Defending Jewish Jerusalem: The Modern Defenders of Gush Etzion

June 11, 2018

4 min read

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, once said, “If Jewish Jerusalem exists, it is first and foremost due to the fighters and settlers of Gush Etzion.” That was true in 1947, and it also holds true today, as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary.

Gush Etzion, a region of modern Jewish settlements stretching south from Jerusalem to the Hebron hills attests to the flourishing Jewish life in the area spanning from ancient times until today.

In 1947, Gush Etzion’s early pioneers settled and defended the area leading to the 1948 War of Independence. Their valiant effort was thwarted on Hanukkah in 1947, when an Arab militia massacred the Jewish kibbutz residents and Haganah fighters in Kfar Etzion.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Jerusalem was reunited, Israel liberated the Gush and new kibbutzim were built, creating a flourishing and prosperous settlement bloc.

Modern-day defenders of Gush Etzion keep the region (and beyond) safe through their security training, Jewish values and pride, life-saving volunteer efforts, and funding from abroad.

Eitan Cohen is a modern day defender of Gush Etzion. As a military and civilian counter-terrorism and security professional, Cohen works at the Caliber 3 shooting range and training center in Gush Etzion, training security personnel and special forces within the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Eitan Cohen speaks to an audience at a presentation in Gush Etzion. (Eliana Rudee)

But Cohen maintained that defending the land is not the only way he attempts to keep the Jewish state safe. “Visitors who come to the shooting range and training center are shown the truth about Israel’s situation, how we analyze situations and respond to terrorism, and the meaning of a soldier.”  

Cohen said that his job requires a great deal of physical, emotional, and psychological fitness, but more importantly, values, morality and the spirit of a warrior. “This is what makes Israeli security forces the best,” he told Breaking Israel News.

“The soldier is the one saving a life, not pulling a trigger,” he explained. “While I do have four killing machines on my body right now, that’s not what makes me powerful – this is what makes me powerful,” he said, pointing to an Israeli flag. “Something that was only a dream 70 years ago.”

Cohen expressed great pride and honor in the context of Israel’s 70th. “We are closing a circle,” he said. “I am currently training a 70 year-old man, whose father was killed by Nazis, and now secures my daughter’s kindergarten,” he told Breaking Israel News. “I have a Nazi handgun behind glass that killed my forefathers – and now I can use it for defending my people. If that’s not pride what is? How did it happen that from six million dead bodies, the Jewish people became one of the most successful countries in the world?” he posited. “We are now a model to copy for the rest of the world in technology, security, and agriculture.”

He said  that like the former defenders of Gush Etzion, “We are people of peace and not war. We are not looking to kill people and we are not bloodthirsty, but we are also not afraid to pull the trigger if it means protecting our citizens and soldiers.”

Danny Gur, another modern day defender of Gush Etzion, perfectly exemplifies the measures that Israel takes to protect its citizens and soldiers. Working as a volunteer EMT and Deputy of the Gush Etzion region for United Hatzalah, he recalls the many times that he has treated Arabs in the area, even wounded terrorists.

“I have treated terrorists before, and we treat them exactly the same as treating someone else,” he told Breaking Israel News. “It’s a human life, and that is more important than any belief. Humans need to be taken care of,” he said.

United Hatzalah volunteers take part in a first aid drill in Gush Etzion. (Eliana Rudee)

Defending the value of the sanctity of human life, he said, is also defending the values that underpin the existence of a Jewish Gush Etzion and Jewish Israel.

And then, there are those who defend the Gush Etzion region and Israel by support from abroad. Eddie Mizrahi is the CEO of Life First Technology, a company that sells electronic, sports and automotive goods to retailers throughout the United States. But “first and foremost,” he told Breaking Israel News, he is involved in community work. As a part of the 70th anniversary United Hatzalah delegation to Israel, he donated an ambucyle to continue the work of volunteers like Danny Gur. His son, Ralph, also raised thousands of dollars towards an ambucycle. “How could you not help an organization that saves lives?” he asked.

They, too, are modern day defenders who ensure the continuation of pride, heroism and the Jewish nation. “Because of them, we walk free and proud under the Israeli, Jewish government,” said Cohen.

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