DEGANYAH (Heb. דְּגַנְיָה), two kevuzot – Deganyah Alef and Deganyah Bet – in Israel, on the Jordan-Yarmuk Plain south of Lake Kinneret, both affiliated to Ihud ha-Kibbutzim. Deganyah Alef was founded in 1909 on land that was among the first holdings acquired by the
*Jewish National Fund
. The initiative came from seven pioneers of the Second Aliyah who were working as wage earners at the neighboring farm of
and who applied to
to farm a plot of land on their own responsibility. Ruppin decided to accord them a trial period on a part of the lands east of the Jordan named Umm Jūnī. Surprisingly, the experiment succeeded economically, although the group dispersed after a year. It was followed in 1911 by the "Haderah Commune" whose members (pioneers from Russia) worked out the principles of collective settlement (see
) and made Deganyah the "Mother of the Kevuzot."
, one of the early members, played an important part in laying the ideological foundations of communal living. In the initial years, the kevuzah suffered from frequent attacks by Bedouin robbers encamped in the vicinity. After World War I, with the arrival of Third Aliyah immigrants, Deganyah's intensified farming created a need for more hands, but preferring to maintain the frame of the small "family" kevuzah, the settlers ceded part of the land allocated to them for the establishment of another kevuzah, which was built in 1920 and named Deganyah Bet. In time, the two settlements further intensified farming and recognized the need, both economic and social, to absorb more members, although they were able to give a part of their landfor a third settlement, the kibbutz
. During the
*War of Independence
(1948), the Syrian army, having taken neighboring Ẓemah, attempted to continue its advance across the Jordan westward; but on May 20, 1948, it was repulsed by the vigorous defense of Deganyah Alef. One of the Syrian tanks remained stuck in the settlement's perimeter; it remained there as a memorial. In memory of its fallen members, Deganyah laid out Gan ha-Meginnim (The Defenders' Park). In 1968 the two Deganyahs had a combined population of 960, in 2002 around 1,000, equally divided between the two. Both operated intensive, fully irrigated farming (avocado, bananas, date palms, dairy cattle, and poultry) based on the hot climate and abundance of water in the region. Deganyah Alef has operated the Toolgal industrial diamond plant since the early 1970s, while Deganyah Bet operates a guesthouse. The Bet Gordon Museum and Study Center for natural sciences and agriculture is located at Deganyah Alef.
were members of Deganyah Bet.
, and other personalities are buried at Deganyah Alef, alongside A.D. Gordon,
, and other founders of the labor settlement movement. In 1981 Deganyah Alef was awarded the Israel Prize for special contribution to Israeli State and society. The name "Deganyah" (Cornflower) is based on the Arab designation of the land, Umm Jūnī, which in turn may have its origin in the village Kefar Gun of talmudic times.
Sources:J. Baratz, Village by the Jordan (1954). WEBSITE: www.degania.org.il.
[Efraim Orni / Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
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