A bravery fiercer than death: The 35 heroes of Gush EtzionFor those of you who are not familiar with the story of the Gush Etzion 35, this will be especially enlightening. Gush Etzion, which is in Judea, was purchased by Jews and five towns were set up there between 1943-47. When the War of Independence started they came under attack. 65 years ago this week, 35 Haganah troops trying to resupply the towns were murdered because they allowed two Arab women gathering wood (I had previously heard an elderly Arab shepherd, but the video talks about two young Arab women) to live.
Here's the story of the 35. Let's go to the videotape. More after the video.
Someone with whom I used to work was one of the defenders left in Gush Etzion when it fell; we have not been in touch in many years. He was a Leftist when I knew him (he and his wife were members of Peace Now). He told me that the surviving defenders were taken prisoner by the Jordanian legion and taken to a prison camp in Jordan. The only reason they were not massacred was that the British were watching over the legion and would not allow them to massacre the Jewish prisoners. Many of the prisoners were civilians - the Jordanians took all the males (over age 16 if I recall correctly), but the British made the Jordanians let the women and children go, as was the case in Jerusalem. Eventually, the Jews were the subject of a prisoner exchange.
In case you missed what the video was hinting at when they talked about body parts from the 13:00 mark, the Arabs mutilated the bodies, as is their wont, and they had to do a Goral HaGra in order to bury some of them:
"One dramatic instance of the use of the Gra Goral was in the identification of the bodies of 12 members of the Lamed Heh (the Convoy of 35, with the Hebrew letters lamed and heh being equivalent to the numbers 30 and 5, respectively ). The 35 fighters, members of the Haganah pre-state militia, were killed in January 1948, during the War of Independence, at the foot of the Arab village of Tzurif, during their attempt to reach the Etzion Bloc of Jewish settlements, south of Jerusalem. The bodies of the fighters were mutilated by the Arab attackers who killed them, and only in 1951 were the corpses gathered. By that time, it was possible to identify only 23 of the bodies conclusively.
The chief rabbi of Jerusalem at the time, Tzvi Pesach Frank, ruled that the identification of the remaining bodies would be determined by the Gra lottery, and the task was assigned to the revered Jerusalem sage Rabbi Aryeh Levin.
The identification took place in Levin's beit midrash, in the presence of representatives of the bereaved parents. Twelve candles were lit, the Bible was opened at random seven times and Rabbi Levin ruled that as they stood in front of the remains of each of the fallen fighters, the last verse on the page had to include the name, or an allusion to the name, of each of those whom they were trying to identify. "How amazed everyone was when one of the verses that first appeared was 'The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,' a verse that [in Hebrew] begins with the word 'to the Lord,'" which is abbreviated in Hebrew with the initials lamed-heh. "Moreover, to everyone's amazement, every page spoke unequivocally. In the first verse they reached there was a specific name that clearly identified one of the fallen ... One after the other ... the identity of the fallen was determined." (Quoted in "A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin," by Simcha Raz, who also provides the official minutes of the lottery. ) While a lottery was often used for private matters, here the lottery was conducted for the purpose of a decision of great public significance."May we be privileged to see God Avenge the blood of the 35.