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September 02, 1988 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LIFE IN ISRAEL I

butz since we don't want to expand it
into a major business."
To reach Sde Nechemya, one
travels to nearby Kiryat Shemonah,
a development town of mostly Sephar-
dic Jews that many Americans
remember as a primary target of ter-
rorist rockets from southern Lebanon
and the scene of a bloody terrorist at-
tack in November, 1984, which kill-
ed 18 civilians and soldiers. A short
ride toward Shamir brings a visitor
along dusty roads, with a rusting
steel bridge spanning the newly form-
ed Jordan River and a Huliot tower
serving as landmarks for finding the
kibbutz.
The Huliot Jordan Rafting Park,
the official name of the business, con-
sists of a grass-and-dirt parking area,
a large shed stocked with hundreds of
already inflated tubes, a concession
stand, souvenir store, and covered pic-
nic area. Continuous-loop videotapes
in Hebrew and English offer safety
tips. A remote-controlled metal gate
separates the commotion from the
rest of the kibbutz.
Since anyone can tube on the
rivers, Sde Nechemya's revenues are
derived from tube rentals, concession
and souvenir sales and a financial cut
from a van service which shuttles
tubers — and tubes — to different
points along the river.

ARTHUR M. HORWITZ

Associate Publisher

Ii iryat Shemona — When
the founders of kibbutz
Sde Nechemya planted
their first fields of
wheat and barley in
1940 on land surrounding the spot
where the Hasbani and Banyas rivers
converge to form the Jordan River,
they believed they possessed the Up-
per Galilee's finest location.
What they didn't realize is the
spot would become the focal point
for a growing Israeli fad — white
water tubing.
The waters have been referred to
reverently in the Bible and other
religious texts. They provide the bulk
of the country's drinking and irriga-
tion needs. Each day hundreds of
adventure seekers, nestled
precariously in black tubes, bump,
bounce and glide their way along
miles of tree-shaded, scenic, water-
ways before ending their voyage — at
the front gate of the kibbutz.
Sde Nechemya is a relatively pro-
sperous 100-family kibbutz at a time
when many of its kibbutz neighbors
are facing economic problems. Its
Huliot plastics factory recently
celebrated its 40th anniversary and
is known for its consumer, industrial
and military products.
So, when tubers began arriving on
kibbutz property in the early 1980s,
leaving litter, campfires and occa-
sional acts of vandalism in their
wake, it sparked anger — and trig-
gered the entrepreneurial juices of the
kibbutzniks.
"Guys with trucks were selling
food and not taking care of hygenic
conditions. So we decided that for en-
vironmental reasons we needed to
control it, and the only way to do so
was to open a small business to
finance our efforts to keep the kibbutz
entrance clean and attractive," said
Sde Nechemya spokesman Eldad
Shohan.
That small business, which
started with a cashier's station and a
few old tubes, has grown into a signifi-
cant summertime venture with an
average of 500 persons daily using the
kibbutz's facilities during the peak
months of July and August. More
than 250,000 shekels (approximately
$150,000) are collected from users
each season which runs from June
through Sukkot, Shoham said.
"If we make money this year, we'll
build a decent parking lot," he add-
ed. "We are handling this as a closed-
end business. We will not invest
money from other services in the kib-

Al.*

PRIM RFPTFMRFR 2. 1988

Floating swiftly down the Banyas River.

C hi l l

Cold

Tubing along the Jordan
River's headwaters chills the
body, but not the soul

Tubers wait for a second chance to brave the river.

Arthur Horwitz

Shohan said the kibbutz charges
six shekels (about $3.75) for a daily
tube rental and three shekels (about
$2) for each shuttle ride. Avi Hasot of
Metulla runs the van service — which
has grown from a fleet of two to 12,
— to shuttle the tubing traffic.
"We had problems getting people
to the starting points and he realized
there was a chance to make some
money;' Shohan said. "He makes a
fortune, but he works like crazy. It's
a 10-hour working day."
The booming interest in tubing
has generated a capitalistic-style
competition among kibbutzim and
moshavim along parts of the rivers.
Mayan Baruch and Beit Hillel
operate tubing businesses along the
Hasbani River, Shaar Yeshid along
the Banyas River and Kfar Blum,
located along the Jordan River, has
introduced kayaks to differentiate
itself from the others.
According to Shohan, Sde
Nechemya's competitive advantage is
that tubers can choose between the
Hasbani or Banyas rivers, depending
on their mood.
"The Banyas is more scenic while
the current along the Hasbani varies.
If turbines from a power station along
the Hasbani are in use, there is a
faster current. When they're not in

`-\

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