The Dubrovin Farm and village of Yesod HaMa'ala and their inspiring stories
A wondeful combination to visit is the Dubrovin Farm and then the nearby village of Yesud HaMa’ala. One can be done without the other, but together they tell the inspiring story of First Aliya immigrants to the Hula Valley who refused give up, when objectively they had every reason to do so. The farm shows life in the early days of Jewish agricultural settlement in this country together with a very moving movie. Consider also a visit to the nearby Hula Nature Reserve to complete the picture.
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Yoav and Rachel Dubrovin were Christian Shabbat observers (termed Sobotnikim) who converted to Judaism and came on aliya in 1904 as part of the First Aliya. They had been farmers in Russia and therefore had considerable experience in agriculture. They were persuaded by Baron Edmond Rothschild’s organization to settle in this area. They purchased land in 1909 and were assisted in the construction of their farm. Because of their expertise, theirs became a model farm for other settlers here. They did lose two of their children to malaria, as did other immigrants living close to the Hula Lake. In his old age, Yoav moved to Rosh Pina to avoid malaria and left the management of the farm to his bachelor son Yitzhak. Workers were local Bedouin. Yitzhak eventually donated his estate to the Jewish National Fund, and the farm has been reconstructed to demonstrate farming life during this period and the challenges living in the Hula Valley.
VISITING THE DUBROVIN FARM
Directions: Enter “Dubrovin Farm” into Waze and click on “Dubrovin farm, Ha-Shmura Street, Yesud HaMa’ala.”
Admission: The farm is open from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm Sunday to Thursday and from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm Friday and Saturday. Admission is 20 nis for adults and 15 nis for seniors and children. A brochure is provided in English. Their phone number is 04 693-7371. To view their website (in Hebrew) click here.
Public transport: The closest bus stop is at the Shmurat HChulah Intersection, which is serviced by an infrequent bus between Tel Hai and Kiryat Shemona. From here it is about 3.0 Km/ 37-minute walk. There is a closer bus stop for Yesud HaMa'aleh at HaShikun intersection, also serviced by an infrequent bus between Kiryat Shemona and Tel Hai.
The current tour of the Dubrovin Farm is in Hebrew, but the guide will be pleased to give the explanations in simple ulpan-type Hebrew. There is an inspiring 12-minute movie about settlement in this area. There are reconstructed living quarters and kitchen and a display of farming implements. Outside is a well that the Dubrovins constructed. From the farm you are 2.5 Km from Yesod HaMa'ala and 1.3 Km to the Hula Valley Reserve.
Yesud HaMa’ala – a delightful place to live in – eventually
Yesud HaMa’ala was established in 1883 by Polish Jews who were part of the First Aliya. The name of the village was taken from a sentence in the Book of Ezra (7:9) - "the commencement of the ascent (yesud hama’ala)." The settlers lived initially in tents because the Ottomans refused them permission to build houses. However, Baron Edmond Rothschild visited the settlement, and in 1887 persuaded the Ottomans to reverse this decision. He also built houses for them. Nevertheless, life was still very difficult.
Yesud HaMa’ala was built next to Lake Hula, and there were many deaths from malaria. In fact, Dr Mer, the malaria expert from Rosh Pina, advised them all to leave. However, these immigrants were determined to continue. Their decision was reinforced by their finding of an inscription in Aramaic on a stone from the ruins of an ancient 5th century synagogue located in the village that read “May his memory be for good, all who settle here.” This provided the settlers with the resolve to continue living here despite illness and frequent deaths from malaria.
Eventually, malaria was overcome with pesticides and draining of the lake. The next hardship was shelling from the Syrians from the Golan Heights. This too was overcome during the Six-Day War. As you can see, Yesud HaMa’ala is now a delightful place to live in.
VISITING YESUD HAMA'ALA:
You can obviously drive to Yesud HaMa’ala, but if you have the time consider walking. There is a paved sidewalk all the way, and it takes about 40 minutes each way. The scenery is not exciting, but you pass pleasant orchards. Whether driving or walking, once you are within the town it is worthwhile walking to the former pier for Lake Hula.
Walking instructions: From the farm continue to the T-junction and turn right. At the next T-junction, turn right onto HaShmura St and this will take you to the center of Yesod HaMa’ala. Turn left onto HaMeyasdin St. Further directions are as by car.
To visit Yesud HaMa’ala by car, enter “Yesud HaMa’ala” into Waze. This will bring you to a parking area on HaMeyasdin St. by the mo’aza or administrative center.
For both walkers and car riders, walk along HaMeyasdin St. in the direction away from Route 90. Cross HaShmura St. Note the concrete blocks on the sidewalk, many of which provide brief histories of the families living here. Continue to the fork at the end of the road.
To visit the ruins of the Byzantine synagogue, turn left at the fork. You will see its ruins on your left adjoining the garden. This is where the stone was found that provided support to the settlers to continue living here. The synagogue faced south to Jerusalem. It was in use until the 7th century. In the Muslim and Crusader periods it became a sugar factory.
Return to HaMeyasdin St. and now take the right fork of this road. Turn down the first street on the left. Almost immediately you will see a sign with the words "Toto" in Hebrew by a path. Follow this path through the park, passing a grove of old eucalyptus trees. This will bring you to a pier that was once by Lake Hula. It is from here that the villagers went fishing in their fishing boats. There are signs in Hebrew with pictures describing its former significance.
Return the way you came back to your car.
The oven in the Dubrovin Farm
The old eucalyptus grove on the way to the pier.
Picture at the pier from the early days of Yesud HaMa'ala.