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A Visit to Gush Etzion And Its Winery

Twenty-three people embarked on a tour learning about Ha-Lamed-Hei battlefield and then proceeded to the Gush Etzion Heritage Center. Just like the original four settlements in the Gush Etzion whose settlers came from all walks of life -- religious, non-religious, camp survivors and so on -- our group also consisted of various individuals and walks of life. In fact, we even had a couple from Arad, two couples from Modiin, and one man from Mitzpe Ramon.

The tour was led by our guide, Dr. David Rosenblatt. It started at the Ha-Lamid-Hei battlefield. David conveyed moving stories of what transpired when the four settlements in the Gush were under siege.

In 1947-1948, Gush Etzion was the site of blood-drenched battles, where a small number of fighters and settlers took a stand in the defense of Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. Unfortunately, 35 heroic individuals lost their lives with very little ammunition against the enemy. They even found rocks clutched in the hands of some who used whatever they had to survive when the ammunition ran out.

The Heritage Center tells the story of the establishment of kibbutz of Kfar Etzion, as well as the three other settlements in the Gush and their heroic efforts to defend themselves. Unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending. Thirty-five defenders lost their lives. What was more tragic was hearing what was done to them, even in death.

Kfar Etzion was the only kibbutz which refused to resettle outside the Gush. This is the site of the Heritage Center. It took 19 years for the survivors to be able to return home. Their only landmark was the Lone Oak Tree which still stands there today at Alon Shvut. Here, visitors will hear actual letters and stories too.

Afterwards we went to the Gush Etzion Winery for a tour, tasting, and a tasty lunch. Hillel was our tour guide at the winery. We learned about the soil, the differences in grapes, their grade, and the wine making process. How mistakes occur and how a young man who transformed his hobby of making his own wine into a successful business to this day.

We also learned about other wineries and attractions in the area. If one strolls down the street and enters the main shopping center, one can see both Jews and Arabs shopping together and learning how to coexist.

Everyone seemed to have had a meaningful, fruitful day learning about how tragedy can make a people stronger, how their hopes and dreams can become reality. One can appreciate one man's dream of making a successful business of wines, just by the amount of bottles we brought home with us.

If you are interested in going to the Gush Etzion Heritage Center, tours can be arranged by advanced reservations to 02-993 1560. There are movies also in English or with English subtitles. 

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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

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