In order to defend the kibbutz during the War of Independence battles, it was decided to evacuate the women and children. Mira Ben Ari remained behind to fight and was separated from Danny, her child.
In memory of Private Mira Ben Ari - 1926 – 29 Iyar 5708 (June 7, 1948)
Mira Ben Ari was born on January 9th, 1926 in Berlin to Rivka and Yisrael. Her father sent her to study in a Zionist school and she took part in the Zionist movement from childhood. In 1933, she made aliyah with her family.
The life on kibbutz enthralled her and she was part of a group that established Kvutzat Nitzanim in the South. It was an isolated Jewish outpost in the heart of an Arab-populated area. She married Elyakim, a member of the Palmach and at the age of 19 she gave birth to Danny. After completing a radio operators course, she became the liaison between ships bringing olim close to the shore and those waiting to receive them.
With the declaration of the State, the Egyptian army invaded by way of Gaza and started advancing northward. On May 16th, it was decided to implement “Operation Baby”, in which babies and some of the mothers and fathers were evacuated to Moshav Be’er Tuvia. It was a dangerous trip on foot by way of the wadis. It is recounted that a sedative was put in the babies’ milk bottles so that they wouldn’t wake up and give the group away. The families at Moshav Be’er Tuvia placed lit candles at the entrances to the homes where the children would be housed. After each drop-off, the candle was extinguished and the group would continue making their way through the moshav, until the last of the children was dropped off and the last candle was put out.
Mira remained behind to defend the kibbutz. She put the following note into her son’s jacket:
“I am only writing a few words and I’m sure you understand that I am not able to write. It is simply a little difficult. More than a little. I have never felt like this, but I will get over it. We have to get over everything these days. Perhaps due to our people’s ability to suffer and never give up, because of its stubbornness to hold on even though we are few in number, we will—despite everything—achieve what we deserve after two thousand years. There is no more difficult separation than between a mother and her child, but I am being separated from my child so that he can grow up in a safe place and so that he will be a free man in his own land. When you get to him, give him all my love. Give my mother and father many kisses and ask forgiveness for me that I didn’t write to them, but I really am unable to!”
Mira and her sun
On the night of June 7th, the kibbutz was heavily shelled and in the morning the infantry attacked, but they were halted by the defenders. The Egyptians increased the shelling and even brought in planes that bombed the kibbutz and caused heavy damage. At the beginning of the battle, Mira the radio operator called again and again for reinforcements, but there was no answer. The radio stopped working during the night. The battle continued. Most of the fighters were wounded and the ammunition was running out. At four in the afternoon, when it seemed like there was no other choice, the commander, Avraham Schwartzstein, decided to surrender and to smuggle out some of the fighters. He sent out one of the soldiers holding a white T-shirt above his head, but he was shot and died on the spot. Shwartzstein took the white T-shirt, tied it to his weapon and held it aloft. Mira buried the radio and the two set out toward the enemy to discuss surrender. Three Egyptian officers approached them; one pulled out his pistol and shot the commander, who collapsed on the spot. Mira pulled out her pistol from inside her shirt and shot and killed the Egyptian officer. Mira stood alone facing the two enemy officers and behind them were dozens of Egyptian soldiers. But she did not ask for mercy. The Egyptians, who were stunned by her daring, shot her immediately.
Mira died on June 7th, 1948 at the age of 22.
Comments by the artist Daniela Sherar:
I was given the honor of creating a clip in memory of a woman who, in my eyes, is a great inspiration. In creating the clip, I chose not to describe any one single experience but rather to paint—using broad strokes—the main narratives in her life. I chose to use animation with thin lines and delicate colors, in an effort to decode Mira’s character and the world as she saw it.
I related to three roles that it seems to me were the most significant in her life: Mira the radio operator, Mira the artist and Mira the mother. The clip combines all three identities, to create a portrait of a devoted mother, an idealistic woman and an artist. It describes her various living spaces, in which she created interpersonal bonds of various types. Each environment has a slightly different character in esthetic terms, but the natural transitions between them bind the spaces together and define a single complete character.
Without a doubt, the circumstances of her life were tied up with the fate of Nitzanim and the difficulties of the war, which finds expression primarily in the middle of the clip. However, it is clear from her letter that despite the hard times Mira was full of life and more than anything else she was happy to be bringing up her son Danny. The separation from Danny at such a young age is the ending scene of the clip, but I chose to characterize the various moments together with him with vitality and lightness, which is the way I feel their relationship must have been like.