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May 25, 1984 - Image 86

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

86

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, May 25, 1984

NEWS

Lost honor is finally restored to Kibbutz Nitzanim

BY ODED LIPSCHITZ
Jerusalem — Kibbutz
Nitzanim, situated about 30
miles south of Tel Aviv, fell
into Egyptian hands on
June 7, 1948. In the weeks
preceding the battle, the
young kibbutz was hit by in-
tensive artillery fire and
pounded by non-stop bomb-
ing from the air.
The battle for Nitzanim
lasted 20 hours, from mid-
night until the following af-
ternoon. Large military
forces, backed up by tanks,
armored vehicles and artil-
lery, fought against 140 de-
fenders of the kibbutz, in-
cluding 67 men and women
settlers. The remainder
were members of the Givati
Brigade who were mobilized
a few months earlier from
the villages and towns in
the south of Israel.
The defenders possessed
only light arms, old-
fashioned rifles and
machine guns quite ineffec-
tive in halting tanks.
Nevertheless, they put up
an obstinate and heroic
struggle. When the Egyp-
tians broke through to the
northern section of the kib-
butz, the defenders re-
treated from post to post
until they were driven back
to a single house. They fi-
nally surrendered after 33
fighters had been killed and
dozens wounded and with
the house at the point of col-
lapse. It was clear that the
battle had become a point-
less slaughter.
The defenders of Nit-
zanim spent some nine
months as prisoners of the
Egyptians, who tortured
and degraded them. Theirs
is a story of true heroism,
one of many that happened
at the time. Three weeks
previously, on May 14,
1948, the State of Israel had
been established and from
that day onwards it fought,
with the few arms that it
has purchased wherever it
could, against the five well-
trained and well-equipped
Arab armies which invaded
the state and threatened to
destroy it.
Other kibbutzim which
fought similar battles be-
came a symbol, including
such places as Yad Mor-
dechai and Kfar Etzion
which were forced to sur-
render when the fighting
was over. To this day, these
tales of valor are part of Is-
raeli youths' education. Is-
raelis and visitors alike
make pilgrimages to those
heroic battlegrounds so as
to learn ofand pay tribute to
those who were, as the poet
Alterman wrote, "the silver
platter upon which the
Jewish state was served to
you" (based on Chaim
Weizmann's statement that
"a state is not handed to a
people on a silver platter").
In the case of Nitzanim, a
tragedy occurred: when the
prisoners-of-war returned
4.
; •

The house in Kibbutz Nitzanim where the Jewish settlers
surrendered to the Egyptians during the War of
Independence.

Kibbutz Nitzanim today.

home they were accused of
surrender without justifica-
tion and cowardice in battle
in the presence of the
enemy.

On the day that Nitzanim
fell, Abba Kovner, a poet
who was serving as the cul-
tural officer of the Givati
Brigade and who had been
among the Vilna Ghetto
heroes, issued a combat
leaflet on behalf of the
brigade's command in
which he denounced the fall
of Nitzanim as a "failure"
and a "disgrace." Kovner
stated that ". . . one does not
defend one's home condi-
tionally . . . in order to sur-
render. As long as there is
life in one's body and a bul-
let in one's magazine, it is
shameful to do so! To go into
enemy captivity is both
wicked' and disgraceful."
The leaflet was signed by
Shimeon Avidan, legendary
Palmach leader and com-
mander of Givati, who suc-
ceeded in halting and turn-
ing back the Egyptian army
20 miles from Tel Aviv.
After the war, in 1949, a
military committee of in-
quiry was set up which con-
cluded that Nitzanim's
members had fought with
courage and determination.
However, the report was in-
adequately publicized and
for the next 36 years Nit-
zanim's members and even

.

their children lived in the
shadow of the "shame."
Last Dec. 15, Shimeon
Avidan appeared on a tele-
vision program about the
re-establishment of the
famous Givati Brigade.
Over 70 now, the fit and
active kibbutznik was
shown at work in Ein
Hashofet's factory and then
came to Nitzanim, intend-
ing to use the occasion to
correct the injustice that
had been done to the fight-
ers. But his words were cut
short by the editors of the
TV program and were un-
derstood as a renewed con-
demnation of Nitzanim's
surrender.

The broadcast re-opened
the painful wounds of the
past and led to a wide public
discussion of the subject.

On Dec. 28, 1983 Shimeon
Avidan appeared at a
stormy and dramatic meet-
ing with Nitzanim's mem-
bers who demanded that he
clear their names. Avidan
readily agreed and added
that if there had indeed
been a failure at Nitzanim it
was that of the Brigade
under his command which
was incapable of aiding the
local defenders, rather than
a failure of the fighters in
the besieged kibbutz.

In order to understand
why Nitzanim was de-

nounced and rehabilitated
it is necessary to know what
had been happening on the
southern front at the time.
Long before the United Na-
tions decided on the estab-
lishment of the State of Is-
rael, it Was obvious that the
state's borders would be de-
termined, politically and
militarily, by Jewish set-
tlement in various regions
of the country. In October
1946, 11 kibbutzim were
founded in a secret and
lightning operation in the
Negev, which had few
Jewish settlments at the
time. The aim was to estab-
lish a political fact as well as
to prepare a chain of for-
tified defensive outposts in
view of the expected Arab
invasion.
Immediately following
the United Nations resolu-
tion on partition which ap-
proved the establishment of
a Jewish state in
part of Palestine, fight-
ing began over the south
and the Negev. Avidan's
Givati Brigade fought on
the outskirts of Tel Aviv
and later participated in the
attempts to break through
the road to besieged
Jerusalem.
On the eve of the procla-
mation of the state's inde-
pendence on May 14, 1948,
the Givati Brigade moved
south in order to block the
expected Egyptian inva-
sion. The situation was des-
perate. The few settlements
there — including Nirim,
Kfar Darom, Yad Mor-
dechai and Negba — fought
courageously at great cost
in human life in an attempt
to halt the invaders. Never-
theless, the Egyptian forces
continued to advance
northwards.
Elderly settlers dug posts
and fortified positions at
night and their sons fought
in them during the day. The
only hope of success was the
modern weaponry about to
arrive from Czechoslovakia.
The question was whether
they would manage to get it
to the front before the Egyp-
tians conquered Tel Aviv.
Blocking the latter's ad-
vance meant one thing only:
every soldier and settler
had to fight in his post to the
last bullet. However,
alongside the revelations of
bravery there were signs of
panic and despair too.
This critical stage saw the
fall of Nitzanim, the most
northerly settlement on the
strategic coastal road which
had been overrun by the
Egyptians. The Egyptians
had learned the lessons of
the previous battles in the
other settlements and con-
centrated against Nitzanim
unprecedented forces which
enabled them to overcome it
in one day's combat. The
Givati command, which did
not even have radio contact
with the encircled settle-
ment, could not follow the

course of the battle and
thought that its fighters
would last until midnight,
when they planned to send
reinforcements udner cover
of darkness.
The news of the fall of
Nitzanim was received with
dismay and sorrow. The
reaction was the publica-
tion of the leaflet which was
actually intended to
encourage the fighters in
the other settlements and

fortified posts, rather than
condemn Nitzanim.
Now that the stigma of
shame has been removed
from them, Nitzanim's
settlers can once again hold
their heads high in pride. It
has taken a long time, but
now the record has been set
straight and Kibbutz Nit-
zanim has won its right'
place in the history of
rael's War of Independence.

World Zionist Press Service

OBITUARIES

Ann Feldman

Dr. Goldberg

Ann Feldman, active in
Jewish women's organiza-
tions, died May 18 at age 63.
She was a member of
Cong. B'nai Moshe. Hadas-
sah, Women's American
ORT, City of Hope and the
National Council of Jewish
Women.
She leaves her husband,
William; a son, Dr. Lawr-
ence of Chicago, Ill.; two
daughters, Mrs. Jan
(Nancy) Rozen of
Swampscott, Mass. and
Mrs. Zev (Ronna) Garoon of
Buffalo Grove, Ill.; three
sisters, Mrs. Irving (Hen-
rietta) Kasper of Tujunga,
Calif.; Mrs. Robert (Bunnie)
Leach and Mrs. Harold
(Marlene) Phillips; and
three grandchildren.

Dr. Arthur Goldberg, a
Detroit-area physician, died
May 19.

Sol l. Stein

Sol I. Stein, a certified
public accountant who was
self-employed in the Detroit
area for more than 50 years,
died May 21.
Born in Chicago, Mr.
Stein, 72, was a past
president and founding
member of Temple Israel,
its men's club and Boy Scout
troop. He was a past board
member of Metropolitan
Hospital, a past president of
the Probus Club and he was
a Shriner.
He leaves a son, Robert;
two daughters, Mrs. Arnold
(Marjorie) Fuller and Gari
Stein-Glaser; and ten
grandchildren.

Helen Fuller

Helen Fuller, active in
Jewish organizations, died
May 23.
Mrs. Fuller, 78, was born
in Poland. She was a
member of Cong. Shaarey
Zedek and its sisterhood,
HadasSah and Women's
American ORT. •
She leaves three sons,
Arnold, Sheldon, and Irving
of Beverly Hills, Calif.; two
daughters, Mrs. Hugh (Lil-
lian) Kopel and Mrs.
Robert (May Ruth) Wexler;
a sister, Mrs. Mary Nagan;
and 15 grandchildren.
Services on Sunday at Ira
Kaufman Chapel.
,

14.'1.

Dr. 'Goldberg was a
graduate of the University
of Michigan and earned his
M.D. degree in 1935 from
the Wayne State University
School of Medicine. He was
a founder and former chief
of staff of North Detroit
General Hospital and
served on its board of trus-
tees until his retirement
three years ago.

Dr. Goldberg, 74, was a
member of the Wayne
County and American med-
ical associations, and served
in the Army Medical Corps
during World War II. He
was a former officer of Per-
fection Lodge of the Masons,
was a member of Temple Is-
rael and was active in the
Allied Jewish Campaign.

He leaves his wife, Onnie;
a son, Dr. Edward; a daugh-
ter, Susan Layne; a brother,
Charles Gilson; a sister,
Mrs. Louis (Mae) Marko of
Laguna Hills, Calif.; and
five grandsons.

.

Henry Rosin

Henry Rosin, 81, a retired
Detroit attorney, died May
18.

A native of New York,
Mr.. Rosin graduated from
the University of Michigan
Law School in 1926. A spe-
cialist in corporate law, he
was a member of the M .
gan Bar Association an
Crisis Club.
He was an accomplished
Violinist.
He leaves two sons, Merle
and Dr. Glenn; a daughter,
Mrs. Fred (Audry)
Kapitansky of Columbus,
Ohio; two brothers, Dr.
George, and 'Gabriel
of Hartsdale, N.Y.; a sis-
ter, Mrs. Irving (Annette)
Levine of W. Hartford,
Conn.; 12 grandchildren
and three great-
.grandchildren.... • -

.

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