Kfar Darom was founded on 250 dunams of land purchased in 1930 by Tuvia Miller for a fruit orchard on the site of an ancient Jewish settlement of the same name mentioned in the Talmud. Following the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Miller sold his land to the Jewish National Fund in 1946. A community was established on the land at the close of Yom Kippur on 5 and 6 October 1946, by Hapoel HaMizrachi's kibbutz movement as part of the 11 points in the Negev settlement plan. The community was named after a Talmudic-period village of the same name that was located near the site.
Following Israel's victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, and its subsequent occupation of the Gaza Strip, a Nahal military outpost was established at the site in 1970. In 1989, this was converted to a civilian community by the Israeli national unity government of Shimon Peres (Alignment) and Yitzhak Shamir (Likud).
At the point of the disengagement plan, there were about sixty families, totaling about 330 people, who earned their living from the free working professions, agriculture, and a central packing center for the world renowned insect-free vegetables produced by the Gaza Jewish communities. The village also had an elementary school, a kollel for religious students and the "Torah and Land" Institute, for research into religious laws relating to agriculture in Israel. The visitor center contained the Garden of Commandments Museum, which illustrated commandments relating to the Land of Israel.
As the disengagement was winding down, Kfar Darom became a symbolic last stand by the Israeli settlers and their supporters on 18 August 2005. Many settlers from Gush Katif, as well as other supporters from the rest of Israel and abroad, mostly religious youth, concentrated themselves in the synagogue. It was turned into a makeshift fortress, where they barricaded themselves inside, piling up furniture near the ground floor entrances and surrounding the roof with barbed wired to prolong their resistance. They had also brought a large amount of food and water, in hopes that they would indeed last long enough to need it. Inside the synagogue, a few hundred people (mostly local settlers) locked arms and remained sitting on the floor inside. Rabbis wearing reflective vests were on hand in order to make sure that no violence ensued, not unlike unofficial referees. The settlement supporters from elsewhere were mostly located on the roof, perhaps numbering up to 300. The IDF eventually broke through the barricaded front door, and set to work of dragging each person out from the lower floor individually. An agreement was made that no police would enter the synagogue and that the work would be carried out by soldiers.
After the bottom floor was secured, the police set to work on reaching the roof. The stairs had been ruled out since oil had been poured and the door to the roof was blocked with sand bags. The barricaders succeed in prolonging the police siege in that they forced them to think of alternate ways of reaching the roof. At approximately 6:30 p.m. local time as the sun was setting, the tactical decision was made that no Jews would be allowed to remain overnight. With the protesters still under the assumption that they would be staying the night, the Police took advantage and began to move in heavy equipment. A water cannon located on site and began spraying the people on the roof with water and blue soap. One man attempted to shut down one of the water cannons, but was immediately hauled away. The front tires of the truck were slashed.
The soldiers began closing in on the area, bringing ladders and other equipment, such as wire cutters to begin to get on top of the roof. Cranes were moved into the site in order to lift 40 ft containers turned into makeshift troop carriers, and land them on the roof. When the soldiers and police got close enough, they aimed fire extinguishers at the crowd and the protesters on the roof began to throw sand at the troops to no avail, as they were all wearing facemasks. When they brought the ladders up close, and began to cut into the barbed wire, they started dumping oil and gasoline, as well as buckets of sand and feathers. The protesters also used long wooden poles to keep the ladders from reaching the roof, and managed to hold them at bay.
As an effort to finally dock the ladders with the roof, the police rolled in a heavy water cannon. It first fired at the sign that had stood there, puncturing it and knocking it over. They then fired at the protesters, forcing them back from the edge. The protesters then desperately rushed back to the wall, and pushed the ladder back again. The Police fired again at the settlers, this time allowing the ladders to dock with the synagogue. The protesters then began to dump buckets of the very blue water and foam that was shot at them onto the ascending police.
One policeman made it up to the roof after several minutes of effort, and almost was almost pushed over a ledge onto the barbed wire directly below but was pushed back with a quick spurt of the water cannons below. Once police reached the top, the struggle had ended, literally. The protesters stopped their resistance and were peacefully removed from the roof and arrested. Moshe Leshem was the last to be removed, and at nightfall he, and the soldiers on the roof, made one last prayer at the synagogue, and left for the very last time. 250 protesters were arrested and taken to the Dekel prison. They were released after a week.
The incident was the largest show of force by withdrawal opponents during the entire pull out from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. All expulsions after this went much more smoothly. Following the eviction and Israeli withdrawal, Palestinians razed the synagogue.
- ↑ Paying the Price for Peace Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- ↑ Kfar Darom Jewish Agency for Israel