V’Shavu Vanim

Potholes — I can’t seem to avoid them. Wherever I have called home, I have found them. They and I have met so many times I am beginning to believe that they change their location in the road to meet my wheel like a trap ready to ensnare me.

This last pothole was very clever. As I was driving along the road not far from our home in Gush Etzion, my rear tire caught a pothole. It was overflowing from the torrential rains we had last week and was dressed up like a lake (early Purim costume?). It was this aquatic camouflage that led me into the trap, and my car broke its rear shock absorber. Kaparah.

Not a big problem, because just down the road in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion is the local garage where I bring all my vehicular problems. Since both my cars are 12 years old, I have become a regular.

I don’t wish a trip to the mechanic on anyone, but if you’ve got to break down, this is the spot. Nicest, most honest mechanics in the world. They honor their work and charge reasonably. And they all wear kippot. And there is a 4 p.m. Minchah throughout the year. I dropped off the car there yesterday and picked it up today ready to go.

Though I could write a column about this garage, owned and operated by mentchen, because everyone wants to know about so rare an establishment, instead I will relate to you what I heard about Kibbutz Kfar Etzion from my dear friend while he drove me to the garage to pick up my car.

Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, established in 1943, is part of the national movement of kibbutzim. At their inception, kibbutzim were collective agricultural communities based on socialist and secularist ideologies.

An exception to the general anti-religious views of the kibbutz movement was a subgroup, The Religious Kibbutz Movement.

Most of these religious kibbutzim were founded or strongly influenced by members from Germany. Kibbutz Kfar Etzion proved an exception to this profile. Not only was it founded by Polish Jews, but it remains the only kibbutz with chassidic roots.

My friend, who lived and still teaches on Kfar Etzion, spoke of how he would walk through the kibbutz on a Friday night, listening to beautiful Chassidishe niggunim emanating from the tischen in the homes.

The Kfar Etzion of today was reestablished in 1967 after the miracle of the Six Day War, when Israel reclaimed Yerushalayim and Yehudah and Shomron. It was rebuilt by the children of the founders, Jews who were displaced or casualties of Israel’s War of Independence.

In these 45 years it has developed into a thriving community with a yeshivah, orchards, industry, and, yes, an honest garage. But this renewal of Kfar Etzion was built upon the rubble of its predecessor. On May 14, 1948, the day before David Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel, after ten days of valiant fighting against the Jordanian Legion, Kfar Etzion fell; 157 soldiers and members of the kibbutz were massacred by the Jordanians. Hy”d.

The group of settlements in Gush Etzion surrendered and the remaining inhabitants were held as prisoners of war in Jordan.

The image my friend described was of the Jews leaving mournfully, but carrying the sifrei Torah of Kfar Etzion aloft.

In 1967, when the children came home to reestablish Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, the sifrei Torah were returned as well and placed in the aron kodesh of the new synagogue.

Shimon, the garage manager, was one of the returning sons — v’shavu vanim — to the Yishuv, and Shimon’s father was the Chassidishe leader of the kibbutz.

I got more than a repair from Kfar Etzion; its inspiring story will be a  tikkun as well.


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.

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