The Kibbutz Outside Jerusalem Built Atop An Ancient Palace
Ramat Rachel’s Archaeological Gardens tell the story of the Roman legionnaires, Judean kings and Assyrian conquerors, and others who lived and built there.
A touching statue stands just outside the beautifully remodeled guesthouse at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Created by sculptor David Polus in 1954, it depicts the matriarch Rachel, holding a torch in one hand and sheltering two young children with the other. Polus calls the sculpture “and the children returned to their homeland,” inspired by Jeremiah 31:16. Apt, indeed, when you know the history of the kibbutz.
Ramat Rachel was founded in 1926 between Jerusalem and Bethlehem by young idealists from the Jerusalem contingent of Trumpeldor’s gdud ha’avoda – a labor brigade that was instrumental in the physical development of modern Jerusalem. Three years later, when Arabs rioted throughout the country, Ramat Rachel was completely burned to the ground.
Yet the settlers returned and the kibbutz flourished. Along with chicken coops, a dairy, bakery and laundry, they created a successful trucking company. By the time the War of Independence broke out in 1948, the kibbutz counted 200 members and 150 children.
Immediately after Israel was declared a state, Ramat Rachel’s position became precarious at best. Over a short period, during fierce fighting, the kibbutz was conquered and reconquered several times. Finally, on May 25, 1948, Ramat Rachel was taken for the last time by the settlers and a Palmach unit.