History, Vision and Values
"Know from where you came and where you are headed"
Mishne Avot 3, 1
History of the Village
The Ben Shemen Youth Village was established in 1927 on the lands of the Hadid factory. The Village was founded by Dr. Siegfried Lehman, with the goal of instilling in children and youth the values of Zionism, farming and respect for people.
The Village buildings were designed by the Israeli architect Fritz Kornberg. With the establishment of the Executive Committee, Wilfried Israel served as president of the Ben Shemen Youth Village from the 1920s until his death in 1943. Alongside him, the village was supported by Dr. Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and others.
The first to arrive in the village were children from the orphanage in Kaunas, which was run by Dr. Siegfried Lehman. In time, students from Israel and other parts of the world joined the village. In 1932, the youth village received the first group of youth aliyah, a group of 12 boys and girls who came to Israel with the help of Recha Freier (the founder of Youth Aliyah). This group marked the beginning of a large aliyah movement, which in the end numbered hundreds of thousands of children and youth from all over the Diaspora.
During World War II, the village received a significant number of refugee children from Europe who had fled the horrors of the Holocaust. These children were later integrated into the defense systems and Zionist settlement effort and were an excellent example of the success of the youth village and the educational staff in instilling values despite budget shortfalls and existential threats. The most famous graduate of the village from this period is the late Shimon (Persky) Peres.
During the Great Arab Revolt, shots were often fired at the village. Thanks to the good relationship that existed between the village manager Dr. Siegfried Lehman and the Arab residents of the area, the village was protected most of the time.
In 1940, British police conducted a search for weapons in the Village, and the Village director and teaching staff were arrested. Their trial, the "Ben Shemen trial" caused a great stir.
Until the establishment of the State, the village was surrounded by Arab localities. According to the UN partition plan from 1947, the Village was to be included in the territory of the Arab state. The Ben Shemen Youth Village was under siege immediately after the partition decision was made on November 29, 1947. Most teachers and students were evacuated to the Kfar Vitkin. The village could only be reached by convoy.
One of the convoys that left Ben Shemen on December 14, 1947, was attacked near the Beit Nabala camp, by soldiers of the Jordanian Legion and 13 of its men were killed. This convoy was called the "Ben Shemen Convoy."
After this incident, the British agreed to give military escort to Ben Shemen convoys until they left the country and after their departure, the only supply route was by plane. The Arabs in the area sniped at the runways and one of the pilots, Zvi Zibel, was awarded the Israeli Hero Medal for his courage in maintaining contact with Ben Shemen. The defense of Ben Shemen was placed on a company from the 54th Battalion of the Golani Brigade.
On March 14, 1948, Company A of the 51st Givati Battalion under the command of Eliyahu Chen Zion (his daughter-in-law, Hila Chen Zion, currently manages the treatment unit at the Ben Shemen Youth Village) arrived by convoy, to assume defense of the Village throughout the siege until ended following the Dani Operation.
The Dani operation was the IDF's main operation during ten days of battles as part of the War of Independence.
Dr. Siegfried Lehmann described his vision of founding a children's village in Eretz Israel in a document called "Utopia":
"On a high mountain, above the farming settlements on the plain, lies the new youth kingdom with many hundreds of children and teenagers, with dwellings and dining halls, workshops and classrooms, barns, fields and gardens" (From Vision and Heritage, Aya Lehman)
In the founding documents of the Ben Shemen Youth Village, with the establishment of the institution, the following principles were stated:
A. Educate children to the values of Hebrew culture
B. Educate youth to participate in the construction of "Eretz-Israel"
C. Educate them in the spirit of a life of brotherhood between peoples
D. Educate them to live and work in the village according to the slogan "To the village”
This is the place I felt most at home, part of something bigger than me, the history of the place, the smell, the ceremonies, the feeling of love and the investment in the details that accompanies you always, to this day.
Meital Barniza, Village Graduate
The village documents written by Dr. Lehman upon the establishment of the Village contain a number of leading entries:
The connection to the land - "is the connection of belonging, but it is created only by work, effort, preparing the land, planting and raising animals. The relationship to the land is created through doing and creating" The land must be accepted and loved as it is, on a landscape that also includes the Arab village ...... the fruit of the creation of both the West and the East "(From Vision and Heritage, Aya Lehman)
The connection to the people - this connection contains both the old and the new. Its innovation is the Zionist solution, which seeks to cure the degeneration of the people caused by generations of suffering in exile. The love and connection to the Jewish people is but a part of a broad, all-encompassing, and world-embracing love.
3. The connection to humanity - is expressed in faith, without appeal, in the peace and love of the human race. The new existence in the Land of Israel, the merging of physical and spiritual work, the construction of new social cells, and above all, a renewable and creative society.
4. The connection to eternity - the perfection of the image requires that an adult as a young person have an attitude towards that of the eternal beyond the rational. Observing nature raises problems and questions that have no rational solutions, there is a place to introduce teens to issues that we adults have no answers to. New patterns of respect for the old tradition must be created on the side.