Kfar Darom

Kfar Drom – an uprooted Jewish stake
From the beginning of the 1930’s, Gaza City was free of Jews, but Jewish habitation began in the south of the Strip.
When the renewal of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel began at the end of the previous century, the country’s Arabs publicly objected to it.  The Arabs secretly sold their land to Jews.  To be more precise: the Arabs kept the most fertile land for themselves and sold marshlands to the Jews at full price. 
Most of the land in the Gaza region was fertile.  The only marshland in the Gaza region was the Dir-al-Balach marsh, located northwest of the village.  Thanks to this marsh, the citrus grower from Rehovot, Tuvia Ziskind Miller, was able to purchase a tract of land near Dir-al-Balach in the 1930's, where he planted an orchard, high quality dates and dug a well, which was 38 meters deep and yielded 100 cubic meters of water per hour.  However, they were ill-fated.  During the “Intifada” of the 1930’s, know to this day as the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, the Arabs uprooted the palm and orange groves and sealed off the well.
In 5704 (1933-4), the Jewish National Fund set its sights on the land and after negotiating with Tuvia Miller, purchased the territory that extended over only 262.5 dunam in Av 5705 (1944-45).  The territory was small and certainly insufficient to support a strong and flourishing community. Nevertheless, at the close of Yom Kippur 5707, (1945-60, when the Zionist leadership and the “Haganah” command decided to put up 11 Hebrew villages in the Negev in one night as a response to the Morrison-Grady Plan, which threatened to tear the Negev from the future Jewish State, one of them was that same territory on the outskirts of Dir-al Balach.  The kibbutz – belonging to the Religious Kibbutz Movement – took the old Talmudic name of Kfar Drom like that of the Jewish village that stood there in the Mishnah period. 
The kibbutz held fast for a year and a half, till 5708 (1947-8). In the War of Independence, the Egyptian army, like many others in the course of history, began a campaign of conquest of the Land of Israel via the Gaza region.  But here it found an obstacle "like a thorn on one's side." From the beginning of the Egyptian invasion of the south of the country, following the Declaration of Independence on  May 14th, 1948 and till  June 11th, 1948, when the first lull began, Kfar Drom was besieged by the Egyptian Army.  The siege was accompanied by artillery and air strikes as well as ground force attacks. The defenders of the community suffered heavy casualties and shortages of food and ammunition, yet were able to hold out. The attempts of Israeli planes to drop supplies from the air, mostly fell outside it.  Even during the first lull, the Egyptian Army did not allow the wounded to be evacuated or food supplies to be brought in to the defenders of the community.  A convoy evacuating the wounded from Kfar Drom was attacked and forced to turn back after suffering casualties.
On receiving reports that the Egyptian Army had decided to invade Kfar Drom and, in view of the plight of the defenders and the IDF’s failure to get supplies and reinforcements through to them, it was decided to evacuate everyone.  On the night of July 8th, on which the break in hostilities was to end, the defenders of the community filtered through the Egyptian Army’s lines to the vehicles waiting to transport them at a prearranged position.  They were discovered and fired on.  One was killed and two were wounded.  In spite of the fire, the defenders succeeded in reaching the rescue force and were evacuated. On the morning after the 8th of July, the Egyptian Army began its attack on the village.  After an artillery barrage, Egyptian ground forces enters only to find the place empty.
When the War of Independence ended, the Gaza Strip remained in Egyptian hands.  The kibbutz was destroyed. 
The Rafah Nahal settlement after the Sinai Campaign                                                                                        
                                                       A moment of satisfaction at Kfar Darom

One of the lesser known settlement episodes occurred in 1956, after the Sinai Campaign and ten years after the founding of Kfar Drom. Religious Nahal soldiers, members of the pioneer core groups of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, established a Nahal settlement near Rafah with the intention of converting it into a religious kibbutz.  The site they chose was an Egyptian Army camp, which had served as a hospital before the war.  Clearly, the goal, as defined by Lt. Col. Aron Harsina, head of the Community Development Operations Division, was to prepare for the foundation of a communal village at Rafah:  “To make the cultivation of farm land and the reality of an agricultural activity in the Gaza Strip an indisputable fact.”  (The original document is in the IDF archive.)
On 31st December 1956, a meeting was held to finalize plans for moving into the community village. The Deputy Nahal Commander, Moshe Gat, stated that “the purpose of creating the community in Rafah was to establish Jewish presence in the Gaza Strip as a fact.  The livelihood of the village would be gained from agriculture.  To this end, the Jewish Agency would supply equipment and livestock to immediately set about cultivating 1000 dunam of unirrigated land and 250 dunam of irrigated land. "    
The pioneers’ first days were spent cleaning and organizing the camp, renovating the buildings and making them habitable.  Reuben Rosenblatt, who would later on become the first Head of the Gaza Regional Council, was one of the Nahal soldiers who founded the rural village and was appointed commander of
the outpost and advanced to the rank of Lance Corporal…They raised 350 chickens, 80 sheep, 8 cows and one bull as well as 7 camels.  The villagers ploughed an area of 1000 dunam, 60 of which they sowed with a variety of vegetables: carrots, onions, potatoes and sunflowers.

The Rafah Settlement
The Jewish Agency had already completed preparations for the establishment of the permanent community “Nahal Rafah,” when the government decided to return of the Gaza Strip to the Egyptians.  On March 6th 1957, the IDF retreated from the Strip.  But before the village was dismantled in advance.  For many years, its very existence was kept secret on the instruction of the Military Censor of the IDF.

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