Don’t turn back the clock
If you drive east from Mahanayim Junction toward the Bnot Yaakov Bridge you will pass by Kibbutz Mahanayim, Moshav Mishmar Hayarden and Kibbutz Gadot. From that vantage point, even before reaching the steep descent toward the Jordan River, you can see a Mekorot water facility on the right and a tall memorial monument on the left, in the center of a small stone plaza.
The memorial is situated in what was once a thriving Jewish agricultural community established in the late 19th century, Mishmar Hayarden. When first founded, only two years after neighboring Rosh Pina, it was a communal farming community. Several years later, it became a moshava, in which, unlike kibbutzim or moshavim, each household privately owns its own plot.
When the Syrian army attacked Mishmar Hayarden during the 1948 War of Independence, it was its residents, with the help of a handful of reinforcement troops, who defended it. Despite being civilians armed with a limited arsenal who were up against a trained army, they still managed to fend off the first attack, on June 6, 1948.
But a second attack, on June 10, 1948, exactly 64 years ago, found the exhausted reinforcement troops with nearly no weapons, and they were unable to prevent the Syrians from conquering their land. The Syrians killed 14 people during that battle and even after the surrender. Those who survived were taken captive and transferred to Syria and Mishmar Hayarden was razed to the ground. They did not leave even one stone intact — literally. Anyone who tours the area today has to struggle with signs to figure out where the residents’ houses once stood; there is simply no remnant of the original Jewish settlement there.
While the Syrians did pull out of the area as part of the armistice agreements at the end of the war, they prevented Israel from exercising its sovereignty there by using their vantage points in the Golan Heights to control the area effectively with live fire. Syrian forces were finally expelled from the area during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Before the first attack, and even more so in between the two attacks, the reinforcement troops defending the community begged for assistance, asking for the 23rd Battalion of the Carmeli Brigade, which was in turn deployed to defend the community. But the troops were delayed by the commander of the Oded Brigade, who oversaw the entire region. The reason for the delay was political: The residents of Mishmar Hayarden were revisionists. Haganah forces (who were loyal to the ruling left-wing establishment) even stopped the (right-wing oriented) Irgun forces that had been sent from Rosh Pina, and, as a result, they arrived in Mishmar Hayarden too late.
The story of Mishmar Hayarden is a why we, today, should doubly examine ourselves. First, we should look inside. Mishmar Hayarden served as a warning signal: What brought about the fall of the town was hatred among brothers on political grounds. We must not allow the story of Mishmar Hayarden become a parable for Israel’s fate.
Secondly, we should look at the Syrians. Every day we witness what the Syrian army is inflicting on the citizens of Syria, who face the army with almost entirely empty hands. We see how the regime makes promises to stop the massacre, only to renege moments later. When you come to the realization that such behavior is part of our neighbors’ culture of governance, it is clear that we must not allow the clock to be turned back, and we must prevent the Golan Heights from returning to Syrian hands.