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Convoy of 35

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The Convoy of 35 (or the Lamed He which means "thirty five" in Hebrew numerals) refers to 35 soldiers of the Haganah who were killed while attempting to resupply and or reinforce the Gush Etzion kibbutzim by foot on January 16, 1948, after a number of convoys had been attacked during the early stages of the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine.


On the 16 January 1948, the convoy of 38 was sent by the Jewish Haganah paramilitary to resupply or reinforce the four blockaded kibbutzim of Gush Etzion (the Etzion bloc), south of Jerusalem, following the Arab attack of January 14.[1] Thirty-eight Haganah personnel set out on foot from Hartuv at 11 p.m. on January 15, commanded by Danny Mas. They took a long detour around the Palestine Police station, a Tegart fort, to avoid detection by the British[2], but this took them close to a large training base erected by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni.[3]. Three were sent back because one man sprained an ankle, and two accompanied him. The remaining 35 were killed in an area between the villages of Jaba and Surif.[4]

Convoy burial

January 1948 Casualties of the "Convoy of 35" being brought to burial

אבישי טייכר 076

A monument commemorating the casualties in Netiv HaLamed He.

The fate of the 35 was reconstructed from British and Arab reports. The six hours of night that remained did not suffice for the trip. About an hour before the convoy reached their destination, it became light. Not far from the village of Surif, near Gush Etzion, they were spotted by an Arab shepherd or by two women (accounts differ) who hurried to sound the alarm[5]. According to reporting sources a large number of armed villagers from Surif] and other communities gathered to block the way. The battle had two stages, four hours apart, with hundreds of Arabs from the training base taking part.[3] The soldier battled until the last of their ammunition was spent. Rather than surrender or attempt to retreat they threw stones until they were all killed. The last soldier was apparently killed at about 4:30 p.m.

A phone conversation about the battle was intercepted by the Irgun, in which it was heard that many were killed and some were wounded.[3] After no word of the 35 had been received for a long time and wounded Arabs started arriving at Hebron, the British dispatched a platoon of the Royal Sussex Regiment to investigate. After threatening and exhorting the village mukhtars and notables, the British were led to the site of the battle where they found the bodies of the 35. According to some reports many of the bodies had been mutilated, some beyond recognition.[2]

Identification of 12 of the bodies

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when the bodies of the Convoy of 35 were returned to Israel, the Israel Defense Forces Chief Rabbinate couldn't verify the identity of 12 bodies. The problem of the identification was due to the mutilation of the bodies. To solve the problem, Rabbi Aryeh Levin was handed the task to perform the 'goral hagra' (hagra = Vilna Gaon), a process in which the reader of the Torah is led to certain verses which give hints as to the subjects in question. This ceremony is unique and rarely performed. This is the best-known example of its use. [6]


The story of the 35 was immortalised in an emotional poem, Here Our Bodies Lie written by Haim Gouri. In August 1949, a group of former Palmach soldiers founded a kibbutz, Netiv HaLamed He (Hebrew: נתיב הל"ה‎, path of the 35) near the convoy's route. They built a memorial commemorating the fallen Haganah soldiers there (see picture). Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, it was assumed that the precise location of the final battle was on the Jordanian side of the armistice line. However, in 1967 the British police officer who had found the bodies in 1948 and Arab witnesses independently identified a hilltop on the Israeli side of the line.[7]


  1. Gershom Gorenberg (2007) The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 Macmillan, ISBN 0805082417 p 20
  2. 2.0 2.1 Arieh O'Sullivan, A Magnificent Disaster, Jerusalem Post, Jan 16, 1998
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Newspaper interview with Yohanan Ben-Yaakov: "The 35's Second Battle" (הקרב השני של הל"ה), Makor Rishon, 14 January, 2005. .
  4. Dov Knoh (1958) Siege in the hills of Hebron: the battle of the Etzion Bloc p 102
  5. Nadav Shragai, The legend of ambushed Palmach squad '35', english edition,, April 27, 2009, last accessed May 2, 2009
  6. Raz, Simcha (1976). A Tzaddik in Our Time: The life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin. Spring Valley, N.Y.:Philipp Feldheim Inc. ISBN 0-87306-986-2
  7. U. Milstein, History of Israel's War of Independence, Vol III. English edition: University Press of America 1998, p29.

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