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The Dining hall at Kibbutz Manara
photo by Rhonda Spivak


A view of Israel's Northern coastlinetaken from Rosh Hanikra
photo by Rhonda Spivak


A view of Shlomi, another community in the North on the border with Lebanon that has been evacuated
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
Editor's Report: Hezbollah, Kibbutz Menara and Yitzhak Rabin's Sister

by Rhonda Spivak, January 28, 2024

 

Editor's Report: Hezbollah, Kibbutz Menara and Yitzhak Rabin's Sister

 

As Israel’s Northern front with Hezbollah heats up, I’ve been thinking back to  my visit to Kibbutz Manara, of this small, remote kibbutz  on a picturesque mountaintop that sits right on the border with Lebanon. The kibbutz was so close to the border that I could see four UNIFIL soldiers that were standing on the border. They were part of an international peacekeeping force deployed following Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, who were supposed to ensure that Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, would be pushed back north of the Litani River, such that it could not pose a threat to northern Israeli towns and kibbutzim.

 

When we visited there my son, who was 11 years old, and my daughter, who was 12, swam in the Kibbutz pool, and took note of the fact that there was an indentation at the bottom of the pool, where a Hezbollah rocket from the 2006 war had fallen. One of the Kibbutz residents I spoke with was Rachel Rabin, the sister of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who swam daily in that pool at 8 a.m. 

 

Kibbutz homes back up to the border fence and there are Lebanese villages just a few hundred meters away.

 

When  we entered our room at the kibbutz guesthouse, I clearly recall how my son didn’t want to sleep on the bed that was closest to the outside wall. He wanted the bed closest to the inner wall. When I asked why, he replied, “I don’t want to be close to Hezbollah.” I remember calming his fears, explaining that Hezbollah was far away, and there were UN soldiers, protecting the border, such that no one from Hezbollah would harm him. We walked through the kibbutz and I pointed out the UN soldiers to him. 

 

The horrifying truth, however, is that the UNIFIL soldiers completely failed in their mission to prevent Hezbollah from building up its forces along the border, establishing a vast tunnel network throughout Southern Lebanon, and re-arming such that it has 150,000 missiles, including  long range ones that can cause extensive damage to Israeli infrastructure and the civilian home front. Hezbollah had been planning to invade northern Israel and take hostages, but Hamas beat them to it. We now know that on Oct 11, 2023 Israel was going to conduct a pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah to take out its long range weapons, but President Biden pressure them to abandon these plans as it could have led to a wider war with Iran, and Israel was concerned it could not succeed in actively fighting  on two fronts. Netanyahu, by the way, will be blamed for being in power for so long while allowing Hezbollah to build up its strength and cause such a threat to Israel. Diplomatic and or military action  ought to have taken place years ago to have defanged  Hezbollah, and pushed them back to the Litani River at the very least.

 

Kibbutz Manara, which is usually home to about 250 residents, now stands completely empty, and it is unlikely it’s residents will return anytime soon. At least one anti-tank missile hits the kibbutz almost daily, fired from Lebanon to the west, and 60 percent of the homes in Manara have been hit by missiles launched from Lebanon in recent weeks, with 86 houses suffering some kind of damage.


 

The narrow communal dining hall with wooden chairs has also been badly damaged. I recall sitting in the dining hall editing this publication, as the wifi in my room wasn't working. I had to try sitting in every wooden chair of the kibbutz dining room to find a spot where the wifi was working (At the time I had figured there would be lots of solid connections such that Israel could spy on Hezbollah) The Kibbutznik running the dining hall  agreed to let me sit there and edit, even though breakfast was officially over and the dining hall was closed. The dining hall was so high up that I felt like I was in little tree house suspended in mid-air.


 

Rachel Rabin, who was among the Kibbutz Manara’s founders, will turn 99. She was raised in Tel Aviv and at age 18 moved to Manara in January 1943 as part of the group that founded it. She taught in the local school.  I was supposed to interview her, but she had to cancel as she had a repair person coming to her home, and I was scheduled to leave shortly thereafter.According to Ha’aretz, Rachel Rabin she is currently staying in Tiberias. 

 

Hezbollah has been able to use precision antitank missiles against civilian targets, which is unprecedented. Israel, unfortunately, appears to have no countermeasure that would give residents even five seconds' warning to seek shelter, or intercept incoming missiles. Since the start of the war, four Israeli civilians and two soldiers have been killed by direct antitank missile fire, and many others wounded. The IDF has erected concrete walls on Kibbutz Manara to block the line of sight of the anti-tank missile launchers of Hezbollah.     

 

The list of communities hit by antitank missiles spreads along the entire length of the Lebanese border. Israel has evacuated 50,000 Israelis from communities located within 3.5 km. of the border. However, Hezbollah recently struck an IDF military base on Mount Meron with antitank missiles with a 10-km. range, which means that more communities within a direct-line-of-sight from Lebanon can be hit.

 

Dan Ilan, a resident of Manara recently told Haaretz, "We built the houses with security in mind – fortified concrete, few windows and high-rise construction. The distance from the border to the edge of the ridge is only 500 meters. In the past, there wasn't even a border fence."

 

Israel will need to find a way to ensure that the residents of Manara can re-build their kibbutz and return home. But, to be honest, how that is going to happen is unclear to me.  However, the Jerusalem Post has reported that the IDF is considering keeping two full divisions on the northern border to prevent any Hezbollah invasion, continuing attacks on Hezbollah forces south of the Litani, and reaching an agreement with Hezbollah that  atleast ends rocket and anti-tank fire, while Israel continues talks for a more permanent ceasefire. There would also be massive economic support given to compensate for all losses such that residents in the North would return home.The IDF will not be in a postion to engage in a war in the north as the war in Gaza could still be continuing, and it will need the support of the US and moderate Arab countries for the "day after" in Gaza, such that it will not want to start a war on the northern front.

 
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.