Tene Omarim: For Quality of Life

The community of Tene Omarim in the Hevron Hills is a symbol of community building for quality way of life.

Elad Benari ,

Tene Omarim
Tene Omarim
Israel News photo: Wikimedia Commons

The community of Tene Omarim was established on May 29, 1984.

On Tu B’Shvat, January 29, 1983, a woman named Esther Ohana was seriously wounded while passing Dahariya, on Route 60, the well travelled road that winds from Beer Sheva in the negev northwards through the Hevron hills and past Gush Etzion and Bethlehem on towards Jerusalem, after a rock thrown by Arab children hit her car. Two weeks later, Esther died of her wounds.

The day after this terror attack, it was decided at an Israeli cabinet meeting on the implementation of an earlier government decision to establish a community in Omarim, in the southern Hevron Hills north of the town of Meitar. In accordance with that decision, the Nahal outpost of Omarim was established on January 31, 1983. The community at the time consisted of of 21 members of the leftist Hashomer HaTzair movement who had originally intended to live in Kibbutz Nir Oz in the Negev. The 21 young people worked in various jobs in nearby Kibbutz Keramim.

That outpost was named Tene Omarim because the name Omarim had already been given to a cooperative community in the Beer Sheva suburb of Omer. Tene was chosen in memory of David Tene, one of the founders of the Israeli Ministry of Housing and its first Director General. Despite the added name, the community continues to be referred to as Omarim by its residents.

The idea behind the founding of Omarim was to leave the big city in order to establish a community with  more quality of life: openness, concern for youth, and mutual help. When the first residents arrived, there were eight mobile homes and no infrastructure. The residents themselves set up the infrastructure, both to save the time it would take to find a contractor, and to strengthen their connection to the place by doing the work themselves.

The work on the basic infrastructure of the community, including water and sewage pipes, electrical and telephone lines, roads and fences, and trees and lawns, was completed within four months. The building of permanent structures was delayed due to internal debates, but ultimately in 1986, residents began to build permanent homes. The community prospered and expanded. Over the years, a large building which combines the Secretariat of the community, a library and a club was built. The community also has a swimming pool, a beautiful synagogue and a mikveh.

After the 2005 expulsion from Gush Katif, secular Tene Omarim was offered the chance to absorb the expellees of the religious community of Morag. After some discussion, the proposal was approved by more than ninety percent of the residents, and fifteen new religious families joined Tene Omarim, by now numbering 100 families. The combination of religious and secular Jews turned out to be  a good one, and mutual tolerance is the guiding principle of the pleasant community.

On Shabbat, for example, when the secular residents return from the swimming pool and the religious residents are returning from the synagogue, they meet on the street and greet one another with Shabbat Shalom. There are also both active religious Bnei Akiva and secular Tsofim (Scouts) youth groups in the community.