This Day in Jewish History / Reestablishing a Kibbutz

After first being established in the 1920s, again in the '30s, and again in the '40s, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was reestablished a third time on September 25, 1967 after the Six-Day War.

On this day in 1967 (some sources say September 27), Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, situated in Gush Etzion between Jerusalem and Hebron, was established for the fourth time after being evacuated by Israel during the War of Independence in 1948. The first time was in 1927 when a group of Orthodox Jews from Mea She’arim set up an agricultural settlement there called Migdal Eder. It was destroyed two years later during the Arab rioting of 1929. An attempt to resettle the land a few years later, under the name Kfar Etzion, met a similar fate during the Arab uprising of 1936. Then in April 1943, pioneers of the Bnei Akiva youth movement established a kibbutz at the site, one of four communal settlements created in the area pre-Independence.  The collection of settlements (including Massu’ot Yitzhak, Revadim and Ein Tzurim) was referred to as Gush Etzion (the Etzion Bloc).  

Following the UN vote of November 1947 to partition Palestine, Gush Etzion, located in territory designated for the Palestinian state, found itself under siege. The women and children of the settlements were evacuated in January 1948, but the decision was made in Jerusalem for the men to stay and fight. On May 13, 1948, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion fell to the Arab Legion and all but four of the 161 who remained were massacred by the attackers. Additionally, 35 soldiers had been killed in January in an effort to reach the bloc with supplies. The next day, the day when Independence was declared, the other three settlements of the bloc surrendered, and their members taken captive by the Jordanians.

For the next 19 years, survivors of Kfar Etzion and their descendants kept the memory of the kibbutz alive. Immediately after the West Bank was conquered in the Six-Day War, they began to make pilgrimages to the site, then an abandoned Jordanian army camp. Finally, in September 1967, shortly before Rosh Hashanah, the government gave them permission to return. Today, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion has some 870 residents (about 100 families) who make their living from agriculture, educational projects, a small defense R&D plant, and outside work.