On September 15th, 1938, a delegation was sent out by the Jewish National Fund to survey lands on the banks of the Jordan. Near the Arab village of Samaria, six kilometers from Beit Shean, the jeep hit a land mine. Etkin and Mosensohn died instantly. Sturman, who was badly hit, died soon after.
The Gan Hashlosha National Park carries the memory of these three men. (Sahne, in Arabic; ‘the park of the three’, in English). The newly renovated David Square in the nearby town center of Afula also commemorates this triple tragedy, naming the park after Dr. David Mosensohn, a resident of Afula who was killed along with Aharon Etkin of Kibbutz Geva and Haim Sturman of Kibbutz Ein Harod.
HAIM STURMAN (1891-1938) was a Haganah leader in Erez Yisrael. Born in the Kiev district of the Ukraine, Sturman settled in Erez Israel with his parents in l906. He then became an agricultural worker at Sejara. He joined the HaShomer (the guard) and participated in the establishment of Merhavia and the HaShomer settlement of Tel Adashim.
During World War One, Sturman participated in secret activities to provide the yishuv settlement with arms. He was discovered and arrested by the Ottoman authorities and after his release he returned to Tel Adashim. Following the war he moved to Kvutzat Kinneret and was one of the organizers of the Gedud HaAvodah (Labor Legion) settlement activities in the Harod area. In l921, he participated in the founding of Kibbutz Ein Harod, of which he was a member until his death.
Sturman was among those primarily responsible for the defense of the Harod bloc and an active member of the national center of the Haganah.
He traveled as a political and agricultural emissary to neighboring countries, aided by his fundamental knowledge of Arabic and empathetic understanding of the Arab way of thinking. During the Arab riots of l936-38, he constantly held responsible positions in the defense of the Gilboa-Beit Shean area.
At the same period, he was one of Orde Wingate’s advisers and friends. When returning from a visit to the tower-and-stockade settlement of Tirat Zvi (near Beit Shean) with friends Etkin and Mosensohn, all three were killed when their car went over a road mine near the Arab village of Samaria.
The Ort school shared by Kibbutz Ein Harod Ichud, Meuchad, Kibbutz Tel Yosef and neighboring settlements and the nearby Bet Sturman that serves as a museum and regional research institute of the eastern Jezreel Valley, were established in Haim Sturman’s memory.
Kibbutz Maoz Haim (meaning ‘Haim’s stronghold) also memorializes Haim Sturman’s name. Founded in l937, it was in the forefront of the shelling after the Six Day War. The kibbutz’s prize dairy herd was decimated during one bombardment. At the end of the Maoz Haim cotton fields, on the banks of the Jordan River, one can see the Sheikh Hussein Bridge which was destroyed in l948, but has now been renamed the Peace Bridge. Some believe that it was at this point of the river that the Midianites fled from Gideon’s army (Judges 7:24). It may well have been over the fields of present day Kibbutz Maoz Haim that King Saul’s body was carried for cremation and burial on the Gilead (I Samuel 31:8-13).
Haim Sturman’s son Moshe fell in the Israel War of Independence and Moshe’s son, Haim was killed in l969, in the Israel Defense Forces commando action on Green Island at the mouth of the Suez Canal. Three Cyprus trees planted on the grounds of Beit Sturman are a living memorial to the three Sturmans.
The Gan Hashlosha National Park at the foot of Mount Gilboa was selected by ‘Time’ magazine as one of twenty sites around the world worthy of a detour. The park is described as ‘one of the world’s most intriguing spots.’ An ancient legend, popular among the Arab visitors to the park, claims this to be the original Garden of Eden.
Gan HaShlosha National Park is situated close to the route of one of the country’s most ancient roads, the King’s Way, over which goods, people and frequently armies traveled from the Mediterranean basin to the lands of the East. The park is ringed to the east with the inspiring mountains of the Golan; to the south, the mountains of Gilboa at times verdant despite the curse of David; to the north Mount Tabor and Mount Moria.
This luscious National Park envelops an area of 160 dunam/40 acres. An abundance of exquisite flowering shrubs, date palms and olive trees, fish and ducks convince visitors that this is truly an oasis. The heart of the park is a natural river flowing at 2,400 cube per hour. 77% of the water comes from a limestone aquifer in the Samarian basin, with 18% from an aquifer in the Nablus-Jenin basin. The remaining 5% is salty water that mixes with the fresh water to maintain a constant temperature of 28C / 82F throughout the year.
Three 100 meter pools, waterfalls, water slides, children’s playground and pool are supervised by a trained staff of lifeguards. A natural amphitheater is a grand stage for performances. The spring water collects into the natural pools then narrows into the Amal (Assie) River that runs through Kibbutz Nir David. Two powerful waterfalls offer Jacuzzi and massage pleasure.
A water-powered flourmill was recently reconstructed in the park and operates for pleasure rather than profit. The building houses a collection of old agricultural implements. Next to the mill is a rebuilt ‘madafe’, an arched room where the local Arab residents traditionally entertained their guests.
The Gan Hashlosha national park contains an exact replica of Tel Amal, a tower-and-stockade settlement which was constructed on December 10, 1936. At the beginning of April 1936 there was an outbreak of uprisings that was to last until 1939. Leaders of the Jewish settlement searched for a way to increase Jewish control, to purchase lands and establish additional settlements in areas of weak Jewish population. Amongst other restrictions, the Royal committee, the Peel Commission was to exclude the Beit Shean valley from the proposed Jewish State.
The settlement breakthrough during this period was begun by members of Tel Amal - Nir David who were at that time in Beit Alpha. After their fields on the banks of the Assie River were set fire, a committee of kibbutz members was organized, led by Shlomo Gur, with the support of Haim Sturman of Ein Harod. A plan was developed to establish a settlement within a day or a night.
The major focus of this proposal was to prepare building segments: a tower and boards and take them to the proposed site to be constructed together with volunteers from the settlements of the area. The wall was to be built, with gravel placed over the inner area. Wooden cabins were to be erected, to be used as living quarters, with a dining room and a clinic; a twelve meter tower was to serve observation and communication.
The size of the settlement was 35 by 35 meters and the budget for its establishment was 400 Israeli lira. The method of tower-and-stockade construction was adopted by the Haganah Forces and settlement institutions as a means of settling the land. The settlement in Gan HaShlosha is one of 57 settlements that were established during the years l936-1939. The neighboring Kibbutz, Nir David (Tel Amal) carries the distinction of being the first kibbutz built in this way in l936.
Visitors can explore the three simple homes, the dining hall/kitchen hut, the tower and the wooden stockade built from two parallel walls separated by gravel. The pioneers’ rooms are furnished with period items. In one, children can dismantle and rebuild a model of the settlement, participate in the drama, imagine the daring pioneering deeds. From the tower, one can view the valley that was then swamp ridden and desolate, and now is flourishing and fertile with fish ponds (raising fish in ponds in Israel was first begun here), orchards and a wide variety of changing crops.
A short fifteen-minute documentary on the anti-Jewish riots is available for groups: call the park to make arrangements.
The Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archeology is located at the eastern end of the park on an ancient mound whose remains go back to the Canaanite period. An exceptional collection of regional and Mediterranean findings is featured, including Etruscan jewelry and a rare collection of Greek tools as well as findings from the Beit Shean Valley, Iran and Egypt.
Gan HaShlosha National Park is on Route 669 between HaShita junction and Beit Shean, about 15 minutes from Beit Shean.
Lifeguard supervision, 3 locations of changing rooms with showers and washrooms, a kosher restaurant, children’s pool, picnic tables, playground, water slides. The park is wheelchair accessible.