Ben Tzvi Shack

August 17th 2014

Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi was Israel’s second president, serving from 1952 until his death, at the age of 78, in 1963. His face is found on every 100 shekel bill used in Israel today. The Ben-Tzvi family’s modest home, once located in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, is now a memorial to President Ben-Tzvi and his family, wife Rachel Yanait and sons Eli and Amram.

The home, which is widely referred to as the Ben-Tzvi Shack, is a wooden hut, mounted on a plain concrete slab and surrounded by simple wooden fencing. In the early 1950s, the shack was relocated from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Beit Keshet, in the Lower Galilee, south and west of Tiberias. At its current location, the home stands as a testament to the family’s commitment to a materially simple life. It also serves as a memorial to the Ben-Tzvi’s son Eli, who was killed in 1948 while defending the kibbutz during Israel’s War of Independence.

The shack was renovated and the original furniture was restored by the Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites before being opened to the public.

Standing inside the shack, visitors can view historical materials such as photographs of future president Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi signing the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Close your eyes and picture what the modest home looked like when it was used as a gathering place for the leaders of the Jewish population of Palestine in the years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. Within these walls, fervent debates and lengthy committee meetings took place and historic decisions were made. In pre-State Israel, the shack was referred to as the “kitchen cabinet”.

Make sure to catch a screening of the tribute film to the Ben-Tzvi family and to son Eli, who fell in battle just prior to his wedding. Guided tours are available for the general public and must be booked in advance. Animals are permitted at the site and rest rooms and picnic tables are available for visitors’ use.

Although they are in different parts of the country, the Ben Tzvi Shack in Kibbutz Beit Keshet and Ben-Gurion’s Desert Home at Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev combine to make the living conditions of the early leaders of the State of Israel truly come alive.