Treasure Trove: The kibbutz named in honour of one of Israel’s pioneers was on the frontlines of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

Berle Katznelson (1887-1944) was one of the leaders of the Labor Zionist movement and was a founder of the Histadrut (the workers union), the Hamashbir consumer co-operative and the Clalit Health Services. He was also the founder and editor of the Davar newspaper.  

He advocated in non-religious labour circles for observance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays and for Histadrut kitchens being kosher. 

“What I want is to go to Eretẓ Israel, to do something worthwhile, to light a little spark. I am drawn to the stubborn, hard-working few who have abandoned everything they had here to begin a new life and free themselves of Exile,” he wrote in 1908.

Kibbutz Be’eri, which is very close to Gaza, is named in honour of Katznelson who used Be’eri as his literary name. The kibbutz was one of 11 Jewish communities established in the Negev in one night (Oct. 5-6, 1946) to ensure a Jewish presence in the area prior to the partition of Palestine. 

Founded by members of Zionist youth groups, by 2023 Be’eri had grown to 1,300 members who preserved the traditional cooperative model with printing, food tech and a boutique dairy as its major sources of revenue.

On Oct. 7, about 70 Hamas terrorists attacked the kibbutz and slaughtered or kidnapped 130 residents including women, children and the elderly. Fifty residents were held hostage in the dining room and were freed by the IDF who sustained heavy losses in the operation.

Katznelson was well known for his desire for peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews. The same was true for many of the residents of the kibbutz that bears his name.