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Remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims: Two Memorials and an Avenue


On the road going east from Rehovot, just past Kibbutz Hulda and the adjacent Barkan Wineries, lies the first forest planted by the Jewish National Fund – Hulda Forest. It was planted on 500 acres bought from a local Arab tribe in 1905 which were intended to be divided up into small farms, but overgrazing had rendered the land so barren that nobody wanted the plots.

In 1908 the newly established Jewish National Fund decided to plant a forest there in honour of Theodor Herzl who had died four years previously. After a failed initial attempt led by a stubborn German agronomist who tried to apply European knowledge to the unsuitable environment, a pine forest was finally planted there in 1912.

Hulda Forest also hosted a training school for newly arrived Jews wishing to learn agricultural skills and its pupils went on to found collective farms such as Ein Harod, Kfar Yehezkel and Ginegar. One of Hulda’s alumni was Binyamin Munter who was killed at Tel Hai on March 1st 1920, together with Sara Chisik, Joseph Trumpeldor and five others. Munter was found trying to shield Sara with his body from the lethal grenade attack which killed them both.

In 1929, when Arab riots broke out all over what was then Mandate Palestine, including the notorious massacre in Hevron, Hulda too was attacked. Sara Chisik’s brother Ephraim – a member of the Haganah – was sent to help the 24 defenders of Hulda resist the Arab attack on the isolated farm. Severely outnumbered and with their situation worsening, Chisik ordered his comrades to seek refuge inside the stone-built main house, Beit Herzl, providing cover as they went.

The last to go, Chisik was hit by a fatal bullet as he ran for the shelter of the house. The other defenders managed to hold off the attackers, but when the British police later arrived, they forced the residents of Hulda to evacuate the farm, refusing to allow them to take Chisik’s body with them. He was buried at the site some days later and in 1937 the sculptress Batya Lishansky completed seven years of work on the monument named ‘Labour and Defence’ at the site of his grave.

The Jerusalem stone statue shows Ephraim Chisik extending a protective arm over his sister Sara and another figure, presumed to be Binyamin Munter, all surrounded by agricultural tools and sheaves of wheat.   

 

After the 1929 riots, Hulda forest lay abandoned for over a year until, in 1931, a group of young pioneers from Poland arrived there to study agriculture. In 1937 they founded Kibbutz Hulda on a more defensible site about a kilometre and a half to the west.

Not far from Beit Herzl and the monument to Ephraim Chisik lies another memorial which commemorates Lieutenant Tal Tsemach who was born on Kibbutz Hulda.

Tal was killed during the second Intifada on March 19th 2002, aged 20, when Hamas terrorists belonging to Izz al Din al Kassam attacked an army training camp in the Jordan Valley. In the ensuing gun fight, Tal was killed trying to defend his soldiers.

Connecting the two memorials is a beautiful long avenue of Washingtonia palm trees, surrounded by the vineyards which supply the nearby winery. The avenue is, however, more than just a dusty road; it links two young men who lost their lives seventy-three years apart – long before and long after Israel became independent –  but for the same reason.  

On Israel’s annual Memorial Day we remember all the men and women who, like Ephraim and Tal, gave their lives so that this country could become – and remain – a place of refuge for Jews from anywhere in the world in need of a haven.

יהי זכרם ברוך

May their memories be blessed.

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6 replies »

  1. Nice article, Israenurse. This highlights an aspect of Israeli society (and of Jewish values) that is rarely if ever commented on by anyone, Jews and non- Jews alike. The deep and loving connection to individuals, as reflected in these memorials, is quite remarkable. Other nations also honor their heroes, but what other country in the world would try to move heaven and earth to rescue one person, and will never stop trying? What other nation deems its citizens so intrinsically worthy that it is willing to trade hundreds, even thousands of people, for just one or two of its members? Maybe there are other nations, but right now none other come to mind.

  2. Thank you Israelinurse for this!

    I have been to that forest many times, and seen from outside Beit Herzl, but I did not know all these stories. You have filled a vacuum in the landscape for me.

    I have been last summer with my daugthers in the forest, collecting carobs and admiring the vineyard. I didn’t know it was the first forest planted in Eretz Israel.

    The pine trees I have seen there now have a new meaning.

    Thank you!

  3. Very nice post.

    My mother was born in the early 40’s in Givat Brener (just a few km from hulda).

    A kibbutz which was built after the murder in Yaffo following 29 riots.

    I used to work and leave in Mazkeret Batya which is 5 minutes from Hulda.

    This place means a lot to me.

  4. I was in Kibbutz Hulda just last week for a wedding. I never dreamt there was such history right beneath our dancing feet. Thank you for this beautiful article.

  5. A fine article by Israelinurse – together with Adam’s piece in honour of Michael Levin – which made me feel rather sad.

    Still, they will always be remembered by their families and friends as heroes who gave their lives to protect the Jewish nation.
    How sad that Israel has never known truly peaceful neighbours !

    Happy birthday, Israel and many happy returns !