Last week was the annual ceremony for veterans and descendants of Mishmar Hayarden. Mishmar Hayarden was established in northern Israel (just north of the Bnot Yaakov Bridge) in 1890. Its founders were Jews who desired to fulfill the directive to settle the Land of Israel as written in the Torah. Among them were my great-great grandfather, Yaakov Tzvi Feiglin and his sons, who built two homes in the village.
Terrible hardship befell the village, which was completely destroyed in World War I, but was rebuilt by its determined residents. After some time, a group of pioneers from the Beitar Movement came to strengthen the settlement.
The faith-based, rightist leaning of the village irritated the leaders of the fledgling Jewish presence in Israel and they made life difficult for the pioneers. The agricultural village was not included in the agricultural cooperative that made it easier for surrounding farming villages to exist and grow.
Mishmar Hayarden’s strategic location (the gateway to Syria) demanded its fortification before the War of Independence in 1948. But the pioneer leadership did not do so. When the battles began, the leadership did not send reinforcements, even though the forces that were placed nearby for that purpose (the 23rd battalion of the Carmeli division) was not charged with any other missions.
The heroic battle of 50 residents of the village (against approximately 3000 Syrian soldiers, well-organized and bolstered by the Syrian air force) managed to seriously slow down the Syrian invasion. Ultimately, the settlement fell. 15 fighters were killed and 29 members of the village, both men and women, were taken captive by the Syrians.
Military historian Aryeh Yitzchaki says that the battle for Mishmar Hayarden was one of the two most important battles of the War of Independence. Yitzchaki maintains that without the heroism of the defenders of the village, the Syrian army would have immediately cut off the upper Galilee before the IDF could organize to defend it.
At the end of the war, the villagers were eventually released from captivity. They returned to their village to discover that all their property had been looted and their lands had been divided between the kibbutzim. The heritage of their heroism was also stolen: Israel’s youth did not learn about the heroic battle of Mishmar Hayarden in school. What the Turks, Arab gangs, enemies from within, sickness and the Syrians did not manage to do until 1948, the young State of Israel did – and Mishmar Hayarden was never rebuilt.
When I was in the Knesset, I did my best to advance reconstruction of the village. But it turns out that the ruling mentality in the pinkies of the leftists who ruled in Israel until 1977 is way over the heads of the rightist governments that have ruled Israel since then.