At the time of the Declaration of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948), Kibbutz Yad Mordechai was a five year old settlement, ten kilometers south of Ashkelon, just north of the Gaza border. Its 250 or so members, most originally from Poland, had been part of an earlier settlement that had been relocated to a larger parcel of land. They named their new kibbutz after Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
On May 16th, an Egyptian force of over 1,000 troops, armed with artillery, tanks and aircraft, approached from the south. The only resistence point between the Egyptians and the city of Tel Aviv was Yad Mordechai.
The Haganah, the pre-State defense force, was aware of Yad Mordechai’s strategic importance. In the months before independence, the kibbutz was armed and prepared for defense (communication trenches, fortified firing posts, etc.). However, the kibbutz defenders were vastly outnumbered.
The attack began at dawn of May 19th, the morning after the children and most women were secretly evacuated. The first battle lasted through the next day. Overnight, however, a platoon of reinforcements snuck into Yad Mordechai.
May 21st and 22nd were not days of battle. The Egyptians continued to shell the kibbutz, flattening its buildings, but outright warfare was at a standstill. The battle, however, resumed on the 23rd. With many injured and many dead, the kibbutzniks could not hold out any longer. That night, in secret, they withdrew. On the 24th, the Egyptians resumed shelling Yad Mordechai, and only realized several hours later that the kibbutz was empty.
The five days that the heroes of Yad Mordechai held off the Egyptians was long enough for the newly created IDF to complete the plans for the defense of Tel Aviv.
Today, May 9, 2011, is Yom Ha’Zikaron, Israel Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
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