Be’eri is a communal farm (Kibbutz) in southern Israel, 5 km (3 miles) east of Gaza Strip. It is named after Berl Katznelson, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in the first half of the 20th century.
History of Kibbutz Be’eri
Kibbutz Be’eri was established on October 6th 1946 as one of the 11 points in the Negev settlement project.
The 11 Settlements in the Negev Project
After the Second World War, Britain began clearing some of its colonies. The Negev was relatively barren then, but the Zionist movement wanted to settle it as fast as possible. The goal was to have land already purchased by the Zionist movement settled and so included in the future Jewish state. On October 6th, 1946, several Jewish organizations joined in to launch a settlement project, mainly in the Northwestern part of the Negev. Teams of 30 young Israelis were assigned to each settlement, and convoys of 200 trucks delivered the needed materials. Surprisingly, the British did not operate to clear these settlements nor objected to a pipeline that provided water to each site. The project proved to be successful. In 1947 UNESCO committee was impressed by the fast development of the region by the Jews, and in its partition plan, it recommended that Negev should be part of the Jewish state.
During the Israeli-Arab war in 1948, the Kibbutz was bombarded by the Egyptian army, but not conquered. After the war, the Kibbutz moved three km southeast, to its present location.
Like many other kibbutzim, Be’eri’s economy is based on agriculture. It grows potatoes, carrots, peanuts, Mankai, and jojoba trees from which it produces oil for the cosmetics industry. Since the 1950s the Kibbutz also developed a successful printing company, Be’eri Print. Its economic success enabled the kibbutz to retain the cooperative model of a communal farm. In 2022 it counted 1108 residents.
Be’eri 2023 Massacre
Kibbutz Be’eri was known to support the Palestinians from Gaza. Volunteers of the Kibbutz drove sick Palestinians to cancer treatment in Israeli hospitals. The kibbutz also provided work to Palestinians of Gaza, and even had a fund to support them financially. Nevertheless, on October 7th, 2023, about 100 Hamas militants infiltrated the Kibbutz from three directions and killed six members of the first response team. They then massacred at least 92 members; the youngest was 10 months old (Mila Cohen), and the oldest was 88-year-old Hannah Kritzman. They also attacked the Kibbutz clinic, and killed Dr. Daniel Levy and paramedic Amit Man. At least 26 members of the Kibbutz were kidnapped to Gaza, some were later murdered (Yehudt Weiss and Ofrah Keidar). The militants were escorted by a journalist and a TV crew who broadcasted and praised the massacre. Later civilians from Gaza, including elders and kids, entered the kibbutz and participated in the slaughter and loot.
At 8:37 a Shaldag commando team arrived, followed by more forces. Nevertheless, Israeli forces cleared the kibbutz only after 2.5 days of fighting, with 25 casualties.
Notable figures and events:
The Dining Room Hostages Tragedy – During the first day of the battle, 40 Hamas militants captured a group of 14 members of the kibbutz. It was at Pessi Choen’s house but was falsely labeled as the Kibbutz’s dining room. The commander of the Hamas group surrendered, but while dialoguing with the rest on the release of the hostages, the Hamas launched a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at the Israeli forces. In return, commander Barack Hiram ordered the bombing of the building with a tank by two shells. The fire killed all Hamas militants but also 13 of the hostages. Only one survived (Hadas Dagan).
Elhanan Meir Kalmanzon z”l – Captain in reserve and secret service commander Elhanan Kalmanson arrived at the kibbutz and, with his bulletproof vehicle, managed to clear over 100 kibbutz members safely. However, towards the end of the battle, he was fatally wounded.
Zaka Testimonies – Zaka is a Jewish organization that clears body and body parts from battle sites and after terror attacks. Zaka volunteers at Beeri testified to mutilation, rape, decapitation, burning, and throat slashing of many of the kibbutz victims.
The battle area in Kibbutz Be’eri was later visited by the PM of Spain, UK, and Germany.