Women of Valor Center Nitzanim
Israeli Military History
Kibbutz Nitzanim was founded in 1943, near the Jaffa - Ashdod Gaza highway. It was isolated from Jewish settlements, surrounded by Arab villages and difficult to defend. With the onset of the Egyptian invasion of Israel in May 1948 during the War of Independence, the settlement was cut off from the center of the country. Although the children and women were evacuated in “Baby Operation” during May 1948, 10 women insisted on staying behind with the men to slow down the advance of the Egyptians troops whose objective was to capture Tel-Aviv.
On June 7, 1948, after the Egyptians had penetrated into Israel and were only stopped near the bridge known today as “Gesher Ad-Halom,” a massive attack on Nitzanim began. The defenders returned fire with all their might, but the positions began to collapse under the Egyptian attack.
The Communications Officer, Mira Ben-Ari, never ceased her attempts to send an SOS to the headquarters of the Givati Battalion - a military unit that participated in the battles for the establishment of the State of Israel.
She later typed her last telegram:
“The Egyptians are in the kibbutz. I am destroying the machine and the code and am going off to fight…”
Shulamit Dorczin ran from one wounded soldier to the next, from position to position, stroking and soothing them. In the late afternoon, at the height of the battle, she hurried down to the “Cinderella” position to bandage and treat the severely injured, but while so doing was herself badly hurt.
Deborah Epstein, who was 18 years old, was the youngest girl remaining in the kibbutz. She came to Israel at about the same time the partition of Eretz Israel was approved by the United Nations. During the long hours of fighting, running between the positions and conveying messages, she came to be known as the “flying signal” for her lightness when dashing from one position to another. At one post lay a wounded comrade, and, when Deborah bent over to treat him, she too was hit.
With no help, no ammunition, no weapons and no means of treating the wounded, the Givati commander of that position, Abraham Schwartstein, decided there was no longer any chance of resisting the attackers and decided to capitulate.
During the surrender, the commander was hurt. Mira Ben-Ari had set out to help him advance towards the Egyptians, when he was suddenly shot by one of the Egyptian officers. Quick as lightening, Mira Ben-Ari pulled out her gun and killed the Egyptian commander. “It was clear to her that she was lost, but she would not raise her hands in surrender.” Another Egyptian officer shot and killed Mira Ben-Ari.
The battle for Nitzanim lasted for some 14 hours, at the end of which 33 fighters kibbutz members and Givati soldiers - lay dead on a nearby sandy ridge.
The heroic deeds of Mira Ben-Ari and of other female fighters at Nitzanim led to the development of the site as a place for identifying with female soldiers and initiated the construction of a the Women of Valor Center, in Nitzanim.