The Lamed Hey: Convoy of 35 – Israel at 75 Part 2


Today, the Etzion bloc is home to more than 20,000 Jews. But back in 1948, roughly 500 Jews lived in the tiny parcel of land nestled between Hebron and Jerusalem. The four isolated, vulnerable kibbutzim of the bloc were an easy target for Arab attacks. But the Jews of Etzion weren’t going down without a fight. And the Palmach – the Haganah’s elite strike force – would do anything to keep these tiny communities strong and well-supplied. Like sending a convoy of 35 fighters weighed down with supplies through miles of hostile territory. But war is hell. And the story of Gush Etzion, and the brave convoy that supplied it, is both a tragedy – and a story of brotherhood, heroism, and resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

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I think of this podcast like a buffet. I love good food, so that’s a good thing. You can just graze, taking whatever looks good. Interested in the history of terrorism in the Middle East but not, say, the story of Israel’s national anthem? That’s cool. Listen to our episode on Hamas, skip the one on Hatikvah. But this three-part series is a little different – more of a three-course meal than a buffet, each component best enjoyed in context.

What I’m trying to say with this increasingly convoluted simile, other than I’m really hungry, and I have fettuccine alfredo waiting for me in the other room right now, is that if you haven’t listened to the previous episode yet, which is called “The Rift,” now is the time. Context matters here. Because today’s episode is about a particularly bloody incident in the war of the roads. An episode that almost instantly transformed Israel’s story about itself.

Remember, Israel did not officially exist as a modern state until Ben-Gurion declared independence. But the six months between Partition, in November of ’47, and Independence, in May of ’48, indelibly shaped Israel’s national consciousness. And perhaps no story better illustrates that than the one I’m about to tell you today.

Welcome to chapter two of our three-part series, entitled, The Lamed Hey, the 35.

The road to Jerusalem is narrow and winding. And, in 1948, highly dangerous.

The UN had tried to carve up Palestine as equitably as it knew how. But borders, like the people who live within them, are far more complicated than they look on a map. Then as now, the land’s inhabitants lived side by side. And so it was inevitable that some Arab communities fell within the borders of the Jewish state, and equally inevitable that a few small Jewish communities dotted the territory officially allotted to the Arabs. Like the four kibbutzim of Gush Etzion, also known as the Etzion Bloc – a parcel of land located between the sacred cities of Jerusalem and Hebron. To those who might be familiar with the Gush, it sounds crazy – wait, this was supposed to be part of an Arab state? But it’s true. And then as now, Gush Etzion functioned as a microcosm of the entire Zionist project.

Let’s take a step back. If you’re listening to this podcast, you already know that Zionism is an explosive word. That it carries different meanings for different people. So I’ll put it as simply as possible. At its most basic level, Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Though I really hate to say that Zionism is a “belief,” because I see Zionism as much more a verb than anything else. Zionism is what someone does, not thinks about.

Anyway…I’d argue that the Zionism of 1948 took on an additional dimension. One that it might be hard for us to understand from 2023. Because for us, Israel is a fact. Sure, it’s complex and controversial and contested. But most of us listening have never lived in a world without a Jewish state.

At its most basic level, Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Though I see Zionism as much more a verb than anything else. Zionism is what someone does, not thinks about.

The Jews of the Yishuv, however, did. True, they lived in their ancestral homeland, but they had to fight for it, tooth and nail. And there were no guarantees that their state would survive the invasion of Arab armies that they knew was coming. So their Zionism was shot through with stubbornness. They clung as hard as they could to the fragile communities they had coaxed into existence. So it didn’t matter if their homes fell within the borders of the Jewish state or the Arab one. They had built their lives here. And they refused to be uprooted.

Today, Gush Etzion is home to more than 20,000 Jews, spread across over 20 communities. If you’ve never been there, I actually think it’s a critically important place to visit — not only because it’s beautiful, but because it’s really important to understanding Israel’s history. You see, the bloc has a rocky history. Its very first modern Jewish community was established in 1927 by religious Yemenite Jews. The community faced harsh physical conditions – not to mention tension with the neighbors – and was destroyed in the riots of 1929. An attempt to revive the community in 1935 ended violently, thanks to the Arab revolt in 1936.

Beitar Illit, the largest Israeli settlement in Gush Etzion, was founded in 1985. Photo from 2013. (Courtesy: Bet Hashalom at Hebrew Wikipedia)

But hey, third time’s the charm, right? Because the religious Jews who planted their flag in Etzion were determined to reclaim this patch of land where their ancestors had lived and farmed and worshiped. And so they returned, undaunted, to the site of two previous, destroyed communities, and tried once more.

By 1948, the Etzion bloc was home to four small kibbutzim: Kfar Etzion, Masuot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim. All four were testament to the tenacity – some might say stubbornness – of religious Zionism. But Etzion’s Jewish community was tiny: a mere 450 Jews in the heart of a future Arab state. These Jews may have been stubborn, but they were not naive.

As 1947 bled into 1948 and the civil war grew increasingly violent, the communities of Etzion braced themselves for an attack. By the first week of January 1948, two of the kibbutzim had evacuated their mothers and children, knowing that the wolf was at their door. One of the men left behind later wrote: “The departure of the mothers and children has left an aching void in the village. The family quarters are sad. Everything recalls the life of the families that have now been rent in two.”

So why stay? Why eke out a home in such hostile territory? Why live in a place so dangerous you have to send your children away? It’s a fair question. One that many people still ask of the Jewish communities in the West Bank. And to be honest, I’m not sure the answers have changed much in the past 75 years.

The religious or romantic might point out that Jewish history is embedded in this land. Our ancestors’ footsteps sunk in its sands. The pragmatists might be less poetic, gesturing to the crematoria of Auschwitz and Majdanek, the destroyed Jewish communities of Algeria and Yemen, as if to say What other choice do we have? And dyed-in-the-wool nationalists might point out that The communities of Etzion form a protective barrier around the heart of our nation: Jerusalem.

Back in ’48, these tiny agricultural communities were the only thing standing between the Jewish state’s spiritual capital – which was home to 100,000 Jews – and thousands of hostile Arabs. The people of Etzion were religious, yes, but they were also practical. They were well aware of the strategic importance of their home. And I’d argue that it was their faith that allowed them to stand, bravely, unflinchingly, on Jerusalem’s front lines.

A view of the orchard of Kfar Etzion and the kibbutz above it, April 30, 1947. (Photo: Zoltan Kluger/Israeli National Photo Archive/Wikipedia Commons)

And they were not alone in this conviction. Israel is tiny, it’s like really, really small. And as Ben-Gurion reflected in a speech to the Zionist Council in April of 1948: “No distinction can be drawn between the front lines and the home front. All of us – important and unimportant, men and women, old and young – are at the front, whether we like it or not.” From the start, the future Prime Minister had insisted that no territory be abandoned. That the Jews cling as hard as possible to the communities they’d carved out of the dust.

But I want to be clear about something important. Something that might otherwise get lost as I’m telling this story. The Gush Etzion some of you may know today is thirty times larger than the historic Etzion bloc. Thirty times. Gush Etzion has become more or less synonymous with the entire parcel of land between Jerusalem and Hebron. And its expansion was not solely a matter of self-defense. (It was, partially!) Some of the modern communities of Gush Etzion are built on privately-owned Palestinian land that the Israeli government has since declared to be “public land.”

I’m prepared to bet that some of you are howling in rage right now. Noam, who talks all the time about nuance, roundly condemning Jews who live in their ancestral homeland? But I’m not condemning. I’m stating a fact that is important for you to know, regardless of your political beliefs. The bravery and tenacity of Etzion’s first Jewish communities have since become Israeli legend. And that legend has, in turn, allowed new communities to spring up under the Etzion name – even if they aren’t technically inside the original bloc of Jewish-owned land.

If this season of the podcast has a theme, it’s that we need to investigate our legends. Ascertain what’s hiding in their nooks and crannies. Figure out who, or what, is hitching a ride on their backs. That kind of interrogation does not take away from the bravery of the original Etzion communities, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t detract from the heroism I’m about to describe. And it doesn’t delegitimize the Zionist project at all. Because as we’ve said in previous episodes: myths flatten nuance. Reality is far more compelling.

If this season of the podcast has a theme, it’s that we need to investigate our legends. Ascertain what’s hiding in their nooks and crannies.

Etzion’s Jews knew they faced a harsh reality back in the early days of 1948. And yet, with the exception of the mothers and children who had been evacuated, all four communities stayed put, knowing exactly what kind of danger they faced.

Their enemy had a face and a name and a reputation. We talked about him briefly in the last episode, but now, it’s his time to shine. Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini was practically Jerusalem royalty. His uncle, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, was the mufti of Jerusalem – and if that name doesn’t sound familiar, well, check out the links in the show notes for more on him.

But Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini wasn’t content to rest on the laurels of his family name. He’d earned quite a reputation as a warrior during the Arab Revolt of 1936, which definitely needs its own episode. And though he’d fled Palestine in 1938, he returned a decade later, ready to fight the Zionists as commander of the Army of Jihad.

(Nerd corner alert: when the UN voted to partition Palestine, Husseini was living in Cairo. And guess who remembers visiting his house there? None other than future PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, who would one day spar with Husseini’s son, Faisal, for control of Palestinian leadership. Man, history is wild.)

Husseini set his sights on the Etzion bloc, a mere four miles from his home base in the West Bank village of Tsurif. The Jewish bloc probably seemed like an easy target: isolated, vulnerable, small, home to a significant number of Holocaust survivors. (Though, to be fair, I’m not sure if Husseini was aware of that last fact.) His preferred tactic was known in Arabic as faz’ah, or panic. The strategy was simple: gather as many fighters from the surrounding villages as possible, and let ’em loose on Jewish communities. It should have worked in tiny, vulnerable Etzion.

Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini with his troops prior to the January 1948 attack on Kfar Etzion. Photograph taken by a Palmach spy. (Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons)

See, Husseini and his men were smart. They didn’t immediately assault the bloc. They surrounded it first, cutting it off from valuable supplies. Over a thousand local Arabs joined Husseini’s men in the siege, among them women and children with empty suitcases. The men would slaughter. The women would plunder. But the suitcases would remain empty for a while longer.

As the sun crested over the Judean hills on the morning of January 14, 1948, Husseini finally launched his attack, leading 1,000 fighters towards the tiny communities of Gush Etzion. (By the way, this number doesn’t include the women and children who had joined the siege. These were soldiers.) The kibbutzim were totally surrounded, with nowhere to run. By rights, the battle should have been a bloodbath.

And it was. But not for the Jews.

The Haganah’s elite strike force, the Palmach, had been preparing for the attack. Commander Uzi Narkiss instructed his men to hide along the edges of the kibbutzim, waiting for the Arab forces to get closer. And closer. And closer. The mob was mere yards from the kibbutz’s gates when the first Palmach sniper took down his target.

Jubilation turned to confusion as the mob searched for the source of the bullet. And then the Palmach opened fire in earnest, repelling wave after wave of attackers. That’s how the tiny, besieged, isolated community of Etzion, with an assist from the Palmach, managed to keep the Army of the Jihad at bay. Though they were outnumbered 7 to 1, the bloc lost three fighters. The Army of the Jihad lost 150. 

It was a stunning victory – one that Yigal Allon, the head of the Palmach, later called the “most successful counterattack in the War of Independence.” Already, the myth of Etzion was beginning to crystallize. Yitzhak Yaakov, the deputy commander of the bloc, later reflected: “It was impossible to frighten us. We knew it was dangerous, but to be afraid? To be anxious?” This was the price of life on the front lines. A curious disregard for danger. Fear replaced by stubborn conviction.

Already, the myth of Etzion was beginning to crystallize. Yitzhak Yaakov, the deputy commander of the bloc, later reflected: “It was impossible to frighten us. We knew it was dangerous, but to be afraid? To be anxious?”

But even the bravest warriors need to be practical. And the defenders of Etzion were acutely aware that their victory was only temporary. Supplies were dwindling. The bloc had exhausted its ammo, its medical supplies, its food. And no one was naive enough to think that Husseini would back off. He had a seemingly endless supply of volunteers from Tsurif and the surrounding villages. The communities of Etzion knew it was a matter of days until he returned.

This time, it wouldn’t matter how bravely they fought if they had no bullets, no bandages, no bread. There was no way around it. If the bloc was going to survive – and that was a big if – it needed supplies. Another Palmach commander, Eliyahu Sela, recalled that “There is no doubt that the reports from Kfar Etzion were very harsh. There was an acute need to provide assistance.”

The Palmach, the Haganah’s elite strike force, between 1942 and 1949. (Photo: The Palmach Archive/Wikipedia Commons)

But supplying an isolated cluster of settlements deep in enemy territory is not exactly easy. Eleven Jews had been murdered the previous month while making desperately-needed supply runs from Jerusalem to the bloc. Anyone driving on the road would be a sitting duck. Remember, the Haganah didn’t exactly have tanks. Even its armored trucks were more or less slapped together with chewing gum and dented steel plates. No, the supply convoy would have to go on foot, under cover of darkness. And they’d have to pray they’d make it to the bloc undetected.

I’ve just described the road to Jerusalem as a target. But if Israelis are known for anything, it’s their attitude toward obstacles. Their home is arid and drought-riddled? No problem. They invent drip irrigation and perfect desalinization technology. Their country is tiny and vulnerable to attack? No problem. They build an Iron Dome.

A road is a much smaller obstacle than, say, rockets overhead. So why not build a new one that bypassed enemy villages? If you’ve been asking yourself that question, congratulations. You’re thinking like an Israeli. Because the answer is: they did. 

Unfortunately, that road wouldn’t be constructed til May of 1948. But this was January. And Etzion needed supplies now.

The supply convoy didn’t take the road. But their route was nonetheless fraught. The Haganah fighters who were given the responsibility of bringing desperately-needed supplies to Gush Etzion understood the danger of their assignment: an eight-hour journey, by foot, through the rugged Judean hills, each man weighed down with one hundred pounds of supplies. The January cold sneaking under their uniforms. Each step taking them deeper into enemy territory. Every soldier silent, alone with his thoughts. And how could any of them help thinking about what would happen if they were caught?

And yet, within the day, forty Haganah recruits – all students from the Hebrew University – volunteered. They would be led by the former Haganah commander of the Etzion bloc, a well-liked 25-year-old named Danny Mas. He knew the terrain. He knew the people he was supplying. And he understood the stakes of the mission. For Danny Mas, leaving Etzion vulnerable was not an option. 

Haganah members in training, 1947 (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

He’d get them their weapons and supplies, or he would die trying. But when the men set out from Hartuv – a community whose name translates, fittingly, to “mountain of good” – no one was thinking about death. Uri Gavish, one of the operation’s scouts, later reflected: “It was clear to everyone, including me, that with our firepower, we’ll break through any attempt to block us.”

The convoy should have left the moment it got dark. They were approaching Etzion from the west, on a route that was expected to take roughly eight hours. And all eight of those hours needed to pass under cover of darkness. Because the moment it got light, Arab snipers would be haunting the roads. It would take only one shot to alert the neighboring villages of the convoy’s presence. And everyone knew what would happen then. A massacre.

But the convoy was delayed. The forty men assigned to the mission simply didn’t have enough rifles. They spent a few fruitless hours searching for additional firepower. When they didn’t find it, they cut two soldiers. The convoy of 40 was now a convoy of 38. Danny’s commander started to worry. “The clock’s ticking. You won’t make it before sunrise. Wait until tomorrow. You’ll be better prepared. Better supplied. Better able to rely on the cover of darkness.” But Danny wouldn’t hesitate. His commander recalls: “He feared for the fate of Kfar Etzion. He said to himself, if tomorrow they seize Kfar Etzion, and destroy it, and murder its inhabitants, what will I say? That at nine o’clock, with the weapons I had, I couldn’t reach Kfar Etzion?”

Danny’s commander didn’t have much choice. At 11:15pm on January 15th, 1948, he let the convoy go, leaving the convoy of 38 men just under seven hours of darkness to complete their mission. Soon after they set out, one of the men buckled under the weight of the supplies on his back, spraining his ankle. Danny sent him back, supported by two other fighters.

The convoy of 38 was now a convoy of 35.

We don’t know much about the rest of their journey. If they were cold, or frightened, or bored. What they were thinking about. Whether they whispered to one another now and again. Those seven hours are a black box. I like to imagine that they were peaceful. That the men of the convoy were proud of themselves and their mission. That they believed that they’d live to see an independent Jewish state.

We don’t know much about the rest of their journey…Those seven hours are a black box. I like to imagine that they were peaceful. That the men of the convoy were proud of themselves and their mission. That they believed that they’d live to see an independent Jewish state.

That they were dreaming of how they’d live, free Israelis, once they won the war. It’s sentimental, I know. But I want to believe that those final hours in the dark were good ones. They were the last peaceful hours the convoy would ever know. Because the sun rose before the men reached their destination. The world began to wake. And with it, trouble. 

History tells us two different stories about how the convoy got caught. Honestly, I don’t think it particularly matters which one is true. I know, that’s a bold statement for the host of a history podcast to make. But the details, in this case, are not so material. The outcome remains the same. 

Here are the two accounts. One account tells us that the men ran into an Arab shepherd. Another claims the shepherd was actually two women, out gathering wood at six AM. All we know for sure is that the convoy ran into someone. That they had to make a choice. Hundreds of lives hung in the balance.

The 35 men knew that yes, if they were caught, they’d be killed, probably in horrible ways. That the supplies they carried would fall into enemy hands, leaving the 450 defenders of the Gush in the exact same precarious position as before. But did any of that justify killing innocent shepherds, or innocent women, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

You all know at this point about my obsession with moral dilemmas: those thorny questions with no easy answers. This was a particularly difficult one for the men of the 35. True, they were fighters, but their mission was a humanitarian one. They were there to help their brothers and sisters defend themselves. No more, and no less.

The historical record is silent on whether they debated about what to do with the Arabs they encountered on the way to the Gush. Whether any of the men advocated for killing them – tragic, but necessary. Whether the others pointed out that these were defenseless human beings. That they were Haganah men, bound by the policy of havlagah, restraint.

Honestly, we don’t even know if they had the time for these conversations. It’s also entirely possible that the Jewish men and the Arabs alike simply stared at each other for a single shocked second before the Arabs turned and fled, taking any hope of the mission’s secrecy with them. We only know what happened next. The shepherd – or the women – alerted their villages. Within moments, the convoy found themselves surrounded by hundreds of Arab fighters.

So you tell me, because I sure as heck don’t know the answer – did they make the right choice? Is it more moral to let an innocent person go, knowing that they might call for reinforcements? Or is it better to kill one or two people in order to prevent a much larger battle? It’s a question that every combat soldier has to face – in Israel and outside of it. A question that even the highest courts struggle to answer. 

But let’s come back to the story. Arab forces had caught the convoy only a few miles from its destination. And though the men of the convoy were vastly outnumbered, they wouldn’t go down without a fight. Danny ordered his men to barricade themselves as best they could amid the boulders and stones of the Judean hills. Soon, reinforcements streamed in from the surrounding Arab villages.

More than outnumbered, the convoy was also outgunned. Danny was among the first to be killed, leaving them without a commander. And still, they held on, fighting as fiercely as they could from dawn til four in the afternoon. By evening, less than a third of the convoy was still alive. And yet, the remaining ten or eleven men made a last-ditch effort to secure the hill and retreat in the direction of Hartuv, from which they had set out.

More than outnumbered, the convoy was also outgunned. Danny was among the first to be killed, leaving them without a commander. And still, they held on, fighting as fiercely as they could.

But the attempt failed. By 4:30 in the afternoon, each of the 35 men was dead.

Meanwhile, the men and women of Etzion were getting antsy. As dawn bled into morning bled into afternoon, everyone was looking for the convoy. They knew, at this point, that whatever they found wouldn’t be pretty. But they didn’t find bodies. They found crowds. Big groups of Arabs, mingled with British soldiers, clustered together in the Arab villages. The Haganah’s intelligence service quickly explained why. “I put on the headphones and heard cries of joy in Arabic. We killed them, we slaughtered them, way to go, congratulations, they were reporting to headquarters.”

Of course, the Jews of Etzion couldn’t go collect the bodies from the fields where they had fallen. To do so would risk another assault. So the grisly task fell to British police superintendent Hamish Dugan, who loaded the bodies onto a truck for burial in Kfar Etzion.

Jewish law mandates that a body must be washed and buried within 24 hours of death. Maybe you’ve heard that Jews generally don’t cremate their dead. That’s because even in death, the body is sacred. It must be buried as whole and unblemished as possible. 

But the bodies in Dugan’s truck were barely recognizable. And if you get queasy, you might want to skip the next minute. The bodies of the Haganah men had been abused terribly, 12 mutilated beyond all recognition. Some had been dismembered, heads and limbs separated from torsos. It took nearly the entire night to match up the parts. The two kibbutz members who volunteered to unload the fallen soldiers found themselves overcome, unable to continue. So it fell to the leader of Kfar Etzion to prepare the bodies to be interred. “I decided to get on,” he recounts. “I took a friend with me. I just asked that all the lights be turned off so that it would be dark.”

Imagine that task for a moment. Imagine washing a body for burial that has been so utterly defiled. Imagine having to match up body parts to give the dead the respect they deserved.

Graves of the Convoy of 35 at Mount Herzl (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

We’ve linked some resources in the show notes. Interviews with the tough old men who lived in Kfar Etzion at the time. These are veterans. These are survivors of a war we can only imagine. And yet, decades later, they get choked up when they recount the task that fell to them that night. They are some of the few people who confronted, firsthand, the brutality of the carnage. Photographic evidence exists, courtesy of a British soldier who never came back for his film, but for obvious reasons, the pictures have never been published. 

And to be honest, they didn’t need to be. The story was enough. As the head of Kfar Etzion put it, seeing the bodies hammered home the precarity of the Yishuv. “We understood the reality of our situation. We understood what we could expect, if they were to defeat us. We saw what they had caused. It was horrible.”

The story of the 35 Haganah men spread quickly through the Yishuv, through word of mouth and media reports and even poetry. The brave boys, fighting like lions til the end. Some found clutching rocks, as though to defend themselves even after they’d exhausted their bullets.

There are even stories of Arab witnesses praising the convoy’s bravery, praising them for dying like heroes. But even if these stories are exaggerated or embroidered, other elements are true. The 35 men of the convoy did sacrifice their lives for others. They did maintain the Haganah’s policy of restraint til the bitter end. And they were, in the end, the noble victims of nearly unimaginable savagery.

Among the Haganah’s fighters was a man named Haim Gouri, who would go on to enjoy a long and storied career as one of Israel’s premier poets, a chronicler of the ’48 generation. And he eulogized the men of the convoy – some of whom he knew personally – in a poem called Here Our Bodies Lie.

Our bodies are strewn in a long, long line

Our faces have been changed; death looks from our eyes; we do not breathe

Light’s last flickers smother, as nightfall descends on the mountain

Look, we will not rise to walk the paths of a distant sunset

We will not love; we won’t produce pleasant, solemn sounds from shivering strings

We will not roar in the gardens, when the wind passes through the trees…

The poem speaks in the voice of all 35 men, who in their deaths have become a collective rather than a group of distinct individuals. It often happens this way, doesn’t it? We might remember one or two names, but on the whole, we tend to group the victims of massacres together. The 49 at Kfar Kassem. The 26 at Ma’alot. The sheer number of dead turns them into a symbol. This convoy of 35 men was no exception. The religious Zionist Bnei Akiva youth movement hosts a yearly overnight hike for 9th graders that traces the convoy’s exact route, which is so intense to think about that it brings a lump to my throat. 

But the legend of the convoy would soon get another, tragic update. Because the embattled communities of Gush Etzion held out for another four months. But by May of 1948, they could no longer defend themselves against the thousands of Arab soldiers who had swarmed the bloc. They surrendered on the same day that David Ben-Gurion declared independence.

In response, Arab forces massacred 127 of Etzion’s men and women – some of whom had already surrendered, leaving their bodies to rot in a field for the next year and a half. The remaining survivors were taken prisoner by Jordan, where they would remain until their release in March 1949, as the war wound down and each side began to consider armistice agreements. But their communities were razed to the ground. For the next 19 years, Gush Etzion was in Jordanian hands. 

But that’s not the end of the story of Gush Etzion. Because remember what I said at the beginning? The story of the Gush is the story of Zionism, writ small. Of tenacity. Of fighting. And perhaps, also, of miracles.

Because 19 years later, during the Six-Day War, the Israelis wrested the West Bank from Jordanian control. Once again, Gush Etzion was in Jewish hands. The children who had been evacuated in 1948 returned to the land for which their fathers had died. Slowly, they built up communities in the bloc. No longer vulnerable. No longer embattled. No longer afraid of the roads. But still, nestled in the Judean hills, between Jerusalem and Hebron. Another chapter in the epic saga of the Jewish people.

And next week, the final chapter. We’ll close out the story of the six months between partition and independence, with a juicy inside look into the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Doesn’t sound so wild, does it? But it’s a story about the fundamental nature of Israel. About its values and priorities. And in some ways, it’s a story we’re still telling today.

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