Photo Credit: Unknown
The funeral in Jerusalem of the victims of the Gush Etzion massacre, Nov. 17, 1949.

Celebrations commenced last week to mark eight decades of renewed Jewish life in Gush Etzion, a bloc of Israeli communities located in the Judean Mountains south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

“The Gush is developing due to your work establishing the Gush that stands strong, and with God’s help, it will stand forever,” Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman told the crowd at Thursday’s opening ceremony, which took place at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, the first out of the four original communities established in April 1943.


Gush Etzion is a cluster of Israeli settlements in the Judaean Mountains, directly south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The core group includes four Jewish agricultural villages that were founded in 1943–1947, and destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion before the outbreak of the 1948 War of Liberation, in the Kfar Etzion massacre. The area was left outside Israel’s 1949 armistice lines (a.k.a. the green line). The same settlements were rebuilt after the 1967 Six-Day War victory, along with new communities that have expanded the area of Gush Etzion. As of 2011, Gush Etzion consisted of 22 settlements with a population of 70,000.

Gush Eztion Council Head Shlomo Neeman celebrates his election victory, November 14, 2018. / Gershon Elinson/Flash90

The regional council and the Kfar Etzion Field School organized Thursday’s event, which drew many veteran community members under a tent despite the unseasonal rainfall. Brig. Gen. Avi Bluth, commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, was also in attendance.

Members of Masu’ot Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim were present. These communities were founded in the immediate years after Kfar Etzion, which was conquered by Jordanian forces and destroyed during the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence and reestablished following the 1967 Six-Day War.

On May 13, 1948, the day before Israel declared independence, Jordan’s Arab Legion with the help of local Arabs massacred 129 Jews at Kfar Etzion following a two-day battle. The site was re-established as a kibbutz in September 1967 as the first Jewish community restored in Judea and Samaria after the territory was liberated during the Six-Day War.

“For 19 years we were sure that we’d return. We lived it in our thoughts and our dreams, and we knew that we would rebuild it with reinforced and renewed strength,” said Shaya Altman, one of the founders of Kfar Etzion.

Thursday’s event included a performance for children about the founding of Kfar Etzion.

Activities celebrating the anniversary will take place throughout the month under the title “80 Years of Gush Etzion—The Story of Israel.”


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