GUSH ETZYON (Heb. גוש עציון; Etzyon Bloc), group of 15 settlements in the Judean hills, located between Jerusalem and Hebron. The population of Gush Etzyon was about 17,000 in 2004.
In 1947, at the outset of Israel's *War of Independence, Gush Etzyon consisted of four settlements: *Kefar Etzyon (the first settlement in the area, founded in 1943), *Massu'ot Yitzḥak, *Ein Tzurim, and *Revadim. From the end of 1947, Gush defenders were able to fight off frequent Arab attacks. A unit of 35 *Haganah and *Palmah fighters (known to posterity as the "Lamed-He") sent from Jerusalem as reinforcements was intercepted and wiped out by the Arabs on January 17, 1948, and a relief convoy suffered heavy losses on March 27. The Arab Legion and large numbers of Arab irregulars began the final assault on May 12. Many of the 500 defenders, men and women, were massacred by an Arab mob after surrendering to the Legion and the Gush was razed.
Jewish settlement in Gush Etzyon was renewed in 1967 after the *Six-Day War. In September 1967 Kefar Etzyon was reestablished by a *Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati group that included children of former settlers. A year later, in 1968, Har Gilo was founded, in 1970 Allon Shevut and Rosh Tzurim were added, and the rest were established over the next 20 years. There has been a general consensus in Israel that Gush Etzyon will remain part of Israel in any peace settlement.
The settlements of Gush Etzyon are as follows:
(Heb. אלון שבות), established in 1970 near the lone oak tree for which the settlement is named. The nucleus of the community was the Har Etzyon Yeshivah. In 2002 the population of Allon Shevut was 3,030.
(Heb. בת עין), established in 1989. In 2002 the population was 685. Residents earned their livelihoods in a variety of ways: raising sheep, organic farming, computers, etc. The settlement was home to many artists.
(Heb. אפרת), urban community with municipal council, established in 1983. In 2002 the population was 6,810, mainly religious.
(Heb. אלעזר), established in 1976 by a group of American immigrants. The settlement began as a *moshav shittufi, but became an ordinary community. In 2002 the population was 796. The name commemorates *Eleazar ben Mattathias, brother of *Judah Maccabi, who was killed during the war with the Greeks in nearby Bet Zekharyah.
(Heb. הר גילה), established in 1968, and located on a hill overlooking Bethlehem, 3,027 ft. (923 m.) above sea level. The nucleus of the settlement was a field school run by the Nature Preservation Authority, around which the community developed. The settlement had a hostel with 400 beds, an information center for the birds and plants of Eretz Israel, and a school for army commanders. The population in 2002 was 357, religious and secular. Residents worked in Jerusalem.
(Heb. קדר), established in 1985 by a group from the *Betar movement. The settlement is located on the north-eastern
edge of the Gush, not far from *Ma'aleh Adumim. In 2002 the population was 585.
(Heb. כרמ יצור), established in 1984 by a group of Har Ezion yeshiva students. In 2002 the population was 579. The name of the settlement derives from the vineyards in its area and from nearby Tel Tzur, where the Hasmoneans fought against the Greeks.
(Heb. כפר עציון), religious kibbutz, reestablished in 1967. The kibbutz economy was based on farming and industry. In 2002 the population was 408.
(Heb. מעלה עמוס), ultra-Orthodox community, established in 1982 by Esh ha-Torah yeshiva students. In 2002 the population was 258, mainly yeshivah students.
(Heb. מיצד) ultra-Orthodox community, established in 1984 with assistance from *Po'alei Agudat Israel. In 2002 the population was 218, many of them immigrants from the U.S., South Africa, France, and England. The men were mainly yeshivah students and the women worked in education.
(Heb. מגדל עוז): religious kibbutz, established in 1977. In 2002 the population was 268. The kibbutz raised turkeys, dairy cattle, and field crops (together with the two other kibbutzim in Gush Etzyon) and had a packing house and a factory producing parts for airplanes.
(Heb. נווה דניאל), established in 1982. The settlement is located on the highest hill of the region, 3,254 ft. (992 m.) above sea level. In 2002 the population was 1,020. The majority of the population was employed outside the settlement.
(Heb. נוקדים), established in 1982 by a group from nearby Tekoa. The settlement is located at the foot of *Herodium. In 2002 the population was 615. The name of the settlement derives from Amos 1:1 (nokedim = "herdsman"). Nearby there is an unauthorized settlement called Kefar Eldad (Heb. כפר אלדד), numbering 35 families.
(Heb. ראש צורים), religious kibbutz, established in 1970 on the original site of Ein Tzurim (which was rebuilt in different location). In 2002 the population was 247. The main economic branches were field crops (together with the two other kibbutzim located in Gush Etzyon), dairy cattle, turkeys, and fruit orchards. The kibbutz owned the Mei Tzurim plant, which produced water filters.
(Heb. תקוע), established in 1977 by a group of settlers affiliated with *Gush Emunim. In the 2002 the population was 1,040, religious and secular. Some residents worked outside the settlement, while others were employed in agriculture (mushrooms, dairy) inside Tekoa.
[Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]