Yesud ha-Ma'alah

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YESUD HA-MA'ALAH (Heb. יְסֻד הַמַּעֲלָה), moshavah with municipal council status in northern Israel, in the Ḥuleh Valley. Yesud ha-Ma'alah was established in 1883, as one of the earliest settlements in the country, by settlers originating from the Polish town of Mezirech. The first settlers lived in reed huts near Lake Ḥuleh. They endured great hardship due to malaria, the scarcity of food, and lack of medicine. In the initial years, the settlers' agricultural inexperience resulted in negligible harvests. Although Baron Edmond de *Rothschild included Yesud ha-Ma'alah in the settlement network receiving his support, progress continued to be very slow. Attempts to develop specialized branches, e.g., plants for perfume and mulberry groves for silkworm cultivation, failed, and the village subsisted on unirrigated grain crops in spite of the nearness of the sweet water lake. The situation slowly improved in the 1940s, when the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (pica) transferred the land to the settlers and a group of youth from the moshavim, Benei Peled, joined the village population. Farming was intensified and the threat of malaria was finally overcome. After the *War of Independence (1948), a small number of immigrants was absorbed. With the draining of the lake in 1958, Yesud ha-Ma'alah received additional farm land. In 1970 the village had 432 inhabitants. By the mid-1990s the population had doubled to 865, increasing further to 1,160 in 2002. Its farming was based on citrus groves, deciduous fruit orchards, and flowers. Other sources of livelihood were tourism (guest rooms) and small enterprises. The 2,960-dunam (740-acre) Ḥuleh Nature Reserve, where a remnant of the former lake and swamps with their unique vegetation and wildlife is preserved, is located nearby. The name Yesud ha-Ma'alah is mentioned in Ezra 7:9.


[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]