Sunday , 16 June 2024

Alonei Abba

Waldheim (Alonei Abba)

Alonei Abba was formerly known as Waldheim (German: “Forest Home”), a colony founded in 1907 by German Christians affiliated with the Prussian evangelical church on land purchased from the fellaheen village of Umm al-Amed.

The first Templers came to Israel in 1868 to establish a model society and hasten the coming of the Messiah. The Templers were members of the Temple Society (German: Tempelgesellschaft), founded by Christoph Hoffmann and Georg David Hardegg at Kirschenhardthof near Ludwiigsburg in 1861. They built homes in Jaffa (German-American colony 1869), Hakirya, Tel Aviv (Sarona 1871), Haifa (German Colony), Jerusalem (German Colony, Bnei Atarot (Wilhelma 1902), Alonei Abba (Waldheim 1907) and Bethlehem of Galilee 1906.

Most of the Waldheim colonists came from the German Colony (Haifa), which was founded by the Templers. In 1874 the Temple Society (Templers) underwent a schism and envoys of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia’s older Provinces successfully proselytised among the schismatics. Thus the Haifa German Colony became home to two Christian denominations and their congregations. While in Germany the Templers were regarded sectarians, the Evangelical proselytes gained major financial and ideological support from German Lutheran and United church bodies. This created an atmosphere of mistrust and envy among the German colonists in Haifa. Due to population increase and the ongoing urbanisation of Haifa, they searched for land to found new monodenominational colonies. Thus the Evangelical Protestant followers of Georg David Hardegg, who left the Templers in 1874 and died in 1879, founded Waldheim (eventually Alonei Abba) in 1907, after the Templers settled in the neighbouring Bethlehem of Galilee in 1906.

The settlement was inaugurated on the occasion of Harvest Festival (German: Erntedankfest) on 6 October 1907. Then, the new Waldheimers still lived in the simple clay huts bought from the previous owners.

The Haifa engineer Ernst August Voigt presented the plan of the streets and the 16 sites around a central site reserved for a church. Waldheim (eventually Alonei Abba) unlike Bethlehem of Galilee, built a neo-Gothic-style church in 1915 designed by Architect Otto Lutz. The two main streets of the village, with the church at their center, take the form of a cross. Early 20th-century Templer architecture had a number of salient characteristics: German motifs integrated with Oriental arches; a balcony above the entrance; an inscription that included a Biblical verse; and a gable on the upper part. The houses are quite beautiful, two floors and a half-sunken basement. You can’t just walk by them.

Some of the social intrigues that happened during the Templer period, were described in Meir Shalev’s novel “Fontanella.” (Waldheim, where the book’s action takes place, is the former name of nearby Alonei Abba.)

Waldheim Church

For may years the Templers brought modern European manufacturing technologies and farming techniqes to Palestine which were eagerly followed by the new Zionist settlers. The contribution of the first and second generations was indeed positive, however the third generation Templers were drawn to the the Nazi party. A Nazi youth movement was founded by them here during the British Mandate.

Red brick houses to hold Templers during WWII
Red brick houses to hold Templers during WWII

After WWII broke out they were considered enemy aliens and most had to be deported to Australia or repatriated to Germany. There are tragedies – like the story of how two Templer colonists were killed by Haganah gunfire in April 1948.

Alonei Abba

Alonei Abba (lit. Abba’s Oaks) is a moshav shitufi, or semi-cooperative village, in northern Israel founded in 1948, during the War of Independence after most of the German settlers had been deported by the British and after overcoming local Arab forces. A group of Zionist volunteers from Romania, Austria and Czechoslovakia settled in abandoned Waldheim in 1948 and established Kibbutz BaMa’avak (lit. In The Struggle) in the abandoned colony.Three years later, the kibbutz became a Moshav shitufi and the name was changed to Alonei Abba. Most of these young people were members of the Hanoar Hatzioni Zionist youth movement in their home country, and having survived the horrors of Nazi Europe, now attempted to enter Palestine on the refugee ship, Darion II. The name of the settlement, Alonei Abba, is in memory of Abba Berdichev, who was parachuted into Czechoslovakia in 1943 to assist clandestine British forces, but was captured and executed in 1945. Alonei Abba is located in the Lower Galilee near Bethlehem of Galilee and Kibbutz Alonim, in the hills east of Kiryat Tivon. Alonei Abba falls under the jurisdiction of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council. It has a population of 680 people. There are still 12 large Templer houses in Alonei Abba which typically have two floors and a half-sunken basement and are crying for preservation.

The German name “Waldheim” migrated in Hebrew to the near-by Newe Ya’ar Research Center.


Alonei Abba Nature Reserve

Alonei Abba Nature Reserve
Alonei Abba Nature Reserve

In 1994, a 950-dunam nature reserve was declared close by, to the north. The reserve is home to Valonia oak trees (Quercus macrolepis) and Palestine Oak (Quercus calliprinos). Other flora in the forest includes Pistacia palaestinaStyraxofficinalisCarobRhamnus palaestinus, and Judas trees.

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