffee, we again headed north through the Hula Valley, passing through the Hula Nature Reserve, through the town of Rosh Pina, on to the kibbutz at Kfar Giladi. The Hula Valley is a beautiful region in Israel. To the east are the mountains and hills of the Golan Heights, beyond which lies Syria. Snow-covered Mount Hermon looms above the Golan Heights. To the west are the hills of Naftali, beyond which lies Lebanon. The valley itself is lush and filled with farms and fish ponds. Toward noon, the weather began to improve.

     Some time before noon, we arrived at the Kfar Giladi kibbutz and the Beit Hashomer Museum (Guardian’s House Museum). Today, Kfar Giladi is one of the largest and most successful kibbutzim in Israel. Out Israeli host had arranged a special tour of the museum for us, along with the opportunity to hear about its history from an 80+ year old resident of the kibbutz. In the winter of 2007, the museum was in the process of reconstruction. The year 2007 marked the centennial of an organization called “Bar Giora” that was the first Jewish organization in what was then called Palestine. The Bar Giora was organized to provide security and defense for the kibbutzim. From the Bar Giora organization came the Shomerim (guardians) organization that eventually evolved into the Haganah and the Palmach which were the forerunners of today’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF). David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister (who, himself was not allowed membership in the Shomerim because he didn’t meet their strict entry requirements) said, “The Jewish Defense Forces have many fathers but is has only one grandfather – Hashomer.” In 2007, a stamp was issued in Israel to mark the 100th anniversary of Hashomer.[1]

     The Beit Hashomer Museum was founded in 1968 in kibbutz Kfar-Giladi in order to present the history of Hashomer and Bar-Giora groups and their role in the settlement, weapon collection and defending the Yishuv (name of the Jewish population of the Land of Israel, until the establishment of the State of Israel).
     The building was planned as a kind of watchtower overlooking the Galilee panhandle and the Tel-Chai Courtyard. A rich collection of items depict Hashomer life and the period and includes: photos, an audio-visual diorama, a slide kit, a collection of weapons, flags, full attire and Hashomer member certificates.
     A vista point on site overlooks the Galilee panhandle, Mt. Chermon, Ramat-Hagolan and the Tel-Chai courtyard. A 15-minute audio-visual presentation is screened as well as a diorama about the battle of Tel-Chai. There is a gallery of changing exhibitions on topics related to the museum program.
     Information relative to the museum is as follows: Address: ‘Beit Hashomer’ Museum, Kibbutz Kfar-Giladi 12210; Telephone: 04-6941565; Fax: 04-6951505; Visiting Hours: Sunday-Thursday 8:00 am-4:00 pm; Friday - 08:00 am - 12:00 pm.[2]

     During the 1st aliyah period from about 1870 to 1900, Russian immigrants arrived in Palestine in order to escape the pogroms of Czarist Russia. The 2nd wave arrived from about 1900 till 1920, again, primarily as the result of Russian pogroms. These early Zionists settled the land and mainly turned to farming. Bands of Arabs harassed and attacked them from time to time, necessitating the formation of the Shomerim. Times have not changed much – here in the year, 2022, in Eretz Yisrael, bands of Arabs still are attacking Jews in the ancient Land of Israel.

     Listening to our hosts at the museum, I felt a profound respect for the trials and tribulations that these early Jews in Modern Israel faced. Our hosts pointed to photos of their fathers, mothers and grandparents who were the original settlers and defenders of the modern State of Israel.

     We walked a short distance from the museum to the nearby cemetery of the Shomerim. This cemetery is reserved for those who were members of the Shomerim. In looking at the grave markers, I noticed that many of these gravestones showed that those buried there died in their teens and early twenties during the first two decades of the 20th century.

     I realized that our hosts were only a few generations removed from the first settlers here in the Upper Galilee. These early Zionist pioneers settled the land, defended it with their lives and then founded the modern State of Israel. It’s as if I could have met with and listened to the grandchildren of the original pilgrims who first settled America and of the minutemen who fought in the American Revolution to gain independence for the United States.

     Later, Just south of Kfar Giladi, we stopped in Tel Chai at the Tel Chai Courtyard Museum and watched a short video on the history of Tel Chai and Kfar Giladi.

     Nearly a hundred years ago, In 1920, at Tel Chai, Josef Trumpeldor and seven other Shomerim were killed by Arab marauders. Trumpeldor’s last words were reputedly, “It is good to die for our country.” These words are famous throughout Israel and appear on the Lion Monument at the Shomerim cemetery in Kfar Giladi, along with the names of the eight who died at Tel Chai and are buried there. IDF swearing-in ceremonies are often held at the Lion Monument.

     Among the many treasures at the Beit Hashomer Museum are the original Hashomer flag and the weapon that belonged to the intrepid Yishuv hero Joseph Trumpeldor, who gave his life at nearby Tel Chai.[3]

     The Beit Hashomer Museum was established by the members of the Kibbutz Kfar Giladi and the Association of Hashomer Heritage with the objective of preserving the extraordinary legacy of one of the first organized Jewish Defense Forces in the Land of Israel.

     The new Beit Hashomer Museum serves as an educational center and reminder of the deeds of the first Jewish settlers and defenders of modern Israel, a center for studies on this significant period and the personalities who shaped it, and an interactive museum displaying all the significant features of the creative period of the Zionist settlement of the Land of Israel.

     The Israeli Ministry of Defense, via the Museums Department, along with the Association of Hashomer Heritage, were largely responsible for the renovation and expansion of the Beit Hashomer Museum. On display here is a profusion of authentic artefacts, ranging from articles of clothing, through agricultural tools, to weapons. The museum also includes bronze sculptures by Batya Lishansky, a sculptress of the Second Aliyah period and winner of the Israel Prize for Art, and photos taken by photographers of the period, Leo Kahan and Avraham Soskin. A tour of the museum concludes with a film featuring descendants of Hashomer members, who describe the organization’s activity. Tours can be arranged of an original arms cache, the Old Courtyard Museum in Tel Chai, and the Founders Cemetery with the Roaring Lion monument. The museum was founded by the last Hashomer members, led by Meir Spector, Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi and Nachum Horovitz.[1]


  1. Heritage Sites of Israel - Watchman's House (Beit Hashomer) Museum in Kfar Giladi, NEWSRAEL,
    5 September 2021.
  2. Beit Hashomer Museum, 101israel.com, Accessed 20 July 2022.
  3. Beit Hashomer Museum, Enjoying Israel, Accessed 20 July 2022.

  22 September 2022 {ARTICLE 546; ISRAEL_69}    
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