Forty years older, veterans of the campaign to establish a Jewish community in Samaria convened last week in a festive gathering to mark Kedumim’s success in receiving government permission to set up camp at the Kadum army base. Wisely, they chose a late summer day rather than the wintry, rainy days they camped out, on the eighth attempt, in December 1975 at Masudiah, the old Turkish railway station near the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Israel, now called Sebastia.
I was there just prior to Tisha Be’av 1974, when that site was first selected by Gush Emunim, mainly because it provided a natural “fort” for protection against the expected army and police evictions. We reached it by car and then on foot, avoiding roadblocks and being chased by security forces. It was the second attempt of the Elon Moreh resettlement group, which wanted a site as close to Nablus as possible. In fact, not too long after Kedumim was eventually set up, the group split, with about half going eastward of Nablus to the current location of Elon Moreh on Mount Kabir, near the original location they sought.
I am not an anthropologist but will admit that the sense of participating in a certain “rite of passage” was unmistakable in this and other marches toward a location to be redeemed and populated by Jews.
Living in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood at the time, the word went out in synagogues, youth movement clubhouses and grocery stores to get ready. Almost as in a drill, those who mobilized prepared sleeping bags, a change of clothes, or at least underwear and socks, and some sandwiches. Good walking shoes were located deep in a closet and friends were contacted for rides. And then came the notice of the day, hour and destination.
Samaria was empty of Jews at that time. The family of Moshe Sharret had lived in the Arab village of Ein Sinya, north of Ramallah, but had left after two years. The ferocious Arab violence assured that the few Jews who had been living in Nablus could no longer do so. The JNF’s Yosef Weitz had purchased land around Tulkarm in the 1930s and 1940s and in the Jiftlik area in the Lower Jordan Valley. But it was in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, in the heart of Judea, that modern Zionist settlement efforts were directed in the Mandate days, and where a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz, Revadim, was established on former lands of Nahlin village, in addition to the two moshavim north of the city, Atarot and Neveh Yaakov. All were overrun in the 1948 war the Arabs launched in their attempt to eradicate the nascent State of Israel, as were the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood near the American Colony Hotel and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The post-1967 resettlement efforts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were assisted by a major realigning of Zionism’s left-of-center camp and not solely due some sort of a religious messianic enthusiasm. The Land of Israel Movement founding members, who signed its manifesto, included two sons of Yitzhak Tabenkin, Rachel Yanait Ben-Tzvi, Antek Zuckerman and Eliezer Livneh as well as Natan Alterman, Haim Guri, Yehuda Burla and Haim Hazaz, all luminaries of Mapai, Kibbutz Meuchad and the Palmach. If there was an “intoxication of the senses,” as Gadi Yatziv phrased it, the attachment to the regions of the Jewish homeland that fell outside Israel’s reach in 1948 bestirred deep if inchoate feelings that the State of Israel and the land of Israel were to become one.
Kfar Etzion was reestablished in September 1967 and Kiryat Arba, on Hebron’s outskirts, was inaugurated after the Passover 1968 renting of a downtown hotel by rabbis Moshe Levinger and Eliezer Waldman. Two of their yeshiva students, Benny Katzover and Menachem Felix, launched the Elon Moreh nucleus already in 1973. The grassroots movement of Gush Emunim only appeared in early 1974, following the nadir of national sentiment in the wake of the Yom Kippur political debacle.
I watched as Yitzhak Rabin flew over our encampment at the Sebastia railway station and read in the next day’s press that he had muttered “porshim,” the derogatory term meaning “dissidents” applied by the official Yishuv leadership to the Irgun and Lehi underground fighters. But it was Shimon Peres who described in his autobiography how he slept close by David Ben-Gurion, with his rifle under the cot to protect Israel’s first prime minister, during the Altalena arms ship episode. That was when Ben-Gurion sought to quash the dissident camp once and for all. Yet it was Peres, as defense minister, who arranged the Kedumim compromise which allowed for the Elon Moreh group to stay at Kadum.
From several hundred “beyond the Green Line” residents, the past four decades have resulted in 460,000 Jews living, planting, constructing and producing throughout Judea and Samaria, despite the withdrawal from Sinai and the disengagement from Gaza. Since the UN, US President Barack Obama and several others view Jerusalem’s post-67 neighborhoods as “settlements,” another 210,000 Jews need be added to the population demographic. That represents some 15 percent of the total population of the area known as the Palestinian Authority.
Indeed, four decades ago, the men and the women of faith altered Israel’s political, social and cultural landscape. In the wake of the December 8, 1975, compromise signed by Peres, they became the men and women of fate, of Zionism’s future.
For the 19 years between the War of Independence and the Six Day War, Jews could not live in the areas where Jewish nationalism was fostered. Israelis were prohibited from visiting the Western Wall, where previous generations of Jews prayed. The land was occupied, illegally, by Jordan, but no one was disturbed by a breach of the armistice agreements the United Nations oversaw between Israel and the Arabs states which sought to destroy it. Those were also 19 years of Fedayeen and then PLO terrorist attacks.
All that was swept away in 1967, and in its wake, those of faith, and not solely those who were religiously observant, rallied to assure the future fate of Israel, the state, the land and the people.The author resides in Shiloh and is a pro-Land of Israel Jewish residency activist.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>