Before the creation of the State of Israel, the towns of Gush Etzion suffered from lack of food and supplies. Convoys from Jerusalem were often attacked and prevented from relieving the Gush. Air drops from small planes often did not succeed. The Lamed Hei were 35 brave young soldiers of the Palmach Mountain Division, who 61 years ago, tried to break the barricade on the towns of Gush Etzion by hiking in the back way through the Ayla Valley passed the Arab town of Tzurif.
They began as 38 young men, but when one was injured, his fellow soldiers carried him back. The 35 that continued with 100 pounds of medical supplies, weapons and more, on through the night until daybreak when they were spotted by an ancient Arab shepherd. "He's seen us. We must kill him," some soldiers said. "He's so old, he can hardly move," commented others. "Where is your mercy? Let him live. He is no threat to us." And so the merciful 35 let the ancient Arab live, and he had just enough energy in him to alert the Arabs of Tzurif who promptly attacked the soldiers.
Unable to call for help, the 35 Palmachniks bravely defended themselves on a hilltop against the brutal attacks of the enemy. Hundreds of Arabs from the neighboring villages surrounded the men, and closed in for the kill. When the soldiers' ran out of ammunition, they fought with whatever they could find, even rocks.
The Arabs of Tzurif and the surrounding villages butchered and dismembered the 35 young men beyond any recognition. Long afterwards, when their bodies were recovered, the rabbis had to use kabbalah in order to determine which body belonged to whom.
The loss of our finest young men became stuff that legends are made of. Unfortunately, the story is true, and proof of the adage that one who is merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.
THE ANNUAL MARCH OF THE LAMED HEI
The soldiers of the Lamed Hei gave their lives in a selfless attempt to open the lifeline to Gush Etzion. They persisted despite the enormous weight on their backs. And they continued to fight, even when the odds seeemed hopeless.
Every year, residents of Gush Etzion and friends from all over Israel join together on the anniversary of the march of the Lamed Hei, following in their footsteps right to the fateful hill upon which they died. Sixty-two years have passed, but the story remains emblazoned in our memories.
If you'd like to participate in the March, meet on Thursday evening, January 21, 2010 (Shvat 7) at midnight at the entrance of Kibbutz Netiva HaLamed Hei. The 13 kilometer walk continues through the Ela Valley, and the Etzion and Gdor River Beds until the battle hill. There will be guides along the way to tell the stories of these heroic men and describe the battle scene.
The evening with end with a ceremony and singing around the campfire.
Please bring 1.5 liters of drinking water, very very warm clothes (it is freezing in Gush Etzion in the middle of the night), good walking shoes, and food (warm drinks will be served along the way). In case of rain the march will be postponed to the following Thursday.
The program is coordinated and in conjunction with security forces.
For details and registration: 02-9933863