Friday, March 16, 2007

Gaza in History: After Independence

Later, the settlement of Kfar Darom was abandoned and destroyed, as the Egyptians marched north, reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv. With both armies exhausted, a mutual truce was signed on June 18, 1948, to last until October 15. Israel used the opportunity to bring in thousands of fresh immigrants, train new forces, and refresh depleted stocks of ammunition.

A custom-built Israeli armored car from the War of Independence

Training new Israeli forces during the cease-fire period, 1948.

When fighting resumed on October 15, the Arab armies, far from home and resupply, found themselves facing a resurgent Israeli Defense force, and were driven back, even beyond the borders of the UN's original partition plan. Military historians would later marvel at the folly of the Egyptian army's decision to attack each settlement along the coast one at a time, instead of bypassing the smaller settlements and heading straight for Tel Aviv. It could be claimed that the perseverance of the defenders of Kfar Darom saved the country.
The Israeli Counteratack

Meanwhile over Arab radio, the usual incendiary broadcasts commenced. Some villagers were told to leave their towns to make way for the invading Arab legions, which would then hand over the houses and farms of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after the conquest of Israel. But broadcasting tales of grievous offences and massacres by the Jews, intended to fire up the Arab population living within Israel, backfired, instilling terror in the hearts of the simple villagers. Later, when Arab radio broadcast false claims that Israeli soldiers were raping the women in villages they captured, some villagers began fleeing. Preserving family honor has always been a far higher priority than military valor within Arab culture.

Israel after independence in 1949, significantly larger than the UN Partition plan of 1947.

The Arab villagers fled to the Gaza strip, now under Egyptian control, while the Jews fled Arab areas to areas under Israeli control. After independence, the villagers of Kfar Darom re-established their moshav (agricultural collective) near the ancient Philistine city of Ashdod. Their rebuilt moshav, today called Bnei Darom, is home to some of my cousins (see previous posts and photos from Moshav Benei Darom here and here.)

Today Bnei Darom makes pickles, olives, eggs, chicken, you name it.

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