Israel’s Christian Kibbutz

Nestled away in the foothills of the Carmel Mountains near Zichron Yaakov is a Christian kibbutz where the members are trying to live like the early Church.

By David Lazarus |
Photo: Creative Commons

On a recent visit to this special community of Christian Zionists–watching the girls in their ankle-length skirts, long-sleeve blouses and pinned-up hairdos–I was reminded of the Amish, or even some Orthodox Jewish communities. Residents here do not own televisions, go to the movies or keep private property. They eat meals in a communal dining hall, and receive an allowance in lieu of a salary for working in the community’s businesses.

The kibbutz is called Beth-El, or House of God, and was founded in 1963 after Emma Berger, a German Christian, came to Israel and experienced what she calls “a divine healing.” Berger’s charismatic leadership attracted a following of fellow German Christians who were willing to give up everything, move to Israel, and wait for the Messiah to return. A sweet girl with a gentle smile greeted me at the community bakery and explained how she came with her family 20 years ago when she was just nineyears-old: “My family responded to the words of Jesus, ‘Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” She was surprised to hear me talk openly as an Israeli Jew about my faith in Jesus, and noted that in all her years in the Land, she had never been acquainted with another Jewish or Arab believer. “We are a bit closed,” she confided. But she was clearly proud to share that “our boys who are born in Israel serve in the Israeli army when they turn 18.”

Today, the community numbers about 800 members. Children attend the kibbutz school that goes from kindergarten through 12th grade and provides students with an education equivalent to that of a practical engineer, qualifying its graduates to work in the community industries. Members who join from overseas transfer their assets to the kibbutz. If a member later decides to leave the kibbutz, those former assets are not returned, and should the community ever disband, everything will be bequeathed to the State of Israel.

In line with it’s sense of mission to Israel, Kibbutz Beth-El founded a company in 1977 to make ventilation and filtration systems that provide protection against non-conventional weapons. The equipment forces clean air into bomb shelters, eliminating the need to use gas masks in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapons attack. Following the 1990 Gulf War, the company grew exponentially, and today Beth-El Industries includes a 25,000-square-meter (82,000-square-feet) state-of-the-art facility where they make nuclear, biological and chemical filtration/protection systems. These systems are today used across the country in hospitals, schools, government buildings, military facilities, emergency vehicles and shelters. With more than 600 Israeli employees, BethEl is the largest employer in the Zichron Yaakov area.

In an interview published in the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, Albrecht Fuchs, the general manager of Beth-El Industries, said, “Beth-El are Christian Zionists who believe we must thank the people of Israel for everything they do. We believe that our salvation came from you, as the Chosen People. What the Beth-El community does here is designed to help build the country, not line our pockets. We have come from rich countries. We lack nothing.”

When the group first settled in the area, local residents were afraid that they had come to proselytize, and organized demonstrations against Beth-El. The community is now well accepted, especially because it employs so many local Israelis. Beth-El could be the name of a Jewish-owned Israeli company, so this unique Christian community slips easily under the radar, which seems to be how they like it.

This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Israel Today Magazine.

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