Memory is a chain that weakens and kinks with every added link, or generation. In a few decades the legendary of a region is only its most stubborn opinions, right or wrong. The truth may have been crushed by accumulative errors.
– California historian William Lawton Wright, 1961
Kfar Darom was crushed five years ago – on August 18, 2005, to be exact. That
day, its population of 400 – among them bereaved families of five Kfar Darom
inhabitants murdered in terror attacks and others maimed in these same incidents
(like the three Cohen family children whose legs were blown off while they were
seated in their school bus) – were forcefully ejected from their
The IDF later razed these homes to the ground. Kfar Darom’s
synagogue was subsequently despoiled and demolished by gleeful Gazans.
Physically, the community was ruthlessly crushed by the accumulative errors of
the 2005 disengagement.
Kfar Darom’s truth was crushed by the
accumulative error that callously defamed it as an “illegitimate settlement” on
usurped Gazan land, one that Israel would be better off without. Stubborn
opinion-molders imperiously perpetuate this narrative.
This was Kfar
Darom’s third crushing. But the first two blows were dealt by enemies who were
eventually, even if belatedly, repulsed. Twice Kfar Darom came back to
Sadly its chances of recovering from the third blow, the
mercilessly fatal one inflicted by a seemingly friendly force, appear nil. With
the passage of time and the addition of new links to the chain of history,
memories of Kfar Darom are already fading from most Israeli minds, save those
with the “most stubborn opinions.”
KFAR DAROM shared much in common with
such legends of the Zionist endeavor as Yad Mordechai, Nitzanim and Kfar Etzion.
All the aforementioned succumbed to invading Arab forces during the vicious
existential war imposed on the newborn Jewish state in 1948. All were eventually
won back, all resettled and reclaimed from the utter ruin to which unbridled
hate had reduced them.
The first to fall, and perhaps the most emotively
remembered, was Kfar Etzion on the Jerusalem-Hebron road. Its area was purchased
by Jews in 1927 but the small settlement founded there was devastated in the
1929 murderous Arab pogroms, which also eradicated Hebron’s ancient Jewish
community. The settlement was resurrected in 1932 and named Kfar Etzion for the
orange grower who owned the holding. It was redestroyed in the bloody Arab
insurgency of 1936. The JNF restored it in 1943 when it became a religious
(Hapoel Hamizrahi) kibbutz.
Kfar Etzion was defeated on May 14 – the day
Israel declared its independence. Its captured defenders were cold-bloodedly
Next in the tragic chronology came Yad Mordechai, bordering
the edge of today’s Gaza Strip, named after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising’s heroic
leader Mordechai Anilewicz. The Hashomer Hatza’ir kibbutz straddled the
strategic invasion route by which the Egyptian army strove to penetrate all the
way to Tel Aviv. It was therefore pounded with the full might and ferocity of
the Egyptian army. A small besieged band with scant light weaponry held back
tanks, artillery and infantry regiments, but finally on May 23, after a six-day
battle in which 24 defenders were killed, Yad Mordechai was overwhelmed. Its
survivors escaped under the cover of darkness.
The story of more
northerly Nitzanim is similar.
Founded by Ha’oved Hatzioni on JNF land,
it too took the brunt of Egyptian attacks. Again it was a persevering resistance
of the few against the many until the Egyptians overpowered the defenders on
June 8. There were casualties, POWs, MIAs, atrocities, sadistically mutilated
corpses and ghastly gang rapes.
Kfar Darom held out the longest but its
plight was identical and every bit as hopeless. Its western Negev plot was
acquired by citrus farmer Tuvia Miller in 1930.
His groves were ravaged
repeatedly during the 1936-39 Arab riots. In 1945 the JNF bought him out and
Kfar Darom was established as another Hapoel Hamizrahi kibbutz. It was named
after a Talmudical-period village in the vicinity.
Kfar Darom too
constituted an obstacle on the Egyptian penetration path into the Coastal Plain,
inviting brutal battering and interminable shelling.
A major offensive on
May 10 was thwarted at close range by besieged pioneers, none of whom emerged
unhurt. Seventy Egyptian dead were left behind and Kfar Darom’s incredible stand
became legend. A relief convoy, which barely broke through on May 15, only made
things worse. Its men, many of them injured, were entrapped in the blockaded
kibbutz as well. The few leftover provisions now had to stretch further.
Nevertheless – outnumbered, hungry, thirsty and bleeding – the defenders foiled
another large-scale Egyptian onslaught that very day.
Kfar Darom hung on
by sheer grit for two months.
There was no way to evacuate the wounded,
relieve any beleaguered fighters, deliver ammunition or replenish severely
Attempts to parachute food failed. Another rescue
convoy was ambushed and managed to sneak out only eight days later with some
walking-wounded and women. Before sunrise on July 8 the remaining defenders
clandestinely retreated along with stretcher-borne wounded, their few guns and
two Torah scrolls.
There was an epilogue, however.
after Yad Mordechai and Nitzanim fell, the IDF liberated them. The same happened
to Kfar Etzion and Kfar Darom – but after a 19-year delay. The Six Day War
returned both to Jewish hands.
All four once-lost settlements were
In 1970, at the avid prodding of then-PM Golda Meir,
Nahal pioneers were sent to the ruins of old Kfar Darom, which lay desolate. The
Gazans never rebuilt them and never settled there. In 1988 then-Defense Minister
Yitzhak Rabin turned the Nahal outpost into a civilian village.
nowadays would imagine ceding Yad Mordechai or Nitzanim. By historical
happenstance only, their earlier liberation placed them within the Green Line.
Nonetheless, this confers on them no greater intrinsic legitimacy than on the
unfortunate Kfar Darom.
Even beyond-the-Green-Line Kfar Etzion got
For now, the vast majority of Israelis consider it sacrilege to
even suggest giving up Kfar Etzion. Its bloodletting and courage still remain
part of our national lore.
But phoenix-like Kfar Darom – twice destroyed
and twice arisen from its ashes – was heartlessly surrendered.
because of battlefield disasters but because an Israeli government decided,
though hardly coerced, to unilaterally sacrifice it. That’s all which
differentiates Kfar Darom from Kfar Etzion (also liberated from Arab occupation
in 1967) or from Yad Mordechai and Nitzanim (fellow victims of genocidal
What has the sacrifice of Kfar Darom proven? Only
that trendy defeatist dogma considers Jewish losses irretrievable, while Arab
losses are inherently reversible and mandate a return to Square-One.
are portable. They can never legitimately regain territory forcibly wrested from
them. If they do, they’ll be branded unlawful occupiers. This is something for
all the good folks in Yad Mordechai, Nitzanim and Kfar Etzion to lose sleep