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From Israel, Part 2: Gush Etzion, 1948 Massacre

 
Captured Jews who were held in Jordan.

My first full day in Israel, we traveled to Kfar Etzion. Beitar, where I am staying, is part of Gush Etzion, an area of 22 settlements. Last Friday morning I learned the tragic story of the Kfar Etzion massacre:

On May 12, [1948] the commander of Kfar Etzion requested from the Central Command in Jerusalem to evacuate the Kibbutz but was told to stay. Later in the day, the Arabs captured the Russian Orthodox monastery, which the Haganah used as a perimeter fortress for the Kfar Etzion area, killing 24 of its 32 defenders. On May 13, a massive attack began, involving parts of two Arab League infantry companies, light artillery, and local irregular support, attacking from four directions. The kibbutz fell within a day; and the Arab forces massacred the entire population of Kfar Etzion, soldiers and civilians alike. The total number of dead during the final assault, including those killed in the massacre, was estimated to be between 75 and 250. Only three men and one woman survived.

When we arrived at Kfar Etzion, it was quiet, even the birds seemingly restrained in their songs. We entered the museum and sat in three different small movie theatres, where the story of Kfar Etzion was told. These were people who had just left Europe or Russia; many had lost family members in the Holocaust. They probably experienced a range of emotions and trauma, from desperation to grief to hope to determination. Many felt that Israel, with its barren, mostly treeless landscape, offered a last hope of life and freedom.

I have heard many stories about the repeated attacks by Arabs against Israeli settlements. I also know that the films were intended to tug at the heartstrings. I have read much about Israel and its history. But I was unprepared for my own grief and sadness about the hatred and destruction that the Arabs were prepared to impose on the settlers who were simply returning to their historic homeland, many of whom had lost their families, their homes and even their hope for the future.

It seemed so evil and meaningless then. It seems so unbelievable now.

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There are 19 comments.

  1. Member

    Susan Quinn: But I was unprepared for my own grief and sadness about the hatred and destruction that the Arabs were prepared to impose on the settlers who were simply returning to their historic homeland, many of whom had lost their families, their homes and even their hope for the future.

    And nearly seventy years later, has anything changed?

    • #1
    • November 7, 2017 at 2:42 am
    • 4 likes
  2. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: But I was unprepared for my own grief and sadness about the hatred and destruction that the Arabs were prepared to impose on the settlers who were simply returning to their historic homeland, many of whom had lost their families, their homes and even their hope for the future.

    And nearly seventy years later, has anything changed?

    Not from the standpoint of the Arabs, and perhaps the rest of the world, but now Israel knows how to defend itself. Still, annihilation is always in the background.

    • #2
    • November 7, 2017 at 2:44 am
    • 6 likes
  3. Member

    Good on you for visiting the Gush!

    I wish I’d had the privilege to learn at Yeshivat Har Etzion, in Alon Shvut (same area) — but when I was younger, regrettably, I simply didn’t know any better. As Jewish learning institutions go, not only is it a jewel in the Israeli firmament, for the Jewish people globally it’s a major treasure.

    I’m envious of your journey there altogether — enjoy!

    • #3
    • November 7, 2017 at 6:25 am
    • 5 likes
  4. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):
    Good on you for visiting the Gush!

    I wish I’d had the privilege to learn at Yeshivat Har Etzion, in Alon Shvut (same area) — but when I was younger, regrettably, I simply didn’t know any better. As Jewish learning institutions go, not only is it a jewel in the Israeli firmament, for the Jewish people globally it’s a major treasure.

    I’m envious of your journey there altogether — enjoy!

    Thanks, Danny. Were you/are you living in Israel?

    • #4
    • November 7, 2017 at 7:25 am
    • 1 like
  5. Member

    #4 Susan Quinn

    I lived in Israel during the 1995-96 academic year; the director of the program that I was on (unfortunately now defunct) was/is an alumnus of the Har Etzion yeshiva, so my first personal introduction to the place in a sense — an outstanding mensch.

    Nowadays I live in Tokyo, Japan.

    The last time I was in Israel was a month-long stay during Summer 2014, essentially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem only; my visit, by interesting coincidence, was at the same time that Prof. Rahe was also visiting — we exchanged emails but couldn’t get our schedules adequately coordinated.

    That stay was during the whole war with Hamas, with all the horrors of the discovery of the attack-tunnel network, the endless barrages from Hamas rockets (fortunately daytime only, and thank God for Kippat Barzel/Iron Dome), and Barack Obama pulling the strings at the FAA such that agency declared a several-day ban on US-originating flights into Ben-Gurion Airport, thus throttling Israel’s link to the world and giving aid and comfort to Hamas, with whom Obama and Kerry urged an Israeli government negotiation mediated by Qatar. Talk about impeachable offenses…

    • #5
    • November 7, 2017 at 8:31 am
    • 6 likes
  6. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):
    #4 Susan Quinn

    I lived in Israel during the 1995-96 academic year; the director of the program that I was on (unfortunately now defunct) was/is an alumnus of the Har Etzion yeshiva, so my first personal introduction to the place in a sense — an outstanding mensch.

    Nowadays I live in Tokyo, Japan.

    The last time I was in Israel was a month-long stay during Summer 2014, essentially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem only; my visit, by interesting coincidence, was at the same time that Prof. Rahe was also visiting — we exchanged emails but couldn’t get our schedules adequately coordinated.

    That stay was during the whole war with Hamas, with all the horrors of the discovery of the attack-tunnel network, the endless barrages from Hamas rockets (fortunately daytime only, and thank God for Kippat Barzel/Iron Dome), and Barack Obama pulling the strings at the FAA such that agency declared a several-day ban on US-originating flights into Ben-Gurion Airport, thus throttling Israel’s link to the world and giving aid and comfort to Hamas, with whom Obama and Kerry urged an Israeli government negotiation mediated by Qatar. Talk about impeachable offenses…

    Don’t get me started on Obama.

    Interesting timing on your 2014 trip! The Iron Dome is amazing. Sounds like you’ve led an interesting life. Thanks for filling me in!

    • #6
    • November 7, 2017 at 8:41 am
    • 2 likes
  7. Member

    I am so glad the Jews take care of the museum. It is a permanent rebuttal to the version of history promulgated by anti-Israel Arabs and Arab sympathizers.

    • #7
    • November 7, 2017 at 10:18 am
    • 5 likes
  8. Reagan

    Susan Quinn:But I was unprepared for my own grief and sadness about the hatred and destruction that the Arabs were prepared to impose on the settlers who were simply returning to their historic homeland, many of whom had lost their families, their homes and even their hope for the future.

    It seemed so evil and meaningless then. It seems so unbelievable now.

    I understand. But beyond grief and sadness, – it is only human to experience anger and then the essential, spine-stiffening “Never Again.”

    • #8
    • November 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm
    • 1 like
  9. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Trink (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:But I was unprepared for my own grief and sadness about the hatred and destruction that the Arabs were prepared to impose on the settlers who were simply returning to their historic homeland, many of whom had lost their families, their homes and even their hope for the future.

    It seemed so evil and meaningless then. It seems so unbelievable now.

    I understand. But beyond grief and sadness, – it is only human to experience anger and then the essential, spine-stiffening “Never Again.”

    You are right, Trink. But it’s like the stages of grief. We have to go through the whole process to experience freedoms on the other side.

    • #9
    • November 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm
    • 1 like
  10. Member

    Of those who died at the kibbutz it can be said that at least they died defending themselves, unlike their relatives who died in the Holocaust. None-the-less, it is a terrible tragedy that gets very little press, after all they were only Jews. Now, if they were Palestinians we would be reminded of their deaths every anniversary of the date, and frequently in between. No Jew should ever stand or kneel passively before a pit to be slaughtered like a sheep. If he must die let it be with a rifle in his hands, but better still, let him live a free man on his own land.

    • #10
    • November 8, 2017 at 9:26 am
    • 4 likes
  11. Coolidge

    Susan, I absolutely I love your posts from Israel.

    Isn’t it odd that some of the most stalwart defenders of Israel are conservative Christians, whereas Jews on the Left often take the side of the Palestinians—or find excuses for them. I hope those Jews will look back someday and be ashamed.

    Kent

    • #11
    • November 8, 2017 at 9:52 am
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    Just a note to say I’m glad you are enjoying your trip and are safe. All the best.

    • #12
    • November 8, 2017 at 10:23 am
    • 1 like
  13. Contributor

    Wonderful posts Susan.

    I miss Israel. Had a group of friends who just got back but I couldn’t make it this year. My SIL is there now leading a woman’s group. Need to get back soon.

    • #13
    • November 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm
    • 2 likes
  14. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    Of those who died at the kibbutz it can be said that at least they died defending themselves, unlike their relatives who died in the Holocaust. None-the-less, it is a terrible tragedy that gets very little press, after all they were only Jews. Now, if they were Palestinians we would be reminded of their deaths every anniversary of the date, and frequently in between. No Jew should ever stand or kneel passively before a pit to be slaughtered like a sheep. If he must die let it be with a rifle in his hands, but better still, let him live a free man on his own land.

    Beautifully said, Eugene. And I must agree with your comments, every one.

    • #14
    • November 8, 2017 at 10:55 pm
    • 1 like
  15. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Susan, I absolutely I love your posts from Israel.

    Isn’t it odd that some of the most stalwart defenders of Israel are conservative Christians, whereas Jews on the Left often take the side of the Palestinians—or find excuses for them. I hope those Jews will look back someday and be ashamed.

    Kent

    Thanks, Kent. In a sense it’s understandable for a few reasons. The main reasons are that the Christians believe in the Old Testament/Chumash, too, and believe this country belongs to the Jews. For liberal Jews, I think a couple of things apply: 1) a type of self-hatred; 2) an affinity for the underdog (the Palestinians). Once the Jews fought back, we lost that label.

    • #15
    • November 8, 2017 at 11:07 pm
    • 1 like
  16. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Just a note to say I’m glad you are enjoying your trip and are safe. All the best.

    I felt odd yesterday when two armed soldiers stopped our bus, got on board, looked around, and then left.

    • #16
    • November 8, 2017 at 11:08 pm
    • Like
  17. Member

    Memorial Day here is the day before Independence Day and the one leading into the other symbolizes the fact that the one brought about the other.

    But the only event that actually happened the day before Independence was the fall of Gush Etzion.

    (My son is currently stationed in Gush Etzion, as I was from time to time during my reserve service. And of course we lived there as well.)

    • #17
    • November 9, 2017 at 2:21 am
    • 2 likes
  18. Member

    I always have mixed feelings on Isreal. On the one hand, its the only Democracy in the Middle East. On the other hand it has a dark past of its own that it seems to not make amends for including the work of the Stern Gang, that the rest of us are just supposed to ignore.

    • #18
    • November 9, 2017 at 5:17 am
    • Like
  19. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    I always have mixed feelings on Isreal. On the one hand, its the only Democracy in the Middle East. On the other hand it has a dark past of its own that it seems to not make amends for including the work of the Stern Gang, that the rest of us are just supposed to ignore.

    I don’t excuse the Stern Gang. It was an extremist terrorist group that attacked the British. (Keep in mind that the British took several action against the Israelis.) It’s important to note that the group formed in 1940 and was dispersed after 1948, and several of its members joined the Israeli Defense Forces. From my perspective, it was a nasty, short-lived group. It can’t hold a candle to the long-term violence of the Arabs and Palestinians. How would you suggest they make amends? And to whom? I would also note that the violence was in response to the violence, oppression and hatred demonstrated toward them.

    • #19
    • November 9, 2017 at 5:27 am
    • 1 like