The story of the Gevatron troupe begins in early 1948, when a group
of singers in Kibbutz Geva performed at the dedication of a new basketball
court in the kibbutz. They called themselves the "Gevatron" – a combination
of the name of the kibbutz with the name of the "Cheezbatron", a singing troupe
that performed during the War for Independence. The young group started
performing for communal occasions in the kibbutz, with accordion
accompaniment. They were amateurs and sang mainly verses, written by
members of the kibbutz, to borrowed melodies, Russian songs for the most part.
In 1961 the group sang at the "Kibbutz Festival" in Tel-Aviv. There the
entrepreneur Ze'ev Havatselet introduced them to the composer Nahum
Hayman, who lived at that time in Kibbutz Beit-Alpha, near Geva. Hayman was
then working with a small band of musicians from the district, who called
themselves "The Gilboa Quintet". He started working with the Gevatron,
accompanied by the band. The troupe performed all over the country, and after
a while came out with its first record, "Where is the Wind Blowing To?", in
memory of Ze'ev Havatselet who died in an accident. "Hayman took this group
of amateurs and turned it into a real singing troupe," tells us Yoel Parness,
managing director of the Gevatron. With Danny Or-Stav the group put out its
second record, "Songs From the Shack".
After working together for seven years, Hayman went abroad, and the
troupe started working with Dov Carmel from Kibbutz Dahlia. Three years later
Haim Agmon took his place. Some of Agmon's songs, like "Ocean of Sheaves"
and "My Valley" (lyrics by Yitshak Kainan. Kainan and Agmon were both
residents of the city of Beit-Shean) became conventional Israeli songs. After
him followed Tsvika Caspi and the present musical director, Ilan Gilboa.
During the period with Haim Agmon, the Gevatron updated the character of its
performances and started working with a stage director. The first one was
Benny Porat. Later Aaron Herzog and Ella Alterman took his place.
Today the stage director is Danny Litai.
With its numerous performances, the troupe brought the songs of Israel
to every corner of the country. The Gevatron has appeared at many official
functions, and has often given voluntary shows for hospitals and for soldiers.
During times of war the Gevatron troupe volunteered to sing anyplace where
there were soldiers, sometimes before three or four boys in army posts on the
Golan Heights, or in the most distant points in the Sinai. Naturally, some of the
singers themselves were drafted in wartime to serve in the reserves.
At one of the performances during the Yom Kippur War, members of
the group rejoiced to see in the soldier audience one of its members, Yoav
Nachshon, who happened to be commander at that post. Of course, he
joined the group on stage.
The Gevatron's special style attained a place of honor in the hearts of
the Israeli audience. It has published over twenty albums, six of which were
awarded a "gold record", which marks extensive sales. At the peak of its
popularity, in the 1980's, an audience of 120 thousand came to the
performance in the Yarkon Park in Tel-Aviv. The troupe worked in
co-operation with many prominent singers of Hebrew songs – Joram Gaon,
Shoshana Demari, Judith Ravitz, Hanan Yovel, and others. The Gevatron
frequently appeared abroad, representing Israel and bringing the unique
sounds of Israeli music to Jewish communities all over the world. In 1972 it
was awarded the "David's Harp" prize, and in 1992 it received the Histadrut
prize. In 2008 it received the Israel Prize for lifelong endeavor.
In spite of the high musical standard and the work load of rehearsals
and performing, everything is done voluntarily. The members are not paid,
and continue working at their regular jobs in the kibbutz. Even when they
get home from a performance in the middle of the night, they get up at 6:30
in the morning and show up for work. In 1982 the troupe was invited to
appear before President Reegan at the White House, but decided to reject
the prestigious offer due to work overload in the kibbutz. "To be in the
Gevatron is a decision of choice," says Yoel Parness, the managing director.
"It's hard work, but there is plenty of enjoyment, both from the music and
from the real compatibility among the members. We're like a family."
Indeed, over 60 years of activity there have been members who were
brothers, sisters, husband and wife, in-laws and even a mother and her
"The troupe's harmony stems from its roots," explains Parness.
"The nucleus of people who founded the kibbutz in 1921 was immigrants
from Russia. They worked from morning till night and used to sing while
working. It was a tradition they had inherited from their parents, and they
passed it on to their children, who founded the troupe. The sound of the
Gevatron still carries an old Russian color.
The sound of the Gevatron, which was established quite by accident
in the early years of the State, has become over the years one of the
distinctive symbols of the labor settlements, and of "the beautiful Israel".
It has served as an inspiration to hundreds of singing groups that followed
its lead. "The Gevatron sings a song of love for our people and our country,"
Parness summarizes. "If we have succeeded in contributing to the country
a little bit of sanity and optimism, then every effort is justified."
For additional contents about the Gevatron please turn
to the following (Hebrew) websites