The Be’eri Printing Press: Israel’s Print Shop

For over seventy years, Be'eri Printers – Kibbutz Be'eri's famous printing press - has touched the lives of all of us in Israel. On October 7, many dozens of Be'eri's sons and daughters were murdered. Despite this disaster, the printing press was back in operation less than ten days later. This is the story of a pioneering project that has risen from the ashes, like a phoenix.

Yael Ingel
Lazar Zorea taking a moment to rest while working at his lead printing machine at Be'eri Printers in the 1960s. Source: 'Lines and Dots' (Kavim VeNekudot) Blog (Hebrew), Yigal Zorea (Lazar’s son)

When Levi Zrodinski (Zorea) made Aliyah to the Land of Israel from Ukraine in 1925, he could not have imagined that his vision and initiative would be realized in a kibbutz in the Negev. He couldn’t have foreseen how this small kibbutz would become a printing giant in Israel over time, turning into one of the most advanced print shops in the world.

Levi, an enthusiastic Zionist, entrepreneur and industrialist, settled in the city of Haifa and established a successful print shop there. His idealistic and daring 18-year-old son, Lazar Zorea, was one of the group of pioneers who founded Kibbutz Be’eri.

Lazar Zorea at the Be’eri print shop in the 1950s. Photo: Hanan Bahir, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel


Babel Lev, co-founder of Kibbutz Be’eri and Be’eri Printers. Photo courtesy of the Kibbutz Be’eri Archive

In a clandestine operation immediately following Yom Kippur, October 6, 1946, Lazar Zorea and his pioneering friends settled 11 new locations overnight. These settlements, which included Kibbutz Be’eri, have since been called the “11 points”, and were highly significant in strengthening the Jewish population of the Negev.

Be’eri Printers in the 1950s was located in the Kibbutz’s first stone structure (center). On the right – the granary. On the left, the water tower with the menorah designed by Lazar Zorea in the kibbutz’s early days. From Yigal Zorea’s blog ‘Lines and Dots’ (Kavim VeNekudot) (Hebrew)


Children at Kibbutz Be’eri. Photo: Boris Carmi. From the Meitar Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

The members of the young kibbutz sought after a stable source of revenue which would provide economic security for a small community located right on Israel’s border with Gaza. Zorea, who had witnessed the success of his father’s print shop, worked with three other members to found the first print shop in the Negev desert. The idea of a print shop was very unconventional in the kibbutz movement, but Lazar and his friends insisted and the project finally came into being after many talks between the kibbutz members. Zorea’s experienced father aided and encouraged them and the same was true of the Jewish Agency. Both worked to ensure the enterprise flourished.

The original note by Buda, a Kibbutz Be’eri member, to the Jewish Agency offices in 1949, asking for aid in acquiring the initial equipment for establishing the print shop. Courtesy of Wikibbutz – Kibbutz Be’eri Archive


Print shop workers at Kibbutz Be’eri. Photo: Hanan Bahir, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel


Moshka, Kibbutz Be’eri member, next to the printing press, 1950s. Courtesy of Wikibbutz – Kibbutz Be’eri Archive

Yigal Zorea, Lazar’s son, tells of how it all started, from almost nothing: “The press was in the beginning no more than an abandoned stone house with one letterpress machine, a compositor whose lead letters were bought at a discount, and a modest binding machine. They printed a few simple forms and some documents of the new state institutions in the beginning.”

One of the first documents printed at Be’eri Printers in the early 1950s – listing parts of the Kibbutz Be’eri workshop. Courtesy of Wikibbutz – Kibbutz Be’eri Archive


A Magen David Adom document, also among Be’eri Printers’ first documents printed in the 1950s. Courtesy of Wikibbutz – Kibbutz Be’eri Archive


A German newspaper reports on a visit to Kibbutz Be’eri in the 1950s: “Most of the villages also have a small industry which in case of drought or locusts can cover the deficit. There is here – in the desert! – a modern print shop, which carries out orders from around the country.” From Yigal Zorea’s blog ‘Lines and Dots’ (Kavim VeNekudot) (Hebrew).

Yigal tells of how, as a youth in Kibbutz Be’eri, he had a job arranging the lead letters at the print shop, before moving to work in the orchard which was considered more “prestigious.” After his military service, he continued the family tradition, and after learning graphic design at Betzalel Academy he became a part of Be’eri Press, where he worked for 50 years, leading the transition from manual to computer design as a senior designer.

A child arranges printing letters at Kibbutz Be’eri, 1975. Photo: Boris Carmi, the Meitar Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

Over the years, members of Be’eri never stopped inventing and developing new innovations, new ideas and ways to improve and increase the range of services which the print shop provided any business, company, or organization in need of its services. Thus, the print shop grew and grew, until it moved to a permanent structure which also changed and increased in size when needed. Over time, Be’eri Printers provided a livelihood for more and more residents throughout the Gaza border region.

Be’eri Printers in the 1970s. Yigal Zorea, who designed the company’s logo, describes how it was created: “With the aid of compasses and curve rulers, I drew a geometric logo representing a combination of a print roll and a paper roll, which combine to create the unique letter bet. I also drew the logotype (letter type for company logo) using a compass.” From the Be’eri Printers Blog (Hebrew).

But the importance of Be’eri Printers stretched far beyond this southern region of Israel. Over time, the company became Israel’s printing press. Its knowledge and technology enabled processes of economic modernization necessary for the growing country – the move from the Lira to the Shekel, the introduction of magnetic checks used by all banks, and more.

You may not be aware of it, but Be’eri Printers is an integral, daily part of the lives of all Israeli citizens and everyone living in the country: all credit cards and driver’s licenses are printed there. The same is true of all the envelopes sent to you by the banks and official state institutions. In fact, it is at Be’eri Printers that the ma’atafit – the letter printed on the envelope itself – was invented. This innovation has saved enormous amounts of paper over time.

Report on the new invention of the ma’atafit – a letter printed on an envelope – at Be’eri Printers. The company was awarded the Kaplan Prize as a result. Reported in Maariv, March 27, 1988, the Historical Jewish Press collection at the National Library of Israel

On the Black Sabbath of October 7, 2023, Kibbutz Be’eri suffered unspeakable losses. At least 85 of its members were slaughtered. That number is not final. Heroic battles took place among the pathways, and many areas in the beautiful kibbutz were entirely destroyed. Miraculously or thanks to good luck, the print shop structure was unharmed.

Despite the heavy mourning over the murdered kibbutz members, which has not ended, and despite the fact that there are still members missing and held in Gaza, the surviving kibbutz members decided to renew operations at the printing press as fast as possible, rather than give up on the illustrious project they created and cultivated for decades. Ben Suchman, CEO of Be’eri Printers in recent years, along with other kibbutz members, did not let the shocking news and difficult situation drag them into despair. Ten days after the massacre at their kibbutz, they declared – “Be’eri Printers is open,” and they intend to bring the print shop to full capacity.

Ben Suchman (left), present CEO of Be’eri Printers, and Naor Paktzierez, member of the board. In the background is a sign saying “We are here.” It is a sign which Yigal Zorea designed in previous wars and which was unfortunately updated for a 2023 version and hung at the entrance to Be’eri Printers. Photo from the Tmunot Be’eri (“Be’eri Pictures”, Hebrew) Facebook page


The current Be’eri Printers building, which has resumed operations in the last few days

Yigal and his family were among those extracted from Kibbutz Be’eri and they are currently residing at Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which is hosting many of those remaining from the Be’eri community. In a conversation with him, he shifts constantly between past and present. Every name and every event from the past of Be’eri Printers is tied to the disaster which befell the impressive, creative, and cohesive kibbutz community.

“For us, this is home, no more, no less. And that, on its own, says it all.” – The song Bishvileinu Ze Bayit (For Us, This Is Home) was written by Yigal Zorea, a graphic artist at Be’eri Printers, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Kibbutz Be’eri’s founding in 1946. The words were put to music and the song was performed during the Kibbutz Be’eri farm festivals for many years thereafter. From the ‘Lines and Dots’ (Kavim VeNekudot) Blog (Hebrew)

We all hope that Be’eri Printers, which is already up and running, can once again embody the pioneering spirit at the heart of the dear community of Be’eri. This enterprise can be the vanguard of efforts to rebuild all of the kibbutzim, towns and cities of the Gaza border region. They will rise, like a phoenix, from the ashes.

You can support Be’eri Printers by ordering stickers, or by ordering pictures and picture albums from the “albume” website, a Be’eri Printers project. You can also visit the PIX website, another product of Be’eri Printers, where you can find different kinds of stamps, envelopes, stickers, signs, and more.


This article is part of our special series: “Life on the Border: A Tribute to the Communities of the Gaza Border Region”. Click here to see all of the articles and stories.



Comments for this article

Loading more article loading_anomation