donderdag 8 mei 2008

Israël 1948 dagboek: het verlies van Gush Etzion

In Gush Etzion en andere plaatsen op de huidige Westelijke Jordaanoever zijn de Joden in 1948 met geweld verdreven. Op alle plaatsen waar de Joden verloren in 1948, zijn ze vermoord of verdreven. 


Haaretz, Last update - 11:32 06/05/2008

1948 Diaries: Former Jordanian POW recalls Gush Etzion defeat

By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent

"I lifted my head and saw I was surrounded by Arabs on three sides and would not be able to retreat. I shouted to Danny, the machine gunner, to cover me and scaled up to his position, which was three meters above me," writes Zvingely Staklov, today 81, about a battle he fought in Gush Etzion on May 12, 13 and 14 in 1948.

Staklov wrote his diary during the seven months he spent as a prisoner of war in Jordan. It spans the events of the three most significant days of his life - the attack on the Gush Etzion settlements between the declaration of the establishment of the Israeli state and the Declaration of Independence.

Staklov explains why he did not write in his journal how he felt during the battle: "As soon as the battle begins, everything is wiped out. All you can think about is your mission. You don't exist. We were 20, 21 years old, and we made very difficult decisions and took great responsibility on ourselves, but personally we did not exist."

But Staklov doesn't need his journal to remember the minute details of those events. He remembers everything. In his home in kibbutz Revadim he describes the events that led up to his falling captive and writing the diary.

He and his girlfriend Rahel (today his wife) used to transmit messages to each other from hill to hill by Morse code with flashlights, he says. He recalls how the escape of a Lehi man [pre-state underground] sabotaged his own escape from the Jordanian prison camp, and how he managed to smuggle the lists of prisoners and fatalities from prison to a kibbutz in Israel.

Staklov was born in Tel Aviv to parents who had immigrated from Latvia. He joined the Palmach [the elite strike force of the pre-state Haganah] and at 20 was posted as a Nahal soldier, combining active duty with work on an outlying settlement, in kibbutz Beit Zera in the north.

Gush Etzion then consisted of three communities - Ein Zurim, Masuot-Yitzhak and Kfar Etzion. The Jewish National Fund bought land there, and Staklov's Nahal group agreed to set up a community on it. In February '47, 55 men and women arrived during the night, for fear of being attacked by the Arabs, and founded Revadim.

"The Arabs used to attack us, but the British police intervened and brokered an agreement that led to quiet," he says. But the quiet did not last long. "On November 29th [1947] the United Nations declared the country's partition. The only way to Gush Etzion was the road from Jerusalem to Hebron. So we began preparing for a siege."

Convoys to the Gush Etzion communities were attacked. At the beginning of 1948, the Haganah sent a company to protect the communities. Rahel was among the auxiliary forces. She waited for Staklov until he was freed from the Jordanian camp. "Nowadays people don't wait so long anymore," she says, smiling.

Gush Etzion was attacked after the Declaration of Independence. Kfar Etzion was the first to be shelled.

Staklov's diary goes on to describe the battle step-by-step. Their people were forced to retreat from one community to another. Their situation deteriorated.

"We went into Hirbat Zecharya to try to salvage what we could and met others who had retreated there. We took defensive positions and started firing at the armored vehicles... At 12 the commanders got together and planned an offensive to take over the command outposts. It was clear to us that as long as the Jordanians held those outposts, there was no way we could continue living in Gush Etzion."

Knowing he might be taken captive, he destroyed his belongings and arranged his photographs "to give one of the kibbutz members who were going to be evacuated to Jerusalem." Shortly afterward they heard that the negotiations with the Arab Legion were over, and that they were about to be taken prisoner.

"When morning came, we found ourselves surrounded by several hundreds of Arabs and gang members," he says. He ordered his men not to open fire so as not to jeopardize the negotiation results.

When the Arabs were some 200 meters away, Staklov says he stood behind a barrier of stones and called to them to stop. He and his men were told to hand over their weapons. Staklov said he'd have to consult with his commanders and went back. He told his men to wait for the International Red Cross and the Legion. The crowd drew closer, and Staklov jumped out with his rifle.

"One Arab jumped me from the other side of the barrier, grabbed my rifle and we started fighting. I saw one of the Arabs aiming his rifle at me. I dropped flat behind the barrier, and the shot missed me.

"To the left I heard an explosion and later found that Edi (one of the team members) had committed suicide. He must have thought I had been killed, that it was all over," he says.

Shortly afterward the forces of the Jordanian Legion arrived and took Staklov and his men prisoner. After seven months in a Jordanian prison camp, where he wrote his diary, Staklov was released and returned home.

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