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August 19, 1988 - Image 82

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-19

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Beyond The Green Line

A cluster of communities just minutes south of Jerusalem have

different reasons for rebuilding a Jewish presence in Judea

tifada, now in its eighth month, is
temporarily out of sight as the op-
Associate Publisher
pressive mid-afternoon sun drives
lll erusalem — Perched atop those under scrutiny behind closed
Herodian, the volcano- doors and pulled blinds.
But for those living in "The
shaped mountaintop for-
tress fashioned some 2,000 Gush," the cluster of Jewish towns,
years ago as an escape kibbutzim, settlements and
route from Jerusalem for the _ cooperatives situated midway bet-
paranoid King Herod, a pair of Israeli ween Bethlehem and Hebron, the
soldiers take turns peering through uprising is never out of mind. Fresh
mammoth field glasses, scanning arid headlines about King Hussein's ap-
parent change of heart regarding
valleys and parched hills.
lb the north, less than 10 miles soverignty over the West Bank and oc-
away, the Jerusalem Plaza hotel and casional stones tossed from a refugee
Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus are camp alongside the main road to
Jerusalem see to that.
visible to the naked eye.
From a distance, the Gush Etsion
"They never pull their window
blinds," one of the soldiers jokes as he region appears similar to most
momentarily focithes his field glasses enclaves in Judea or Samaria .. .
Jews choosing to live in the entire
on the Jerusalem skyline.
This day, as with most, the focus land of Israel without regard for
is on the Arab villages below and por- "green lines" separating the modern-
tions of nearby Bethlehem. The in- day state from its biblical roots.



Tzvi Lando, Tekoa councilman, tells visitors about his community while Israeli security forces
watch from their jeep.



Within this approximately
10-square-mile area, the Maccabees
are believed to have waged war — and
lost — against the Assyrian Greeks,
Bar Kochba to have led his rebellion
against the Romans and to have
sought refuge in nearby caves and
Abraham, with the youthful Isaac in
hand, to have travelled to Jerusalem
for his son's sacrifice.
But if the soldiers pointed their
field glasses to the south and west,
where "The Gush" is located, they
would see the complexities associated
with Jewish settlement on land that
would be in the heart of virtually any
Palestinian entity, should one emerge
with or without Jordanian

with field glasses from Jerusalem,
served as a symbol of their absence
from the land. The tree is "The
Gush's" emotional epicenter, with its
residents vowing not to leave it again.
lbday, more than 10,000 Jews —
85 percent of them Orthodox — live
in Gush Etsion. This compares to ap-
proximately 500 who lived there in
1948, according to Walk. He
estimates that 100 Arabs live in the
same area, though as many as
100,000 are situated in surrounding
villages and towns.



f the oak tree is "The Gush's"
emotional focal point, then the
new city of Efrat is emerging as
its commercial and educational hub.
Its handsome townhouse-style
strip shopping center with a
t was erev Yom Ha'atzmaut,
1948. Despite battles waged supermarket, butcher shop, fruit
between Jew and Arab since the stand, gift store and kosher pizzaria,
November 1947 United Nations par- and preponderance of white-collar
tition vote creating Jewish and professionals who commute to work in
Palestinian states, there was a festive Jerusalem give it a suburban
atmosphere in Jerusalem in anticipa- ambiance.
"We can become the Englewood,
tion of David Ben-Gurion proclaiming
New Jersey, of Jerusalem," quips Rab-
the state of Israel.
Then, the horrifying news reach- bi Shlomo Riskin, referring to the af-
ed Palmach headquarters and fanned fluent bedroom community outside
throughout the city and countryside. Manhattan. Rabbi Riskin, along with
Kfar Etsion, situated on a strategic Moshe Moskovitz, created Efrat on an
hill between Bethlehem and Hebron empty hill in the area where biblical
and under seige for six months, was Efrat may have been situated.
In biblical times, Efrat was a pro-
overrun by the Arab Legion.
After consulting with Palmach vincial area referred to in Genesis as
commanders by radio, the Jewish Rachel's burial place and in Samuel
defenders raised the flag of surrender, as the area where King David lived.
After agreeing to build Efrat in
destroyed their weapons and prepared
to meet their conquerors. Instead, 1976, the town's first families moved
after a brief photo session, they were there in April 1983 "and by February
met with gunfire. One-hundred-fifty- 1984, he (Moskovitz) was the mayor
one unarmed men were lined up and and I was the rabbi;' Rabbi Riskin
massacred. Four eluded the carnage said.
Today, Efrat has 2,000 residents,
and found their way to Jerusalem to
more than 100 houses under construc-
report the gruesome details.
David Walk, a resident of nearby tion — and already sold — seven
Efrat, holds back tears as he retells synagogues, a kollel, a women's col-
the story of Kfar Etsion, standing on lege and a blend of religious and
the site where the slaughter occurred. coeducational classroom settings for
The massacre is known by school students.
Half its residents are native
children throughout Israel and its vic-
tims held in equal esteem with the Israelis and, except for a pocket of
Maccabees. The annual Yom South Africans, the balance are
Hazikaron services at the Mt. Herzl American . . . many, including David
military cemetery make special men- Walk, who came under Rabbi Riskin's
tion of the defenders of Kfar Etsion. charismatic influence during his days
Not until the Six-Day War in 1967 at Yeshiva University and as spiritual
did Jews return to the Etsion bloc, leader of the prestigious Lincoln
rebuilding homes and reclaiming Square synagogue in New York.
"We're shooting for 5,000 families
what had been their land prior to
1948. The oak of return — allon within a decade," said Riskin, op-
shevut — majestic, tall and visible timistic that a long-promised road


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