December 31st 2014
Located just six miles from the southern beach town of Ashkelon, Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is a fun, informative, poignant and entertaining place to visit during a tour across Israel. A thriving, historic, socialist-Zionist institution, the kibbutz is well known for its honey production and for its memorial to Warsaw Ghetto uprising leader Mordechai Anilewitz.
On the one hand, Yad Mordechai is a successful kibbutz, known for producing honey, olive oil and related gift items. In fact, Kibbutz Yad Mordechai supplies 50% of all the honey consumed in Israel. A hands-on honey museum, ideal for children, includes a short film and a lecture by a beekeeper, who explains how honey is collected from live bees. Both the film and the lecture can be arranged in English. The museum also maintains a gift shop.
The kibbutz’s second claim to fame is its connection to Mordechai Anilewitz, for whom the community, originally known as Mitzpe Yam, was renamed in 1943. A large statue of Anilewitz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters, is situated near a water tower that was damaged during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. The sculpture depicts him standing heroically in defiance of the Nazis, holding a hand grenade.
Anilewitz was a role model for the many young men and women who fought to defend the newly declared State of Israel. In a letter written shortly before his death in 1943, Anilewitz wrote in praise of the Jewish people’s ability to defend themselves:
The dream of my life has risen to become fact. Self-defense in the Ghetto will have been a reality. Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been a witness to the magnificent heroic fighting of Jewish men in battle.
The on-site museum opened in 1968 and was designed with the theme “From Holocaust to Revival.” Initially, visitors learn about life in Eastern Europe of the early 20th century. The rise of the Nazi movement, the death camps and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising are all featured. The museum recreates the narrow ghetto streets and the famous bunker of Mila 18, which served as the headquarters for the Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto. The museum also features multimedia exhibits and oral histories from survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is also the location of the Battle of Yad Mordechai, fought by just 130 kibbutz members with only 55 light weapons, against the Egyptians during the War of Independence in 1948. Visitors are able to see a simulation at the actual site of the battle, a short drive away.