Friday, January 29, 2010

5000 in the Footsteps of 35

On Thursday night, on the eve of Tu B'Shevat, 5000 people - young/old/men/women - marched through the night from midnight 'til morn, in the footsteps of the legendary Jewish heroes whom we call the "35" (Lamed Hei - Hebrew gematria).
The idea of this tremendous chavaya (incredible experience) began seven years ago, when between 100 and 200 Gush Etzion residents and the Kfar Etzion Field School marched southwest of Gush Etzion in order to follow the trail of the 35 valiant soldiers.
Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein wanted more people to participate in the march, and encouraged Jews from throughout the country to join in. Numbers rose year by year - 500, 1200, 3000.
This year's participation of 5000 individuals was beyond their wildest expectations. But peoplec came out for the midnight march because the Lamed Hei had inspired them with their devotion to their people and readiness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others - qualities that are so needed by today's generation.
Participants gathered at Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hei (near Bet Shemesh) and walked 13 kilometers through the Eyla Valley, and the Etzion and Gdor River Beds to the hill upon which the Lamed Hei bravely fought the mobs of murderous Arabs from the nearby village of Tsurif sixty-two years before.
The story of the Lamed Hei is known by every school child in Israel. These young men of the Palmach Mountain Division were killed trying to bring food and supplies to the kibbutzim of Gush Etzion, which had been cut off by the Jordanian Legion. Convoys and airlifts could not successfully get through to the brave defenders of Gush Etzion. So the Palmach was the last hope. And the young fighters set out under cover of darkness with heavy packs of life-saving equipment to save their brethren.
Tragically, just as they approached the Arab village of Tsurif towards dawn, an old Arab shepherd spotted them and called out the village. They fought heroically to the death. After the Arabs murdered them, they butchered them beyond all recognition.
Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein came to the abandoned Army base of Shdema today just minutes after he finished the March of the Lamed Hei. He described his "chavaya" (incredible experience) for those present.
A video of Shaul's account of the memorable experience can be found on Gush Etzion TV,
May the memory of the Lamed Hei, HY"D, continue to inspire the heroes of the next generation in dedication to the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

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