City Type: Moshav-Kibbutz
Demographic Characteristics: Families, Singles, Young Couples & Families
Ketura is a desert kibbutz approximately 30 minutes north of Eilat in the Arava Rift Valley. It derives its name from a nearby hill, which is named after the second wife of Abraham (Genesis 25:1). Kibbutz Ketura is a community of 400-450 members, residents and children. About one third of the members are native Israelis, just over a third from the United States, Canada, Britain, and South Africa, with the rest coming from France, Latin America, Switzerland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Russia. In addition, Kibbutz Ketura has a vibrant community of young people, including students from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, volunteers from around the world, and young Israelis from the NOAM youth movement on a year of community service. Other Israelis are also working on the Kibbutz as part of a special post-army work-study program.
Kibbutz Ketura is a member of the Shitufi (Communal) stream in the Kibbutz movement and has a collective approach to decision making and communal social and financial structure. While people can rent homes on the kibbutz for a period of time, and the Kibbutz welcomes visitors of many kinds, the kibbutz is a permanent home for its members and their families.
Most members of Ketura work in one of three kinds of work: on the kibbutz in service branches (serving the needs of the community), on the kibbutz in production branches (to create something that results in profit), or outside the kibbutz (where the member’s salary is paid directly to the kibbutz). Having adapted over time to the demands of the market and the interests of the members, there is very little traditional farming or field work, with the exception of the work in the date palm orchards and some experimental orchards. Many members work in office jobs – doing bookkeeping and accounting (services are also provided to outside customers so this is a very large branch and is both a service and a production branch), translation services, or administrative positions. Some work in and around the kibbutz in service roles such as landscaping, repair work (plumbing, renovations, or electricity), kitchen and food services, or in the communal laundry. Ketura is well known for its guest house and educational center, Keren Kolot . Many members have begun start-ups of all kinds or work in the region – including some as teachers, physical, alternative health, and occupational therapists, some in administrative positions in regional partnerships, the school, and NGO’s, some in research positions, some for a computer company in the area, and a few in professions such as a veterinarian, our elected Head of the Regional Council, or the head of Security for the Regional Council.
New innovations for the kibbutz include partnering to build businesses and use new technology and knowledge as a spring board for new ventures. Algatechnologies is an innovative new factory located on Ketura and in which Ketura is an active partner. Algatech specializes in the commercial cultivation of microalgae. Founded in 1998, Algatechnologies is a world leader in the production and supply of AstaPure® – a premium natural astaxanthin – one of the world’s most powerful antioxidants sourced from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis.
Another new partnership endeavor is Ketura’s involvement in the Arava Power Company for the development of solar fields and other solar projects in Israel. The Arava Power Company’s first solar field was right on the kibbutz – called “Ketura Sun” and like all the projects, sells power to the Israeli Electric Company which absorbs it into the grid. Currently a field 10 times as large is being built on land that was previous a field of vegetables and fruits – now a solar field large enough to power all of nearby Eilat.
An established partnership between Ketura and 4 other kibbutzim is the Ardag company . Established in the Gulf of Eilat in 1989, Ardag is the largest mariculture company in Israel. The company operates a marine hatchery, a cage farm near Ashdod, and a packing plant.
Aquaculture, Solar fields, and mariculture are new and innovative forms of agriculture that are replacing many the traditional kibbutz branches now-a-days.
Ketura is currently seeking to absorb new members who wish to work in early childhood education as well as those with experience as laboratory technicians or computer programmers.
Education / Youth
From 6 months old, members’ children are in the Kibbutz baby house and then daycare. From 1st – 12th grade, children travel by school bus to the regional “hityashvuti” school at Yotvata, about 7 minutes south of Ketura and have a structured afterschool care program on the kibbutz by age groups. From the 8th grade on, students spend one day of the week learning to work as part of their educational program. There are also regional after school activities, such as sports, art, and dance and during school options for music lessons. On Ketura, there is a strong presence of “NOAM”, the Israeli Noar Masorti – which is part of the worldwide youth group of the Conservative movement – with weekly activities and participation in many regional and national activities.
Kibbutz Ketura is located on the southern end of route 90 on the way to Eilat so there are Egged buses available to and from major cities such as Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem as well as closer by – Eilat, from right outside the front gate. Nonetheless, the Kibbutz is still very remote. Members of the kibbutz are not allowed to privately own cars, but there is a fleet of kibbutz cars which are available by signup (using an internal online app) to any member.
Kibbutz Ketura is very Anglo-friendly since it was founded by a joint group of Israeli Scouts and American Young Judaea members in 1973. While Hebrew is still the language used formally, and new members cannot be accepted without at least a basic level of Hebrew skills, almost everyone on kibbutz can speak English. No Hebrew Ulpan is available on Ketura at this time. Ketura does participate in the “Bayit Rishon B’Moledet” program and for participants a regional Ulpan is operated nearby.
Amenities / Services
On the Kibbutz itself there are a number of amenities – a communal dining room serving three meals a day except on Shabbat day when there is no served breakfast, a communal laundry service, “fix it” crews, a small stable for horseback riding, tennis courts, a basketball court, a soccer field, and a very nice pool and baby/wading pool. There is a small “Aspaka”(supply) store on the Kibbutz for basic necessities and food beyond what is served in the communal dining room. Eilat is located 30 minutes away for necessary shopping, tax-free or the occasional day or night on the town. Ketura is part of the Hevel Eilot Regional Council which provides services including a local bus service between the kibbutzim and Eilat, a matnas (sports and cultural center), a welfare office, and a regional clinic for basic health needs. Yoseftal Hospital, in Eilat, is managed by Clalit Health Organization that provides medical care to residents of Eilat and the Arava as well as to tourists. The kibbutz insures its members in the Clalit health organization.
Community and Religious Life
Ketura is unique among kibbutzim for its religious pluralism – the community is based on the approach of mutual respect and personal empowerment and is not affiliated with any one movement. Although the Kibbutz is not considered a religious kibbutz, the laws of Kashrut are observed in the dining room, public areas, and at social and cultural events, and there is a functioning lay-led egalitarian synagogue on Fridays, Saturdays, holidays, and once or twice weekly evening minyanim. However, individual members are free to practice religious traditions or not in their homes as they see fit. They are welcome to come to services consistently, occasionally, once in a blue moon or not at all – as they see fit. The population of the Kibbutz is composed of some observant liberal members and many secular members. All holidays, including Shabbat, are observed in the public realm including such practices as a festive Friday night or Holiday Eve meal with a short ceremonial start (including saying the Kiddush over the wine) and occasional choir performance together in the dining hall. Ketura also has member led Tu B’shvat seders, Pesach seders, Megilla readings for Purim, public candle lighting on Hannuka and many other traditional and creative holiday activities. For most holidays or life cycle events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, members of the Kibbutz help each other organize both religious aspects and parties, and services in the synagogue are well attended. Services are egalitarian, with mixed seating, and women taking equal part in leadership and Torah reading. Kibbutz Ketura received the Speaker of the Knesset Prize for religious tolerance as a result of its religious progressiveness allowing observant and non-observant members to live in harmony.
One can either be a “chaver” (member) or a “toshav” (resident) of the kibbutz. Members receive housing based on their family size. Members do not pay rent, but do pay for their own electricity and water. Ketura is actively seeking Hebrew speaking young families to join the kibbutz as full members – including the adult children of the community.
Residents pay rent based on the size of their house and additional fees, which cover the cost of food in the dining hall and all other aspects of the kibbutz. There will be no rentals available until 2019.
English website: http://www.ketura.org.il/ENG
Sharón Benheim, member of mazkirut Ketura and Klita of young families: Sharonjb@gmail.com, 0542109719
Lex Paul, NBN Oleh,renting a home on the kibbutz and working for the Arava Institute: Lex@arava.org
Updated: January 2015