The Historic Zemach Railway Station – Different scenery in an academic campus

The Historic Zemach Railway Station site is an integral part of the Kinneret College campus, and is today one of the unique historic tourism sites that was restored and reconstructed around the Sea of Galilee in recent years. The restoration was led by the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites, Kinneret Academic College, and Israel Railways, and was completed in August 2015.

The site is part of our southern campus, and houses an academic compound and a visitors’ center. The idea behind the restoration was to avoid having another historic site that just ‘awaits’ visitors on weekends and holidays, but rather to create a vibrant site that combines student and visitor activity all week long. The students who study at the site serve as present and future tour guides at the visitor’s center. This combination is a unique feature in academic campuses in Israel.

What is so special about the Zemach railway station, where history is present at every turn?

The railway station, which was built by the Ottomans during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1900), is a terminus station, and the most important of nine stations on the mythological Valley Train line (87 km from Haifa to Zemach), which was a branch of the Hijazi line planned and executed by the Ottomans. The story of the Zemach station is interwoven with the story of the Valley Train, which supported Israel’s growth during the first half of the 20th century, especially in the Sea of Galilee and Jordan Valley regions.

The station’s history tells the story of struggles between nations, struggles over access routes, and much more.

Did you know that the last nighttime cavalry charge recorded in modern history was fought at Zemach station? That Indian troops defended the Jordan Valley by fending off assaults by Bedouin tribes? Did you know there was a link between the holocaust of Polish Jewry and overland illegal immigration, and the station? And the War of Independence? And the Syrian tanks that stormed through the buildings towards Degania? How is the lost treasure sunk at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee connected to the station? What would the #MeToo movement say about the train of 200 virgins from Tiberias, who set off on the train to Damascus to find husbands in the Jewish quarter? What was the connection between Israel’s budding aviation and the Zemach station? And how is the first piano in Degania linked to the station?

What can you see at the site, which is still being restored?

There are a number of key points of interest: the reconstructed station buildings, the memorial garden for the Australian troops including a statue of an Aboriginal soldier mounted on his horse, a model of a one-of-its-kind ‘aerial railcar’, a visitors’ center in the oval water tower that includes an exhibition and film (in Hebrew and English), and audio guides in both languages.

What happens at the site apart from academic/research activities?

  • Thousands of visitors throughout the year, who learn about the history of the place, and about the college. The guides are students and volunteers from the area.

Annual memorial ceremony for the WW1 Australian cavalry in cooperation with the Australian Embassy in Israel. Participate in the ceremony: Foreign Office representatives, military attaches, and ambassadors from Australia, England, India, Germany, Canada, and we expect Turkey to join next year

  • Israeli Sabbath – Opening the site free-of-charge on weekends, including guidance, funded by the Ministry of Culture & Sport and the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites. During the nine months of the project, 2,655 visitors enjoyed the site.
  • Geography lessons for elementary schoolchildren – The program was approved by the Ministry of Education, and will commence in the coming school year (2022-23).
  • Collaboration with the Australian War Memorial – one of the world’s largest war museums and memorial sites in the world. This association is led by Prof. Hezi Israeli.
  • Visits of active IDF servicemen, as part of the ‘Sunday Culture’ project.
  • Escape space, singing tour, and other holiday activities.

 

During the previous year, the Hijazi boxcar at the station was renovated, and a model of a one-of-its-kind aerial railcar was built.

And what’s next?

  • Continued development of the site: reconstruction of the goods warehouse, the engine turntable, and more.
  • Continued integration between the site and academia.
  • Increased marketing and increasing visitor volume.

There is more to look forward to… we are just starting to get on track!

רגע ההסתערות, מתוך טקס הזכרון לפרשים האוסטרלים (צילם זיו א')
Reenactment, during a Memorial Ceremony in honor of Australian Cavalry (Photograph: Ziv O.)
צריף הנוסעים ומבנה המנהלה
Passenger Shed and Administration Building
התחנה  בעת הכיבוש הבריטי (צילום מוזיאון המלחמה בקנברה)
The Station during the British Occupation (Photograph: Canberra Australian War Memorial Museum)

The cavalry charged in the dark

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