Land of My Birth – On this very date, the sixth of Adar (Adar I in that year), the great battle was held over the isolated kibbutz, Tirat Tzvi, in the Beit She’an Valley. This was ten years after the first attack on the site, during the riots of 5698 (1938), when the members of the kibbutz defended their homes with great sacrifice. But this time, in the War of Independence, in 5708 (1948), the opponents were not irregular troops who attacked from ambush. Rather, for the first time a regular Arab army tried to capture a Jewish settlement in a well planned frontal attack.
The first action by the enemy was to break all contact between Tirat Tzvi and its surroundings. In order to do this, the Arabs took several steps: First, they blew up bridges that led to the kibbutz. In addition, they destroyed a dam so that the water would flood additional traffic routes, and they stationed roadblocks on the roads. They also uprooted telephone poles in an effort to hamper communications between the kibbutz and the home front. About 1000 Arab soldiers participated in the attack on the kibbutz, including about 350 who mounted a direct assault under cover of artillery and machine gun fire.
Meir Or described the battle. Here is a summary of what he wrote in his diary:
“At 03:37, they started to shoot with automatic weapons. The shooting was very strong… At 04:27, they began to shell the tower with artillery… At 04:35, our position was surrounded from all sides, and we were showered with fire… The assault began at 05:20 and continued without a pause until 07:25… Our return fire was very good, in that it held the attackers back and inflicted many casualties… At 05:00 a steady rain began to fall… Our men fought in a frozen and completely wet state, but the rain also astounded the enemy, who `moved with difficulty` [Shemot 14:25].”
At 07:30 the Arabs began to retreat, but the heavy fire on the kibbutz was maintained. The enemy losses included about 50 dead and dozens of injured. In Tirat Tzvi, one member was killed and two were injured.
The Arab media were dedicated to their cause, and they acted in the best traditions of Arab exaggeration. Here are some of their reports about the progress of the battle:
“The heroic warriors… advanced and quickly arrived in the settlement… The members of the Jewish gangs were all provided with automatic weapons, but very quickly the Arab soldiers defeated them… The losses of the Jews reached 78 dead and 150 injured. Our fighters captured 20 soldiers, who had all thrown away their weapons. Other reports claim that as many as 200 were killed and 300 were injured… Tirat Tzvi was totally destroyed, and all the defenders of the site were killed.”
A few weeks after the great battle, a wedding was held at the kibbutz, and Efraim Ya`ir read a poem that he had written. Here are some lines from the poem:
“We, the few – transformed desolation into paradise… We, the few – and our young men stood by with their weapons in their hands… We, the few – did not halt the work on the farm for even one day… Have you ever seen a soldier, anyplace in the world, who stands up against the enemy in the morning and then in the afternoon works in the barn, in the chicken coops, in the garden or the vineyard? Have you ever seen a female soldier in any nation, who sits at an outpost when commanded… and the next day returns to watch over young children, nurturing them and educating them… to a life of Torah and labor? Who can show you an army camp, where as soon as the battle has ended the soldiers put on talit and tefillin, in order to give thanks to G-d for His salvation from the enemy? … Have you seen a settlement which is busy defending itself but where the sounds of joy and happiness have not stopped? … The sounds of a groom and a bride? … We are such a nation, and such a nation will rise up again!”
(Source: Meir Or, “The Battle for Tirat Tzvi,” and others, in “Misgav”)
Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.