Ilaniya is a small Jewish community of about 300 members. Ilaniya, originally called ‘Sejera’, was founded in 1899 and was one of the earliest farm settlements of the First Aliyah. The first settlers were Jewish immigrants from Kurdistan and Jewish converts from Russia. Sejera was briefly home to the famous Zionist David Ben Gurion, who later became the first prime minister of Israel. The Ha’Shomer (“the watchmen”), a Jewish defense organization was founded in Ilaniya in 1907.
The Jewish community was located right next to the Arab village of Shejara. The communities got along well until 1948, when Shejara was depopulated by the Israeli military. Part of the land of Shejara has been incorporated into Ilaniya, while other parts remain in ruins.
Ilaniya means “tree” as does the original name, Sejera. Today there are several sites of interest to see in Ilaniya. It is possible to visit the model farm from the early 20th century. There is also a spring at the historic center of town, the ruins of a Byzantine synagogue, and numerous ancient caves, one even containing an original olive press and another with the image of a menorah carved into the rock.
Yarok Az, an organic goat farm and ecolodge, is located in Ilaniya. Hosts Hadar and Shachar know a lot about the area and can point guests toward the highlights. Guided tours of the historical sites are also available for a fee.