Night arrived. The desert wind only added to the somber atmosphere and sense of loss. The rifle instructor, barely in his twenties, was laid to rest.

The reality of fatal accidents and friendly fire – and a new awareness of death – haunted the new recruits. But my father had made a decision, and there was no turning back.

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Sixty-four years have passed since those days. On a personal level, my father is an inductee in Israel’s Palmach Museum. On a national level, enduring several wars, countless acts of terror, vicious media misinformation, and overwhelming world pressure the Jews of the desert have displayed an extraordinary will to survive, thrive, achieve and cultivate the restored Jewish Homeland.

These achievements are all the more remarkable because the pressures to succumb to failure were so great. But then, great also were the pressures on those young Jews, like my father, who put their lives on hold in order to fight for the establishment of the first Jewish state in 2,000 years.

The superhuman strength required to overcome all the odds and build a country from scratch can only be recognized for what it was: a Heavenly gift.

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Avi Schwartz is a musmach of MTJ. A rabbi, filmmaker, writer and speaker, he is a co-founder of Shomrei HaAm (Guardians of the Nation), an innovative kiruv organization, and Torah Entertainment Productions, a Torah film production company. An earlier op-ed on his father's experiences in the Palmach appeared in the Feb. 5 issue of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at mschw136@aol.com.
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