Nestled into Galilee’s eastern shore, at the base of the towering Golan Heights, the city of Ein Gev is one of Israel’s largest and most popular resort towns. But Ein Gev’s early history was fraught with turmoil and conflict.
Founded in 1937, Ein Gev was the first settlement, or kibbutz, in the Galilee. Established to protect settlers to the region from outside attacks, an observation tower and a wall were constructed in record time—one day. Initially, Ein Gev was only accessible by boat until an access road could be built.
Despite the stockade’s protection, Ein Gev faced frequent attacks, which made its primary industry of farming virtually impossible. In response, the settlers invested in the Galilee’s profitable fishing industry to sustain themselves. They also developed a thriving banana plantation.
During Israel’s War of Independence (1947-1949), Ein Gev once again came under fire by Syria, forcing the kibbutz to shut down and evacuate its children by boat. Many remained to defend the settlement, some losing their lives. After Israel’s establishment as an independent state on May 14, 1948, an armistice agreement designated the entire circumference of the Sea of Galilee as a demilitarized zone within Israel’s borders. In spite of the agreement, however, Syrian forces occupied the zone all the way to the eastern shore. Attacks would continue for almost 20 years until Israel liberated the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War.
Today, Ein Gev resembles nothing of its former incarnation. The kibbutz has an impressive tourism and agricultural industry, operating chiefly as a holiday resort for people of all ages. Ein Gev offers a variety of watersports, shopping, dining, and plenty of activities tailored for kids, such as banana plantations, dairy farms, and ostrich farms.
Another highlight is the 30-minute train tour through Ein Gev, which introduces participants to life in a kibbutz. The journey allows riders to see the kibbutz school, communal dining room, housing, and farms. There is also a stop at the banana groves, where visitors can learn the cultivation process and taste fresh-cut bananas directly from the tree.
For history buffs, a prehistoric female skeleton, approximately 12,000 years old, was recently discovered in Ein Gev. Archaeologists have also uncovered an Israelite town dating back to the tenth century BC. The town sustained damage during the wars between the Israelites and the Arameans and was rebuilt several times. It was ultimately destroyed by an Assyrian king in 733 BC.