May 4,1948 - The Arab Legion aided by the British and by a large number of local Arabs launched a major attack on the Etzion Bloc. Their object was to punish the Jews for their offensive measures which were taken on behalf of Jerusalem. Twelve Jewish defenders were killed. A key outpost at the entrance to the Etzion Bloc fell to the Arabs during the day of the battle. It was retaken at night upon the withdrawal of the enemy. This preliminary battle served as a dire warning.
The defenders prepared themselves for a last stand - even if it must be another Massada. Their great hope was for the arrival of reinforcements.
" What are we and what are our lives? Nothing at all. Meaning is to be found in the life-project to which we dedicate our efforts. We will strike the enemy wherever we can reach him, we shall not permit him to carry out his designs. Our steadfast reply is - "the eternity of Jerusalem".
Moshe Silberschmidt, Last Commander of Gush Etzion
Eulogy of the 12 Defenders
May 12,1948 - The Jordanian Legion supported by thousands of local Arabs launched a carefully planned attack on the Etzion Bloc. The object of the attack this time was the conquest and destruction of Gush Etzion. The outer positions were captured in this first day of battle. The Arabs progressed to the "lone tree", thus dividing the Etzion Bloc. Moshe Silberschmidt, the beloved and respected commander, was killed.
May 13, 1948 - The Arab offensive continued. Its major force was directed against Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Attack upon attack was rebuffed by the Jewish defenders in the course of the morning. At about noon the Arabs finally succeeded in penetrating the northern gate of the kibbutz. As the armored vehicles stormed into Kfar Etzion, the local commander realized that all was lost. After many months of siege and battle, no further possibility of maintaining the village existed. A cease fire was sought in order to save the lives of the defenders.
The exhausted Jewish soldiers left their defense posts and handed over their ammunition as directed. They assembled in the heart of the kibbutz near the former German monastery where they were to be photographed before being taken as prisoners of war. They were suddenly fired upon. In the desperate struggle which ensued, only four survived. Following the heroic battle and terrible massacre, Kfar Etzion was pillaged and destroyed.
Last moments at Kfar Etzion
A photographer dressed in European clothes and wearing a white kaffiyeh came on the scene and photographed us...
When the photographer had finished, fire was suddenly opened upon us from every direction. Most of the assembled members were hit...
I jumped into a ditch near the school... It was an officer of the Legion who saved me. He solemnly promised that he would do me no harm. When the battle subsided, the officer took me back to the village and demanded that I show him where the arms caches were. When we passed by the doorway of the shelter under the German Monastery, he put a grenade in my hand, pulled out the pin and ordered me to throw it into the shelter. I held the grenade in my hand, for I was prepared to kill myself rather than to obey this order. The officer took it from me and threw it himself into the shelter..."
Aliza Feuchtwanger, Palmah
May 14,1948 - The three remaining villages, Massuot Yitzchak, Ein Tsurim and Revadim had no alternative but to submit to the Arab Legion. Their members were taken as prisoners of war. These villages were also then pillaged and destroyed.
Last moments at Ein Tsurim
"At about ten o'clock the representatives of the Red Cross came to the settlement. Two of our members met them...
In the distance we could distinguish thousands of Arab irregular troops approaching the Zachariah outpost. At the sight of the rabble, some of the members fled to Revadim and Ein Tsurim while one blew himself up with a grenade. All of us at the kibbutz rushed back to our positions and took up our weapons. A settler of Ein Tsurim pressed the trigger and fired a long volley. The mob fled. Many Jews owed their lives to that single volley.
At noon representatives of the Legion came. They wanted to disarm us. We refused to allow them to do so and declared that we would hand over our arms only when we got onto the trucks. We asked them to keep the rabble back... We took our bundles and marched in single file through the gate... the Legionaries escorting and guarding us..."
Last moments at Revadim
"...our men began to get into the trucks. Hundreds of Arabs were already crowding around the fences of the farmyard, waiting for the moment to break in. As the members began to climb into the trucks with their little bundles in their hands, the rabble rushed into the farmyard. The villagers went frantic in their lust for loot..."
Last moments at Massuot Yitzchak
"In the early afternoon we were alone, the only settlement remaining in the Etzion Bloc, The settlers of Ein Tsurim and Revadim had been taken off in an unknown direction...
Hours passed and the Red Cross delegation had not come... The sun was setting. Sabbath was approaching. One of the members came up and said that Sabbath prayers would be held in the open. It was hard for me to attend a public service... I had not reconciled myself to the catastrophe that had overwhelmed us. The verses of the prayers seemed at odds with my pain and sorrow... but it was a religious duty, instilled in me since childhood and putting aside my hesitation, I joined the congregation... tears ran down my face and I felt that I was beginning to accept what fate had decreed.
Together with the congregation I uttered: "To declare that the Lord is righteous..."
The previous evening we had decided to bury the Torah scrolls to prevent their violation. We dug a hole and were about to place the scrolls in it. Suddenly one of the members voiced his strong protest. He claimed that the pit must be enlarged so that the scrolls could be buried in the ark and thereby be preserved. "Some day we will return to this place" he concluded with great faith...
At half past seven that night, two Legion officers arrived with their men... We asked a Legion officer to permit us to take a Torah scroll with us and he consented. At 8:00 P.M. the last signal was sent to the regional command in Jerusalem from Massuot Yitzchak.
"The men and women are being taken to Hebron, the wounded to Bethlehem. Regards to the Massuot group in Jerusalem. Tonight we shall no longer be here. So ends the chapter of the Etzion Bloc."
From the accounts of survivors
The Etzion Bloc went up in flames at the historic hour of the declaration of the State of Israel.