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April 23, 1982 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-04-23

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64 Friday, April 23, 1982


Etzion Story: A Tale of Tragedy and Transformation


World Zionist Press Service

outskirts of Jerusalem, less
than 15 miles from its
southern approaches, a tale
of modern courage is inter-
woven with the thousands
of years of history associ-
ated with the Hebron Hills.
It was in these hills that
Abraham purchased the
cave in the field of
Machpelah that was the bu-
rial place of the patriarchs
and matriarchs. David, a
young shepherd boy, tended
his flocks in these hills and
later reigned in Hebron be-
fore Jerusale m was his capi-
tal. Many years later the
Maccabees revolted sac-
cessfull y against oppressors
of their religion in these
hills and restored the Tern-
plc in Jerusalem to its
former glory.
In 1948, another handful
of young men and women
took up the challenge of pro-
tecting their homes, as well
as Jerusalem to the north,
against enemy attack. Four
kibutzim, making up the
Etzion Bloc, formed a
Jewish enclave in the heart
of hostile Arab territory.
The serpentine road to
Jerusalem provided their
only artery of comrnunica-
tion to other
Jewish population, and they
could be easily cut off by the
Arabs from supplies of food,
. kerosene, water and
The Etzion Bloc was
originally purchased and
settled in 1929, and after

As history has its way,
late Yigal Allon in an in- dente. The bloc's defenders
troduction to a Hebrew fought heroically, but they since 1967 the Etzion Bloc
book on the role of the were outnumbered, and in- has seen another transfor-
bloc during the 1948 war. adequately equipped with mation and the area is once
As the former national anti-tank weapons to re- again settled by Jewish
farmers. After the Six-Day
commander of the Palmach pulse enemy armor . . ."
War, when the borders of Is-
(the strike force of the
Fighting with their last
Jewish defense units, the weapons, and almost to rael changed once more, the
and an early their last soldier, Kfar sons of many of the original
-., pioneer in the kibutz Etzion was stormed and settlers returned to this
movement, he recognized completely occupied. The rocky soil, first within the
the importance of a settler two-day battle and mas- army's Nahal framework
and then as settlers, to build
as a soldier. "Military units two-
sacre which ensued even
came and went and the de- ater sin-render left only their homes on the land for
which their fathers had
fense of the bloc would have
one member of the
been inconceivable without enlisted personnel alive, fought with such devotion
them, but the farmers re- a female communications and courage.
mained, wedded to the soil."
In addition to a reb,
operator. Of the 88
Kfar Etzion is visited in April 1943 by Rabbi Isaac
Arab villagers harassing settlers in the village at Kfar Etzion, which today
Herzog, who later became Israel's first chief rabbi.
the road and settlements the time of the battle, only boasts a population of 400
several settlement at- protecting Jerusalem's became more and more ef- nine lived.
I m- fective as a serious lack of
tempts in these rocky southern flank.
Kfar Etzion fell on May 2,000 Jewish settlers popu-
supplies, weapons and
slopes, Kibutz Kfar Etz-
, only one day be- late the nearby bloc of set-
manpower took their toll on 13, 1948 -
ion was founded in April of the UN resolution, Arab the
Jewish settlers. By Ap- fore the declaration of the tlements. The tragedy of
1943 by 13 settlers
t of the
state of Israel, one of he 1948 cannot be erased but
religious kibutz move- were stepped up and in the ril, the Arab Legion also very few Jewish settle- the flourishing Etzion Bloc
ment. Their isolation was Etzion Bloc the onslaught entered the conflict, and the ments to fall. Surviving de- of today provides a sound
relieved some years later began within two weeks. defenders of the Etzion Bloc, fenders of the bloc were foundation for belief in a
when three other collec- Supply convoys were am- after five months of resis- taken prisoner, and the better future according to
tive settlements — Mas- bushed and the first of many tance, realized that their southern approach to the biblical adage that "he
besieged area had become a
suot Yitzhak, Ein Tsurim casualties fell.
in tears shall reap
A massive effort was key strategic point in the Jerusalem was open to the who in sows
and Revadim — struck
enem y.
roots in the rocky soil.
tlements, but in one case 35
grew increas-
Surrounded by an esti- soldiers, the renowned
d in a two-
mated 85,000 Arabs in the Lamed-Heh, were killed ingly severe, and
day battle in May, Kafar
Hebron Hills, the Etzion
while crossing the moun-
Bloc contained 450 Jewish tains, and the Jerusalem- Etzion, defiant but now vir-
settlers (211 of whom were Hebron road became in- tually defenseless, was de-
women and children) when creasingly difficult to pass. feated, overrun completely
by enemy forces. "Against
the first stages of the Arab-
_ Mothers and children
Israeli conflict broke out in were evacuated to the bloc was directed a large
concentration of troops, and
9 the fall of 1 47. In
Jerusalem and the set-
ber of that year, in the tlements looked more particularly of armor and
artillery, the like of which
United Nations resolution
and more like army had never been mustered
on Jewish statehood, the encampments. "All of the
bloc was outside the pro- settlers, without excep- against any of our settle-
ments," according to Yigael
posed borders of Israel.
tion, took an active part Yadin, then chief of opera-
The Etzion Bloc had an in the defense of their vil- tions of the General Staff
Kfar Etzion today.
important role to play in lages," elaborates the during the War of Indepen-

Some Dilemmas of the Arab Minority in Israel


World Zionist Press Service

JERUSALEM — Israel's
population of four million
includes 639,000 Arab citi-
zens. One of the major chal-
lenges confronting the
country since independence
has been to integrate and
coexist with this 16 percent
minority, while assuring
both . the Jewish and the
democratic character of the
Israel's Arabs are by no
means homogeneous. The
half-million Moslems in-
cludes 50,000 desert Be-
douin tribesmen, while the
remainder are divided
evenly between urban and
rural dwellers. Then there
are 90,000 Christian Arabs
and 50,000 Druze, a very
separate Moslem sect. (The
115,000 Jerusalem Arabs
are outside the scope of this
Not all the groups have
reacted identically towards
the establishment of the
Jewish state. The Bedouin
tribesmen and Druze have a

reputation for fierce loyalty
and serving tenaciously in
the Israeli army. In fact the
Druze, who have compul-
sory army service, won
proportionately more med-
als for bravery than Jewish
soldiers. For the Arab popu-
lation in general, there is no
Insofar as one can
generalize, Christian
Arabs have tended to
look more sympatheti-
cally on the authorities,
but urban Arabs in
places like Nazareth take
a more suspicious view-
point. Village Arabs have
in general been a source
of support for Israel. The
Communist Party, which
has bitterly opposed gov-
ernmental policy, both
Labor and Likud, wins
most of its votes in the
Arab sector.
Mohammed Wattad, cur-
rently serving his first term
as a Knesset member, re-
presents Mapam, the left-
wing partners in the Labor
Alignment. Anti-extremist

"Unless such steps are
play of his entitled "Coexis-
tence" was recently staged taken," says Wattad, "it will
be increasingly difficult for
at the Haifa theater.
"Most Israeli Arabs are us moderates to argue for
grateful for the democratic the Israeli cause." What he
system which has given us seems to be saying is that if
an opportunity to make loyalty is indivisible, so is
progress and express our equality.
Wattad feels he repre-
aspirations," he explains.
"But of course minorities sents the silent majority of
have a tough time Israeli Arabs. He makes no
everywhere and changes bones about his recognition
are imperative if we are to of Zionism as a legitimate
movement of national lib-
achieve true equality."
Wattad sees the highly eration for the Jewish
centralized system of gov- people but he is equally firm
ernment in Israel as operat- in demanding the _ same
ing against the widely- rights for the Palestinian
differing Arab needs. He , people on the West Bank
feels that more power and Gaza. Seeing himself as
should-be given to regional a Palestinian, he regards
Arab authorities to or- his first loyalties to his own
ganize their own local af- village but he points out
fairs, and in particular they that his children might
require larger budgets to choose otherwise.
"The younger genera-
get things done.
He sees the massive in- tion of Arabs expect
jection of money into more," he says. "When I
Jewish schools, hospitals explain to my son how
and new settlements, hard times were in the vil-
while he claims similar lage when I was his age,
An Arab mother with Arab facilities receive a he tells me I am like a
fraction of this. He re- pioneer for the Second
her son.
gards this as the greatest Aliya! The youngsters do
source of resentment not want to compare
conditions with ours of a
among Arabs.
Wattad is also campaign- generation ago but with
ing for a law (along the lines neighboring Jewish vil-
of those existing in the U.S. lages. Otherwise the talk
and Britain) which would of equality sounds
outlaw explicit racial dis- hypocritical. The unre-
crimination. At present a solved situation in the
Jew can refuse to sell his West Bank and Gaza is
apartment to an Arab and also hardening atti-

but outspoken on behalf of
what he considers to be the
basic interests of Israeli
Arabs, he was born in 1937
in the village of Jat, near
Natanya. Equally at
home in Arabic and in
Hebrew as journalist,.
broadcaster, poet aicd
playwright, he is a crusader
for coexistence. In fact a

But Wattad is optimistic
that a mutually-agreeable
formula can be found by
which Jews and Arabs can
coexist in Israel. He feels
that all Israelis, except
those on the far right,
realize that the country's
future survival depends on -
peace with the Arabs both
within and around Israel.
However, many Israelis
support the "status quo" by
which Arabs are given less
funds by the government
than Jews. The reluctance
of Arabs to serve in the
army and the suggestion
that the wealthy Arabs
should contribute to the
well-being of Israel's Arabs,
as the Diaspora gives for Is-
rael's Jews, are cited as ex-
plaining and even justifying
this imbalance. -
Some alarmists point to
the higher birth rate of Is-
rael's Arabs and claim
the Jewish majority it
country is being eroded.
In 1970, for the Arabs
the average number of
children was 7.65 per
family, the highest rate of
surviving children in the
world, but it is consis-
tently falling.
Mohammed Wattad says
neither Arabs nor Jews de-
sire an American-style
melting pot. Israeli society
is a mosaic. It is a Jewish
state in which different cul-
tures live alongside each
other as equals.

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