(Israel Twitter)Yotvata,יָטְבָתָה, is a kibbutz along the Aravah road in the southern Negev in Israel. It has approximately 310 members and a total of 700 residents. The Aravah valley is an arid desert where the average annual rainfall is less than 30 mm and temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in summer, and 21 °C (70 °F) in winter.
Located approximately 40 km north of the Red Sea, Yotvata is the first, biggest, and most prosperous Kibbutz in Hevel Eilot Regional Council. Being relatively far from major urban centers (41 kilometers north of Eilat and 130 kilometers south of Dimona), it is the center of the region, where most regional facilities are based: regional school, regional council offices, community center, sports center, movies and concerts hall and local airfield.
Economy and Community
Yotvata is a cooperative community, where most adult residents work on the kibbutz in production, services or education. The revenues are equally distributed among the members regardless of their position, along the idea of each one gives as much as he can and gets as much as he needs. Most of daily affairs are conducted communally - education, holidays, dining (three meals a day conducted in the commune dining-room are giving the community more relaxed time to get together) and more.
Yotvata Dairy is a milk products factory which provides the kibbutz with its main source of income and occupies the highest number of members.
Agriculture is second in income but perhaps the first in importance for the community character and pride. Agriculture branches are Irrigated land (onions, potatoes, corn, animal feed, garlic and pumpkins), Plantations (dates and mangos) and a big and modern Dairy Farming.
The Making of the Kibbutz
Yotvata started in 1951 as a Nahal settlement named Ein Radian. In 1957 it was established as the first kibbutz in the southern Aravah region by Ihud HaKvutzot VeHaKibbutzim. The kibbutz is named after an Israelite encampment mentioned in Numbers 33:34 and Deuteronomy 10:7: "…from there they went to Gudgodah, and then to Jotbatha, a land of streaming water." Although there are some debates over the exact location of the biblical Yotvata (some say that it is closer to the Red Sea near Taba), the idea of a desert oasis for Israelis was in the founders' mind; the local oasis was the Ein Radian wellspring.
The founders, a small group of men and women 20 years of age and just out of the military service, decided to pursue a life of pioneering and built their home in the desert. They had massive challenges presented by the desert: the burning sun, the heat, shortage of water, salty land and water, limited transportation and no secure source of income. They started making all kinds of agricultural trials growing grapes, pomegranates and vegetables; they raised cattle and chickens - all with little success. The dates plantation proved more suitable to the arid conditions.
Yotvata - 2003
And then came the initiative to found a dairy that would provide milk to Eilat, which was expected to grow rapidly. Breeding milking cows in the desert was considered an impossible mission. In 1962 the dairy was founded, with four cows, the member who led the vision and the operation was Ori Horazo (1939-1966) . The members tried to get funds from the Jewish Agency, but failed. Eventually, they received funding from the Israeli Trade and Industry Minister, Pinhas Sapir. In the first year, the dairy produced 500,000 liters of milk. By 2008, it was producing 62 million liters a year and controlled 63% of the Israeli dairy beverages market (making NIS400 million a year), and 49% of the fortified milk market (making NIS 250 million a year). It employed 130 workers and had 700 cows. The dairies of Kibbutz Yahel, Lotan, and Ketura provide milk for Yotvata.
In 1960 the first children of the community were born, and six years later the school opened with three first graders; today there are 200 kids in the kibbutz, and 600 students from all of the region communities attend Maale Shaharut School (from 1st to 12th grades) in Yotvata.
Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is dedicated to reintroducing extinct species mentioned in the Bible, as well as other endangered desert animals, to the wild. It has three parts: a park for herbivorous animals; the Predators Center that displays reptiles, small desert animals and large predators; and the Desert Night Life Exhibition Hall to observe nocturnal animals during their active hours.
15 km south of Yotvata lies Timna valley, where the sandstone and calcareous rock formations present some breathtaking desert features such as the Solomon's Pillars, Mushrooms, Arches and more. Timna is also known for its ancient copper mines.
The area provides many great desert walks including canyons, roman routes, sand dunes, fossil hunting, rock-climbing and more.