The 35 Heroes of Gush Etzion in Israel

January 23, 2013  

Aryeh Halivni has a dream.

His goal is to show the history of forming the State of Israel through the medium of movies, the same way that Hollywood director/producer Steven Spielberg did with Holocaust history.

The project, “Toldot Yisrael,” translates roughly into “History of Israel” and is fast becoming a visual record of the Jewish State. Israel Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has referred to the organization and its series as a “project of paramount importance for Israel and its supporters worldwide.”

“A Bravery Fiercer Than Death: The 35 Heroes of Gush Etzion” is the story of the IDF company known as the “Lamed-Hey” – the group that was sent to try and save the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements during the War of Independence.

Sixty-five years ago this month, the “lamed-hey” – mostly students at the Hebrew University” – set out from Jerusalem to bring much-needed supplies to the kibbutzim in the besieged Etzion Bloc south of the city.

They were ambushed en route, however, and despite fighting valiantly the entire company was wiped out before they could reach their destination.

“I don’t know if there was any company in the Israel Defense Forces or in any army in the world that assembled such splendid manpower, pure bravery, and spiritual abundance as this company, who will forever be known by our people as the “lamed hey,” (the Hebrew numerical equivalent of 35),” wrote Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. “These lions of Israel were a mix of youthful spirit and glory, superior wisdom… and bravery fiercer than death.”

The film is the fourth installment in the “Eyewitness 1948″ short film series produced by the Jerusalem-based non-profit Toldot Yisrael project, generously sponsored by the Alexander Family in memory of Shaul Pnueli, one of the fallen.

The Eyewitness 1948 films present stories that address the heroism of the era as well as the complex moral dilemmas confronted by those at the time, as the young nation battled for its existence. The footage serves as primary source material for educational curricula that brings to life the founding of the State of Israel for today’s young Jews.

The first three films in the series, Echoes of a Shofar, The Story of a Vote, and The Volunteers, were made possible through the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation and others. They have been viewed online more than 450,000 times since the series launched in September 2010, Halivni told Arutz Sheva. A companion teachers’ guide is available, including background information, discussion questions and additional resources, by clicking here.

Toldot Yisrael records and shares the first-hand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel. More than 600 video interviews have been conducted with those who were involved during the pre-State struggle and the momentous events of 1948. The organization plans to conduct hundreds more over the next several years, while it is still possible to do so.

The Toldot Yisrael archive is permanently housed at Israel’s National Library, the official library of the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

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