Deep in עמק יזראל (The Jezreel Valley) on a mountain directly across from הר גלבוע (Mount Gilboa - site of many historical battles) sits one of the oldest kibbutzim in Israel - עין חרוד (Ein Harod). The kibbutz is known for many things - it commmitment to socialist ideals from its founding during the Third Yishuv to present day; its remarkable and significant contribution to horticultural development in Israel; and for its lost members who fell during the many armed conficts in Europe and in the middle east during the past 100 years.
Today Ein Harod is an elysian field. The hills are fertile, the kibbutz is mature and you are very lucky if you have the opportunity to stay in one of their private zimmerim (guest houses) overlooking the valley.
This week on our way north to the גליל (The Galilee) we stopped in Ein Harod for the night. We ate at the חוות התבלינים בגלבוע (The Gilboa Herb Farm) where the dining room is atop Mount Gilboa overlooking the fields and the herb gardens. The dinner was delicious - as usual.
Earlier in the afternoon we stopped by משכן לאמנות עין חרוד (The MIshkan Museum of Art). The Museum is located on the kibbutz and the building does not stand out. It is the same color as the rest of the buildings, the residences and schools and communal dining hall - all beige. Nothing special. But like many things in this country hidden below an ordinary facade is something remarkable.
The museum building was designed by שמואל ביקלס (Samuel Bickels) a member of the kibbutz who migrated from Poland. Bickels was an architect who played a large role in designing kibbutzim in the country. But his most significant contribution was the design and creation of an art museum that uses no artificual light. All the exhibit rooms are lit with windows, skylights and cleverly disguised panels that allow natural light to illuminate the walls and the exhibits.
We were late in arriving at the kibbutz at 15;30 and the Museum closes at 16:30. We decided to take a quick look around. We had been there many times before so we bypassed the bookstore on the way in. There were very few visitors. Probably not a lot of traffic in the middle of January.
The cashier said that the cafe was not staffed but we were free to walk in and make our own coffee if we wanted to. Something about this offer was so genuine and so "kibbutznik". We reluctantly passed up the offer for coffee and the bookself of reading materials and walked right into the most amazing exhibition of contemporary and modern German art.
Suddenly we were in a room with paintings by Dieter Roth, several sculptures by Joseph Beuys and two favorite pieces, the dung hare and the chicken tableau, by Gerhard Richter. We were able to walk through the rooms at our leisure and although we only had an hour it was an hour very well spent.
The opportunity to see these works up close without a guard hanging over your head or the pressure of the patron behind you given his or her impression of the work, is rare. To be able to see these works in natural light and to then retire to a comfy room overlooking the valley is very special indeed.
The next mornning we ate in the חדר אוכל (communal dining room) because the guest cafe was closed for the winter. Cottage cheese, eggs, raw vegetables and perhaps the worst coffee around but all in all a sweet experience.