The Historic Semakh Railway Station, Local History That Encompasses Continents and Nations
The Historic Semakh Railway Station
The Semakh railway station, which was built by the Ottomans, is a terminus station and one of the main stations on a branch of the Hijaz line that ran between Haifa and Daraa. The line between Haifa and Semakh became known as the Valley Train.
The station structures were built over time, starting in June 1905, and the station was officially inaugurated in 1905. The railway line began operating on a regular basis in 1906.
The unique buildings of the Semakh station include: a main building where the station master and his personnel lived, a goods platform, a platelayer building, a buffer platform (for passengers), a dual oval-shaped water tower, steam engine garage, turntable, quarantine facilities and customs buildings. During the period of the British Mandate in Palestine a subterranean fuel container and an overland oil tower were added.
The Semakh railway station was taken by the Fourth Australian Light House (A.L.H.) on September 25 1918, during World War One. A fierce battle also took place there with the Syrian army on May 18 1948, during the Israeli War of Independence.
On June 16 1948 (The Night of the Bridges), the Jasser El Hawa bridge over the Yarmuch River was blown up. This stopped rail movement outside Israel’s borders, and put an end to the operation of the Semakh station. The destruction of three additional small bridges in March 1948 halted the operation of the Valley Train which was officially, and finally, closed down at the end of 1951.
For a period of around 66 years, at various times, the railway station site was used by the IDF and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. Most of the historic station buildings and structures were rehabilitated and restored through work, which began in 2013, carried out by the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, and the Heritage Program of the Prime Minister’s Office, in collaboration with the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee.
The historic site of the Semakh Railway Station
The Center for Land of Israel Studies was stationed at the Historic Semakh Railway Station. A unique reconstructed heritage site was incorporated into the center which tells the history of the Valley Train, of the Semakh station and of the entire region. At the site visitors can walk around the historic station buildings, and along a walkway which illustrates the various stations of the Valley railway line. An enclosed visitors’ center was established inside the historic water tower. It offers a movie (in English and Hebrew) and an exhibition which describes the legendary Valley railway line and the Semakh Station. The station is located near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, around 1.5 km. from Semakh Junction on Route 92. The station is operational and executes guided tours by students from the Land of Israel Studies Center.
The Bert Bornblum Land of Israel Studies Center – Studying and Loving the Land of Israel in a Special Environment
The Land of Israel Studies Center was established on the site of the historic Semakh Railway Station, between the historic station buildings which were rehabilitated and restored. This is a unique campus which engages in the study and love of the Land of Israel.
The Land of Israel Studies Center incorporates the following facilities:
The Department of Land of Israel Studies – students, and researchers who teach at the department
The Institute of Galilean Archeology
The Bert Bornblum Chair for Land of Israel Studies
The Kinneret Center on Peace, Security and Society in Memory of Dan Shomron
Tour guide courses
A professional science library in the fields of Israeli history and hiking, in the memory of Uri Dvir
Lectures for the general public given in cooperation with Yad Ben Zvi
The Kalanit (Anemone) Club
The Visitors’ Center
Partners in the project: The Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, Ministry of Culture and Sport, Landmarks, Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, Israel Railways, Rashi Foundation, Jordan Valley Regional Council.