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 Settling Gush Eztion

 The Third Attempt to Renew Settlement

 The demand to redeem the mountain area from its desolation and restore the Jewish character to Mount Hebron as in days of yore did not abate.   The task of renewing the Jewish community in Etzion was entrusted to the “Kvutzat Avraham” members of HaPoel HaMizrahi. They were veterans of the HaShomer HaDati movement and Bnei Akiva in Poland, who had immigrated to the land of Israel and had established a training group near the religious Moshav Kfar-Pines. Most of the group’s members had emigrated from Poland during the Nazi reign in Germany. Many of them had defied the British blockade and boarded the “illegal” immigration ships, while members of their family were being exterminated. After many discussions and internal difficulties, the group decided that it would agree to the settlement institutions’ demand to settle the mountain despite the expected difficulties of which they were fully aware.  The main reasons prompting this decision were: (1) the inherent importance of renewing Jewish settlement in the Hebron Hills; (2) recognition of the pioneering-Zionist value inherent in  the objective of settling this Jewish region; (3) the ardent desire to redeem Jewish lands that had been purchased previously on the mountain; (4) the apprehension that these lands could again revert to Arab ownership; and (5) the aspiration to develop a new settlement area to absorb Holocaust refugees from Europe.

 

On 25 Nisan 5703 (4.30.1943), the members of “Kvutzat Avraham” accompanied by Palmach members ascended the mountain for the third time, and founded the religious Kibbutz Kfar Etzion.

 

Aside from the inherent historical value of resettling the area, this measure had immense political importance.  The Zionist-political policy had already been determined in the Tel-Hai era: The future boundary of the Jewish state would be determined by the place where the Jewish plow tilled the last furrow. Tel-Hai and Hanita had demonstrated the success of this policy in the battle to determine the boundaries of the Galilee. The stockade and watchtower communities for their part established the boundaries of the Beit Shan Valley and the Western Galilee; Gush Etzion, was similarly expected to link the Hebron Hills, replete with hostile Arab villages, to the boundaries of the State of Israel in the making.

The Proclamation of Planting the First Trees 

 

“With the help of hashem, Kvutzat-Avraham-Kfar Etzion, 26 Shvat, 5704

 

On the 26th day of Shvat in the fifth millennium, 5704, in the fifth year of the Second World War, upon the first anniversary of our ascent to Kfar Etzion, we, the members of Kvutzat-Avraham of the HaPoel HaMizrahi Organization, are about to plant fruit and forest trees in order to fulfill the Torah’s commandment ‘when you shall arrive in the land then you shall plant’…’because [hashem] didn’t create the world to be desolate but to be settled.’

 

When the rivers of blood of our tormented brothers are being spilled like water and the world is treading in its own blood, we have come here to build and plant and strike deep roots in the Judean Hills, because these plantings constitute a new path to our redemption and deliverance.  We were detached in the Diaspora and such detachment was the terrible affliction of our people in foreign lands.  We need to be rooted and firmly hold the soil of our homeland, and we are therefore performing this labor here.

These trees that we planted today will serve as a symbol, a symbol of the path that we have chosen as national pioneers, a pact with the soil of our homeland – ‘for man is akin to the tree in the field.’  The deep roots of the trees will remind us of our obligation to hold fast to the practical world; in building, planting and labor.  The tall branches rising high will raise us, to understand the ways of our Maker and always strive to achieve ethical wholeness and preserve the sanctity of life.  This is the path of our ancient fathers and this is our path as pioneers of Torah-Ve’avoda (labor).

 

Two thousand years ago the surrounding mountains reverberated with the chants of the trees and the joyous cries of life.  Today they stand bare in their desolation. Upon our ascent to Kfar Etzion we have taken an oath: we will not rest and we will not be still until we have redeemed the mountain tops from the disgrace of desolation, and until we have covered them with a sheath of fruit and forest trees that will chime with the song of national rebirth.  This will fulfill the words of the prophet ‘But ye o mountains of Israel you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruits to my people Israel… and you shall be filled and sown; and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the waste places shall be built’ (Ezekiel XXXVI: 8-10).

Blessed is he who kept us alive and sustained us and helped us reach this era.”

 

Shalom Karniel (May hashem avenge him)

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