On Wednesday morning, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) joined Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman and local residents at the town of Kfar Etzion in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem to mark the 71st anniversary of the fall of Kfar Etzion – and the massacre of its remaining inhabitants.
In 1947, Arab militias laid siege to the four Jewish towns which together made up the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem – Kfar Etzion, Revadim, Massuot Yitzhak, and Ein Tzurim. The Arab militias were later supplemented by Jordanian soldiers from the Arab Legion, which invaded Israel on the eve of its independence.
In May 1948, just ahead of the departure of British forces from the Mandate for Palestine, the Arab forces launched a coordinated attack on the four towns of the Etzion bloc. After ten days of resistance, Revadim, Massuot Yitzhak, and Ein Tzurim surrendered, while Arab Legion forces overran Kfar Etzion, massacring some 130 people.
When Israel liberated the area in June 1967, Kfar Etzion was reestablished by a small group of Israeli settlers, including Hanan Porat, who had lived in the original Kfar Etzion as a child.
“Here we are again in Gush Etzion,” said Minsiter Deri at Wednesday’s memorial event, “where everything is being built and a third generation is being raised here, and we are here to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the residents of Kfar Etzion and many others who dreamed of returning after 19 years, and with the help of G-d brought this place from destruction to rebirth, which you can see with your own eyes.”
“On the day in which we remember the fallen in Israel's wars and battles, Kfar Etzion remembers the day on which Gush Etzion fell on the 4th of Iyar, 1948. We remember those who fell here, and those who were taken as prisoner, on the eve of the establishment of the State.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman called the defenders of Kfar Etzion who were killed in the 1948 massacre “the cream of the crop of our sons and daughters,” who “fell in defense of the Gush and more so in the defense of Jerusalem.”
“As David Ben Gurion eulogized after the fall of the Gush, ‘If Jerusalem is Hebrew ... then the first gesture of gratitude in Israeli history and of the entire nation is for the fighters of Gush Etzion.’”
“The day after the fall of the Gush, the state was established and the day of the fall itself was declared the Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers. All the people of Israel today are united - gathering at the graves of our heroes.”