How Kibbutz Metzer became a household name in Israel…
Humanity shines through….
Compassion, humanity and hope in the midst of conflict
|Challenging myths and presenting facts about
METZER: the day that idealism and horror collided….
|London - published on 6 February
Beyond Images Ref: 22
Kibbutz Metzer, a 50 year old kibbutz in
central Israel, and rich in socialist ideals, suffered one
of the most horrific attacks of the Palestinian intifada in
November 2002 when Rachel Ohayon and her two young sons were
killed in a manner which left hardened Israelis speechless.
- This Briefing, based on reports in Ha’aretz and a feature
in the Jerusalem Post (15 November 2002), describes some key characteristics
of Kibbutz Metzer, and highlights how the spirit of idealism,
and the hope for coexistence, have survived the Palestinian attack.
Founding the Kibbutz in a spirit of coexistence
The Kibbutz was founded in 1953 by a group
of 120 young adults, mainly radical left-wing emigrés
from Argentina. They settled a barren hill in Central Israel.
Today the Kibbutz generates its income from a plastic piping
factory, and from avocado groves and banana plantations.
- From the outset the members of the Kibbutz believed in and practised
day-to-day coexistence with the surrounding Arab villages.
Wells of water, basketball, swimming pool, and football
Cooperation was two-way. When, in its early
days, Kibbutz Metzer could not locate a viable water well,
the nearby Arab village of Meiser connected Kibbutz Metzer
to Meiser’s own small well – a gesture which apparently
was never forgotten.
- Another indication: in the mid-1950s, firemen from the Jordanian
Legion worked alongside Israeli ones to dowse a brush fire near
to the Kibbutz.
- For the fifty years since, Kibbutz Metzer has continued to
have good relations with surrounding Arab villages. There is frequent
sharing of resources. Arab children from Meiser come to Metzer
to play basketball, and to use Metzer’s swimming pool and
- In the 1970s, Kibbutz Metzer and Meiser even formed a joint
football team to compete in one of the lower Hapoel leagues.
- In the words of one veteran member of the Kibbutz, close-knit
relations with the Arabs “became a multi-generation tradition”.
Israel’s security fence opposed by many from Kibbutz
In 2002 Israel began constructing a security
fence to reduce the number of Palestinian terrorist attacks
into ‘pre-1967’ Israel from Palestinian population
centres and villages (see Beyond Images
– The Security Fence).
- Many Kibbutz Metzer members protested against the implementation
of the plan. They were concerned that the route of the security
fence would cut through olive groves belonging to a neighbouring
Palestinian village, Kafin. They claimed that the fence would
deprive Kafin farmers of about 60% of their fields, and that the
fence should be rerouted along the so-called ‘Green Line’
– ie the pre-1967 border – in order to overcome the
- A meeting was scheduled to take place on Monday 11 November
with Israeli Defence Ministry officials at which Kibbutz members
were to have argued this case on behalf of their Arab neighbours.
Attack by Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade Gunman
The meeting did not take place.
- The night before, Sunday 10 November, a lone Palestinian gunman
entered the Kibbutz. He approached the home of 34 year old Revital
Ohayon, fired two shots at the front door, kicked it open and
entered the bedroom of Revital Ohayon’s children Matan (5)
and Noam (4).
- She had just finished reading them a bedtime story, and at
that moment was on her mobile phone to her ex-husband.
- She tried to shield the boys, but the gunman shot both boys
dead at point blank range. He then shot her.
- The gunman killed two other adult kibbutz members - the 44-year
old secretary of the Kibbutz, and a woman – before fleeing.
- The Palestinian Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is the
so-called “military” wing of Yasser Arafat’s
Fatah organisation, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Kibbutz official: “we need the strength to remember
Israel was rocked by the attack. Heart-rending
images of the childrens’ blood-stained bedroom were
broadcast across the country.
- Yet despite the emotion of the moment, here are comments made
shortly after the attack by Dov Avital, the new secretary of Kibbutz
- “Although the thirst for revenge is natural, we need
the strength to remember our message, and remain firm believers
in our desire to live in peace with our neighbours….”
- “We are not Quakers or anything. I believe that the IDF
has to go after and kill these terrorists, but the government
needs to remember that most Palestinians are not terrorists, and
that it is imperative to give them a diplomatic horizon. There
is no other solution….”
?The murders in Kibbutz Metzer demonstrate
- yet again – the random cruelty and total senselessness
of Palestinian violence.
- The ultimate irony is that the Kibbutz had long promoted coexistence
and cooperation with the Arab villages around them. Yet this did
not shelter them from the crime inflicted that night.
- We also learn a lesson in the strength of Israel’s society.
Dov Avital reminded fellow Kibbutz members that “we need
to remember the strength of our message”. Those words apply
not only to the Kibbutz but, arguably, to Israel as a whole, and
help to explain its peoples’ resilience.
- After more than two years of sustained violence against Israeli
men, women and children (see Beyond Images Briefing 48), and the
collapse of expectations for a peaceful resolution, many wonder
what gives Israeli citizens the strength to continue their day-to-day
- Perhaps the key lies in Dov Avital’s words. Israel only
exists because of “the strength of its message”: that
the Jewish people – left, right, religious, secular - desire
a land in which to live securely, and to have the opportunity
to develop that society in coexistence with its neighbours. It
is only that “message” which gives Israelis the strength
to overcome the challenges they currently face.