Sde Boker in the Negev
Final Resting Place of Ben Gurion

Sde Boker translated to English means Cowboy’s Field. This is a kibbutz in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.

Its claim to fame is that David Ben Gurion, Israel first Prime Minister, and considered by many, the father of the country choose the site for his retirement home.

The Tombs of Paula and David Ben Gurion

Established in 1952

Despite the fact that there are signs of a farm or small village existing in this site from the late seventh century, the actual settlement was inaugurated on May 15 1952, on the fourth anniversary of the founding of the state.

In 1953 then Israel Prime Minister David Ben Gurion (1886-1973) resigned from office and moved to live in Sde Boker. He continued living there despite his return to politics in 1955.

He lived there his final years in the company of his beloved wife Paula. They are both buried in the Midreshet Ben Gurion near the Kibbutz overlooking the wilderness of the Negev Desert so loved by Ben Gurion

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Awesome view from Sde Boker towards the Negev Desert

Ben Gurion’s Vision

Ben Gurion had a vision and he put it in the following word that I quote as a great admiration to the “Old Man” as we used to call him.

“The desert provides us with the best opportunity to begin again. This is a vital element of our renaissance in Israel. For it is in mastering nature that man learns to control himself.

It is in this sense, more practical than mystic, that I define our Redemption on this land. Israel must continue to cultivate its nationality and to represent the Jewish people without renouncing its glorious past.It must earn this, which is no small task, a right that can only be acquired in the desert.”

“When I looked out my window today and saw a tree standing before me, the sight awoke in me a greater sense of beauty and personal satisfaction than all the forests that I have crossed in Switzerland and Scandinavia. For we planted each tree in this place and watered them with the water we provided at the cost of numerous efforts.

Why does a mother love her children so much, because, they are her creation; why does the Jew feel an affinity with Israel, because everything here must still be accomplished; it depends only on him to participate in this privileged act of creation.

The trees at Sde Boker speak to me differently than do the trees planted elsewhere. Not only because I participated in their planting and in their maintenance, but also because they are a gift of man to nature and a gift of the Jews to the compost of their culture.

The Negev will be cultivated and populated by many new immigrants to the new country.

The humble house or "Tzrif" where Paula and David spent their last days

Populate the Negev Desert

The surrounding towns of Yeruham and Dimona are an example of this vision. Despite the fact that the Negev has been cultivated and populated to a certain point, his vision is very far from being fulfilled.

Most of Israeli citizens live in the center of the country and the Negev is still not attractive to new couples and young people because the different governments did not take care so far of building the necessary infrastructure to attract new inhabitants.

Midreshet Ben Gurion

Midreshet or Midrasha means a place of learning. Midreshet Ben Gurion is a unique place for research, education, cultural inspiration and home for many. Researchers and educators come to study and teach about the desert and to find what it can best provide.

The international reputation of the educational community serves as proof that the desert can provide a place for research and education as well as a community for people to live in.

Ben Gurion's ideas triggered the foundation of Midreshet Ben Gurion as a high school and teacher's college in 1965. During the following thirty years, the midrasha has established more than 12 major scientific and educational institutions which can benefit from its desert location.

The Natural Park leading to the Tombs of Ben Gurion

A Kibbutz in the traditional sense

Today Sde Boker is still a kibbutz in the traditional sense. There are 165 members (60 families) on the kibbutz. Most of the members were born in Israel and come both from the city and other kibbutzim.

There is also a small population of immigrants, new and old, from the USA, UK, Argentina and the former USSR. There is now also a growing population of second generation members who were born on Sde Boker.

In addition to the members they have IDF soldiers of the Nahal Brigade who do part of their national service on the kibbutz. Many members of the kibbutz came to Sde Boker when serving in the army.

At one time the Kibbutz Sde Boker was economically based on agriculture; however the trend during the past decades has been to move towards industry, due to the high cost of labor and dwindling water quotas.

In order to continue in agriculture we have had to search for crops which are not labor intensive and harvested mechanically and either require little water or can use the saline water that has been found in the area. The main crop at Sde Boker is the wine grapes. Olives and pistachios are also grown.

The branch of the kibbutz is the factory "Davik" which produces packaging tapes. The second branch is the Chicken Houses. There are several small branches including the winery, tourism, and dog kennels.

Image Credits:

All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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