Letters and journals Gush Etzion
December 11, 1947
The fall of the ' Convoi of ten'. Less than two weeks after the United Nations decission, four vehicles from Gush Etzion were ambushed and attacked by local Arabs. In the battle, which raged on the main road above King Salomon's Pools, ten Jewish defenders lost their lives. These were the first casualties in the struggle for Gush Etzion. The prolonged sieges has begun, as it became clear that the Arabs were in control of the road leading to and from Gush Etzion.
'Mourning. The sound of weeping is heard in the settlement. Two of our childeren have lost their fathers. Kfar Etzion's first orphans. Psalms were recited. The gravediggers had performed their task. At evening we laid our fellow members to rest.'
January 5, 1948
Mothers and childeren from Kfar Etzion and Massuot Yitzchak were evacuated to Jerusalem, with help of the British.
'The departure of the mothers and childeren has left an achting void in the village. The family quarters are sad. Everything recalls the life of the families that have now been rent in two...
Kfar Etzion humming with activity, thriving with its stone building, its gardens, now has the appearance of a fortified militairy camp....'
Januari 8, 1948
Danny Mass was assigned to the new command in Jerusalem. He was replaced by Uzi Narkiss.
'We gave a farewell party for Danny Mass, who spend the decisive weeks since the beginning of the siege with us. All those at the party expressed the admiration and friendship they hold for him and thanked him for his work. Danny always conveyed the impression of a quit modest fellow. He won us over by his smile, by his courage and by the self-confidence that he displays in everything that he does. During the day he would be constantly on the move, from one settlement to another supervising the construction of fortifications, inspecting the strategic points, organizing the various militairy courses. Danny was invited to come back as a guest, when peace is restored.'
Kfar Etzion diary
Januari 13, 1948
Another Arab ambush took place on the main road. A small convoy was attacked on its way home. Two more losses were recorded.
The medic Ovadia Zerubavel jumped from the truck in order to treat Hanoch Zilberstein or Revadim, that has been wounded. Both lost their lives and to this day the body of Ovadia has not been found. '
Januari 14, 1948
Hundreds of local Arabs under the command of Abdul Khader El-Husseini penetrated the Etzion Bloc, with the intension to destroy the settlement. This was the first major attack on Gush Etzion. The Jewish defenders staged a counter attack. The supprised Arabs fled in a very disorderly retreat. A great victory for the defenders was marked, though another three losses were recorded.
´This battle was the biggest and fiercest fought in the settlement, since the outbreak of hostilities.´
Januari 16, 1948
The ´Lamed Hey´or ´Detachment of the Thirty five´ under the command of Danny Mass was detected, while attempting, to bring supplies by foot to a besieged Gush Etzion. After a heroic battle near the Arab village of Surif, all thirty five fell (including the respected commander Danny Mass). They later became legendary heroes of Israels war of independence.
´Behold our bodies laid out in a long, long line... There was no betrayal, our guns are still strapped to us, empty of bullets. They tell of our fight till the end...´
Februari 8, 1948
The first small plane landed on a airstrip which had been prepared near the kibbutz, thus bringing some reliefs to the besieged defenders.
'The plane approached the landingstrip, flying low and rising again as if seeking a suitable place to land. We watched this efforts anxiously. Would it succeed? Then it flew over the strip again, flying low and then suddenly it was taxiing. We ran to the strip with shouts of joy.'
Kfar Etzion diary
Februari 24-26, 1948
A general meeting convened at Kibbutz Etzion. Agency to transfer the married men to another settlement where they could reunite with their families and continue with their civillian activities. Following a three day discussion and heated debate, the proposal was adopted.
'And now dear, a bit about politics. Discussions regarding your future are taking place this entire week. At the general meeting two basic approaches were expressed. At the general meeting two basic approaches were expressed. The first favors the acceptance of the proposal. Its supporters claim that we should unite the families where ever possible at a new place to live, where political and economic future are more promising. The second approach disproves of the very discussion. Its proponents insist that as long as Kfar Etzion excist, we must remain and under no circumstances are we consider 'evacuation'.
I also participated in the debate and this was my position:
I am critical of those who claim that Kfar Etzion is everything and that without Kfar Etzion we have lost our raison d'etre. The very opposite is the case: for precedence is to be given to the people over the land, to the community rather than dwelling here on the land. I recalled the prophecy of Jeremiah who took issue with the false prophets for predicting doom to the Israelites who went into exile. In certains situations exile may be the preferred position. We must consider this matter without being overly romantic. It is mistaken to adopt the position that is forbidden under all circumstances to leave one's home. The subject should be considered. Where is our social unit (the kibbut) going to be best preserved?
Since the political situation is so unclear, it would be wrong to decide now to leave this place, nor should the founding of an alternative place to live be discussed at this moment.
The opportunity of founding a new place, will present itself in the future as well, if Heaven forbid, it will become necessary to evacuate.
The unification of the family is not a sufficient reason to accept the proposal to evacuate. This is a time of war and it is to be expected that soldiers will be seperated from their families.
This was the position I took at he public meeting and though I do reject the proposal, nevertheless my stand is considered moderate. How do you feel about this my dear ?
March 26, 1948
The Nebi Daniel Convoy fell in the outskirt of Bethlehem, on its way back to Jerusalem. This was the largest of the convoy, numbering 51 vehicles. It was the last to bring supplies to Gush Etzion. In the course of no more than 30 hours battle on the road, fourteen defenders were killed, including the commander of the blockbuster, Zerubavel Horowitz.
'No one could reach the men trapped in the barricade-buster... All afternoon its crewmen, several of them wounded, held off the steadily advancing Arabs....
Towards sunset a pair of Molotov cocktails thumped against the car. Calmly Zerubavel Horowitz, told the men they were free to make a break for safety any way they could. He would stay behind his wounded... Seconds later the burning vehicle exploded...
For Yigal Yadin, who had ordered the Jerusalem command to put everything available into the Nebi Daniel convoy, the convoy's loss would always be 'the darkest moment of our struggle'.
O Jerusalem !
Collins and Lapierre
May 4, 1948
The Arab legion aided by the British and by a large number of local Arabs, launched a major attack on the Etzion Bloc. Their object was to punish the Jews for their offensive measures which were taken on behalf of Jerusalem. Twelve Jewish defenders were killed. A key outpost at the entrance to the Etzion Bloc fell to the Arabs during the day of battle. It was retaken at night upon the withdrawal of the enemy. This preliminary battle served as a dire warning. The defenders prepared themselves for a last stand - even if it must be another Massada. Their great hope was for the arrivel of reïnforcements.
'What are we and what are our lives? Nothing at all. Meaning is to be found in the life-project to which we dedicate our efforts. We will strike the enemy where ever we can reach him, we shall not permit him to carry out his design ! Our standfast reply is - 'the eternity of Jerusalem'.
Last commander of Gush Etzion
Eulogy of the twelve defenders
May 12, 1948
The Jordanian Legion supported by thousands of local Arabs launched a carefully planned attack on the Etzion bloc. The object of the attack this time, was the conquest and destruction of Gush Etzion. The outer positions were captured in this first day of battle. The Arabs progressed to the 'Lone Tree', thus dividing the Etzion Bloc. Moshe Silberschmidt, the beloved and respected commander, was killed.
May 13, 1948
The Arab offensive continued. It's major force was directed against Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Attack upon atack was rebuffed by the Jewish defenders in the course of the morning. About noon the Arabs finally succeeded in penetrating the northern gate of the kibbutz. As the armored vehicles stormed into Kfar Etzion, the local commander realized that all was lost ! After many months of siege and battle, no further possibility of maintaining the village. A ceasefire was sought in order to save the life of the defenders.
The excausted defenders left their defenceposts and handed over their ammunition as directed. They assembled in the heart of the kibbutz near the former German monastry, where they were to be photographed before being prisoners of war. They were suddenly fired upon. In desperate struggle which ensued, only four survived. Following the heroic battle and terrible massacre, Kfar Etzion was pillaged and destroyed.
Last moments at Kfar Etzion
A photographer dressed in European clothes and wearing a white kaffiyeh came on the scene and photographed us... When the photographer had finished, fire was suddenly opened upon us from every directon. Most of the assembled were hit...
I jumped into a ditch near the school.... It was an officer of the Legion who saved me. He solemnly promised that he would do me no harm. When the battle subsided, the officer took me back in the village and demanded that I show him where the arms caches were. When we passed by the doorway of the shelter under the German monastry, he put a grenade in my hand, pulled out the pin and ordered me to throw it into the shelter. I held the granate in my hand, for I was prepared to kill myself rahter than to obey his order. The officer took it from me and threw it himself into the shelter.......
Member of the Palmah
May 14, 1948
The tree remaining villages Massout Yitzchak, Ein Tsurim and Revadim had no alternative but to submit to the Arab Legion. Their members were taken as prisoners of war. These villages were also pillaged and destroyed.
Last moments at Ein Tsurim
'At about 10.00 am the representatives of the red cross came into the settlement. Two of the members met them... In the distance we could distinguished thousands of Arab irrugelar troops approaching the Zachariah outpost. At the sight of the rabble, some of the members fled to Revadim and Ein Tsurim while one blew herself up with a grenade. All of us at the kibbutz rushed back to our positions and took up our weapons. A settler of Ein Tsurim pressed the trigger and fired a long volley.
At noon representatives of the Legion came. They wanted to disarm us. We refused to allow them to do so and declared that we would hand over arms only, when we got unto the trucks. We asked them to keep the rabble back... We took our bundles and marched in single file through the gate... The Legionaries escorting and guarding us...'
Kfar Etzion was niet meer.....
De bunker waarin de bewoners van de kibbutz als groep afgeslacht zijn...
Overzichtsfoto bunker en gedenkplaten met altijd brandende lampen
Gedenkplaten met alle gesneuvelde kibbutsbewoners
'The lonely tree' - De boom die getuige was van alle ellende die zich voordeed in Gush Etzion....
Met dank aan een lieve vriendin die mij de gelegenheid gaf deze foto te downloaden van haar persoonlijke foto-bestand, om u een beetje het idee te geven waar het om gaat als je praat over Migdal Eder, Kfar Etzion en Gush Etzion.
Alle andere foto's zijn door mijzelf gemaakt in Gush Etzion.
16 juli 2010