Two Tuviae, botanist and soldier

Iris Tuvia

In 1947 Tuvia Kushnir, a brilliant young man, was a student at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He was studying and researching the plants of Palestine (under the British mandate, before the State of Israel was declared). Tuvia was one of the first iris researchers in Palestine and identified an iris that bears his name Iris tuvia (also known as the King Uzziae iris).

And Tuvia also identified a kind of crocus that grows only in the desert that was named after him, Colchicum tuviae.

But 1947-1948 was a time when a botanist was also a soldier. On January 15th, 1948 with Gush Etzion just south of Jerusalem under blockade by Arab forces Tuvia was part of a group of Haganah soldiers under the command of Danny Mass given the task of carrying supplies to the defenders on the 4 kibbutzim in the Gush. They set out at 11pm, later than planned, on foot from Har Tuv, each man carrying 100 pounds of supplies on his back. They had to make a detour past the British police station so as not to be detected (as it was a capital offense for Jews to carry arms) and keep their distance from hostile Arab villages.


Har Tuv

Three soldiers turned back when a soldier twisted his ankle and was unable to continue leaving 35 – the Lamed-Heh (ל’’ה, two Hebrew letters that have the value 35). With the breaking of dawn the group was still about 5 km from Kfar Etzion.


Battle site of Lamed-Heh

They were discovered near the Arab village of Tsurif, the alarm was raised and hundreds of Arabs from the neighboring villages attacked the convoy. The battle went on all day, the Israeli soldiers fought until they had no more ammunition. All 35 were killed, including Tuvia.

In memory of the Lamed-Heh: Daniel Mass Yisrael Aloni Chaim Engel Binyamin Bugoslavsky Yehuda Bitensky Oded Ben-Yamin Benzion Ben-Meir Yaakov Ben-Attar Yosef Baruch Eitan Gaon Sabo Goland Yitzhak Ginzburg Yitzhak Halevi Eliyahu Hershkovitz Yitzhak Zvuloni David Tish Alexander Yehuda Cohen Yaakov Cohen Yehiel Kelev Yaakov Caspi Alexander Avraham Lustig Yonah Levin Eliyahu Mizrahi Amnon Michaeli Shaul Pinueli Moshe Avigdor Perlstein Binyamin Parsitz Baruch Pat David Sabarna David Zwebner Yaakov Kotick Yosef Kofler Tuvia Kushnir Daniel Reich Yaakov Shmueli יהי זכרם ברוך May their memories be a blessing.


4 thoughts on “Two Tuviae, botanist and soldier

  1. Hughie Auman

    I believe credit should be given to the world reknown botanist Prof Naomi Feinbrun-Dothan. Although Tuviah Kuschnir was the first to “collect” bulbs of the Iris Uziya in 1943, it was only to be identified as botanically unique by Prof Feinbrun who gave it the scientifically accepted name – “Iris regis-uzziae”. Only at a later date, when it became known that Tuvia Kuschnir had brought to Hebrew University on Mt Scopus the first bulbs, and planted them in the Botanical Garden, that the Hebrew common name was changed to Tuvia’s Iris. On the other hand it was Prof Feinbrun who actually identified the Colchicum tuviae and named it after Tuvia Kuschnir after he fell together with his comrades of the “Lamed Heh”.


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