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.
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.”