Beyond Images

Humanity shines through….
Compassion, humanity and hope in the midst of conflict

Challenging myths and presenting facts about Israel 
KIBBUTZ METZER: the day that idealism and horror collided….
London - published on 6 February 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 22

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How Kibbutz Metzer became a household name in Israel…
  • 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 teams….

  • 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 other facilities.

  • 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 Metzer

  • 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 Briefing 5 – 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 problem.

  • 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 our message…”

  • 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 Metzer:-

  • “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….”

Beyond Images Comments

  • ?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 lives.

  • 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.