The Story of Beit Hankin
During the late 40s of the 20th century, according to the will of Yehoshua Hankin, the teacher and nature enthusiast Menahem Zaharoni started the establishment of the “Regional Institute for Nature and Homeland Studies” – Beit Hankin, in the very heart of the working settlement, in the Kfar Yehoshua School. The cornerstone was laid in 1949. Behind the establishment of Beit Hankin were educational-cultural ideas based on the glorification of the Hebrew village as a new form of society and economy. The education of the younger generation was developed with nature and work as the foundations for an esthetic and moral spiritual life. Beit Hankin was used by the school community and by teachers from around the country, who came to further their education in nature and the geography of Israel.
The structure encompassed a multidisciplinary exhibition hall – Beit Hankin, a chemistry and biology lab, a storage room, a small observatory, a petting zoo, and a botanical garden. Three years later the agricultural hall “Yad Michael” was added in memory of the village member Michael Kafri, which added another exhibition/lecture hall. The compound architectural style and interior decoration had elegant and urbane undertones, a rare sight in the Jezreel Valley and the village in those days.
Even though more than 60 years have gone by, the locals still remember the sense of mystery and magic that characterized the place; the entrance hall with its pillars; the staircase; the feeble rays of light coming through the high windows; the gallery with its creaking floor; the smell of formaldehyde, and the gaze of the mounted animals. The museum measured up to museums of the time, and had its share in creating the cultural capital, and an unrelenting educational message.
Over the years ideological, social, and cultural shifts combined with lack of budget and interest by the community and its establishments, caused the activity in Beit Hankin to gradually slow, until it was closed altogether.
Over the recent years, there is a growing activity to restore and develop Beit Hankin. Alongside developing and updating the place to current standards, its historical and ethical uniqueness is being maintained by preserving the structure and the permanent exhibition. Alongside this display, changing art exhibitions are taking place in the “Yad Michael” hall, which serves as a space for contemporary art. The exhibitions have a critical and current reference to the museum, its exhibits, and its content.
Beit Hankin, as a multidisciplinary exhibit hall, appeals to a wide audience, with various activities taking place throughout the year.