KFAR ETZION – “The time for Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel has come,” Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said at the inauguration of a new visitor’s center in the West Bank kibbutz of Kfar Etzion.
Kfar Etzion, the MK continued, was where the modern history of the State of Israel began. Addressing the nonagenarian founders of the kibbutz present at the ceremony, Ariel said, “You are the real pioneers.”
The $4 million marble and glass edifice is a memorial for the men and women who sacrificed their lives during Israel’s battle to protect the Etzion Bloc during its 1948 War of Independence, strategically located between Jerusalem and Hebron.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was timed to mark the massacre of Kfar Etzion, in which 127 kibbutz members and fighters from the pre-state Hagana and Palmah militias were killed by the Arab Legion on the eve of Israel’s independence.
A stirring account of those fighters is brought to life with a movie based on the letters they wrote during the Arab siege, some months prior to their massacre. Many of the fighters were survivors of concentration camps, choosing to settle one of the four communities in the Etzion Bloc after arriving in Palestine.
Today the region is populated by some 90,000 Jews. Some consider it controversial due to its West Bank location and as such has been the backdrop for many terror attacks. One of the more recent ones was the murder of Ezra Schwartz, a teenager from Boston who was on his gap year volunteering with IDF soldiers when a Palestinian terrorist sprayed him with bullets from an Uzi submachine gun.
Eric Michaelson, Chief Israel Officer of the Jewish National Fund, which was partly responsible for the center’s establishment, knew Schwartz personally, noting that his niece was dating Schwartz at the time of his death.
Nevertheless, Michaelson maintains that terror would never deter him from living in the region.
“Our past, present, and future are all deeply rooted and embedded both in the history, as well as the destiny, of Gush Etzion,” Michaelson told Breitbart Jerusalem, referencing the Etzion Bloc by its Hebrew name.
Minister of Immigration Zev Elkin, who was also present at the ceremony, agreed.
“The founders of the Etzion Bloc were repeating the acts of our forefathers,” Elkin said. He added that after Jerusalem, the Etzion Bloc – and not Tel Aviv or Haifa – is where Jews have the most connection to the land.