Gush Etzion, land of nine lives
Settled, destroyed, and resettled, the Etzion Bloc is an irrepressible wellspring of natural, ancient, and historic wonder, divided by a road where the Patriarchs once walked. But did King Herod ever ride the Zip-line?
In 1943, pioneers decided to settle in the biblical Hebron Hills. This was not the first attempt at settlement in what has become known as the Etzion Bloc: The first group purchased land and put down roots in 1927; a second arrived seven years later. In both cases, they were attacked during Arab riots and had to be evacuated. And each time, their homes were destroyed.
During the 1940s, however, four religious and secular communities sprang up in the bloc, prospering and expanding until they numbered 450 men, women and children. Then, soon after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine in November of 1947, Arabs laid siege to the Bloc. A few months later, the well-equipped Jordanian Legion attacked, killing and wounding hundreds of pioneers, and finally wiping Gush Etzion off the face of the Earth on the very day before Israel was declared a State.
Settlement was renewed after the Six Day War, and today, Gush Etzion boasts a population of 65,000 men, women and children in 16 communities and two towns. Relationships with the neighboring Arab villagers are generally cordial, and private initiatives are the order of the day. In fact, over the past few years the Gush has also become a leading center of tourism.