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Gush Etzion

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Gush Etzion was originally a bloc of four Kibbutzim (communal settlements) on the main road from Hebron to Jerusalem, first established in the 1940s, destroyed in 1948 by Arab irregulars and the Arab Legion and resettled by Israel in 1967.

Before 1948, the Etzion bloc was settled and resettled three times, on land purchased by the Jews, beginning in 1927. In each case, residents were forced to abandon their homes in the face of Arab violence. The final saga of the Etzion bloc included two separate massacres and a prolonged and stubborn defense against hopeless odds. The bloc was finally overrun by soldiers of the British armed and officered Jordan Legion, who were responsible for the final massacre of surrendered defenders.

The original settlement in this area was called Migdal Eder. It was built on land purchased from local Arabs by the Zichron David Company. It was founded in 1927. The pioneers included orthodox Yemenite Jews. During the Arab riots of 1929, Migdal Eder settlers were evacuated to the Russian Orthodox monastery and then to the Arab village of Beit Umar, and in turn they were evacuated to Jerusalem by British mandate police. The British made no attempt to guard the settlement or safeguard property, and it was completely destroyed.

Additional lands were purchased by the El Hahar Company, which founded a kibbutz called Kfar Etzion in 1934. Like Migdal Edder, Kfar Etzion was abandoned during the Arab violence of 1936-1939 and destroyed by the Palestinian Arabs.

A third attempt to settle the area was made beginning in 1942 under the auspices of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet). Kfar Etzion was re-founded in the Spring of 1943. In October 1945, a second kibbutz, Massuot Yitzchak, was added. Its members were Holocaust survivors from Eastern and Central Europe. A third Kibbutz, Ein Tzurim, was founded in 1946 by Israeli members of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist movement. All three kibbutzim belonged to the religious Zionist movement, but in February 1947, a fourth kibbutz, Revadim, was established by the Marxist Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement. A young student visited these kibbutzim in October of 1947 and wrote of their enthusiasm and dedication (see Visit to the doomed: Gush Etzion, October 1947) There was just one looming problem:

The only problem is that they are smack in the heart of Arab territory. So what sense of security can there be?

Indeed, it proved impossible to defend the settlement, which was in territory allocated to the Arab state by the UN partition decision. It was finally overrun on May 14, 1948, just as the new Israeli state was coming into being. Two groups of defenders were massacred in separate actions. The looting began before the conquest was completed. Every remnant of the original settlements was erased by the Arab conquerors, who uprooted thousands of trees as well as destroying the buildings of the settlement. (see Gush Etzion Remembered - The Kfar Etzion Massacre).

The survivors of Massuot Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim founded new communities inside "green line" Israel. to the west of the original sites. The survivors of Kfar Etzion eventually founded Nir Etzion in the Mount Carmel area near Haifa.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel came to control the area of the Etzion Bloc, but did not annex it. Survivors of the original settlements, who had been children in 1948, now grown, petitioned Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to allow the reestablishment of Kfar Etzion. This was granted. The settlement of Rosh Tzurim was founded on the former site of Ein Tzurim and Revadim, and Kfar Etzion's poultry houses have been built in the area of Massuot Yitzchak. Many other settlements and two municipalities have been founded in the area, and the name Gush Etzion was given to the greater Gush Etzion Regional Council, which encompasses close to 40,000 residents.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

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