“In my youth, I was a little soldier in the battlefield, when I joined the demonstrations you were leading – be it the regular demonstrations against desecration of Shabbat, or the mid-week demonstrations against any other transgression,” writes ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav to his illustrious uncle, Amram Blau (1894–1974), a Haredi rabbi from Jerusalem’s Hungarian community and one of the founders of the fiercely Anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta.
“To me, you were the figure of the general, the leader, the fearless and uncompromising fighter for the principles of Judaism,” he continues, as part of a project of Makor Rishon, which asks modern-day Israelis of all stripes to correspond with their acquaintances from the founders’ generations. In Rabbi Blau’s case, though, he was an anti-founder. His second wife, Ruth Ben-David, a French convert 26 years his junior, was involved in the 1960 Yossele Schumacher affair, kidnapping the child of a secular Israeli couple on orders from his Haredi grandfather, and hiding the boy from the Mossad in a chase acrss Europe.
Rabbi Blau was a sworn enemy of Zionism. He was imprisoned many times and did jail time for demonstrating against the public violations of Shabbat, conscription of religious women, or a mixed-sex swimming pool, to name but a few government policies he detested. He was also known to go out in public wearing sackcloth as a sign of mourning for the evils of the Zionists.
“I remember how we stood amazed anew each time at the blows that you received lovingly from policemen, or when you were arrested time and again,” Meshi Zahav, who has continued his Haredi practices, writes. “We grew up on your heroic stories, such as sticking your head in the ticket window of Edison Cinema in Jerusalem to prevent desecration of the Shabbat, when they beat you with clubs until you lost consciousness.”
“As I grew older, with the fervor of faith in your path, I was also involved in organizing demonstrations and protests,” Blau’s nephew continues. “I was arrested countless times, and my bones were crushed from the beatings of the ‘Zionist thugs.’ But you educated us that every red sign in the body from those blows is a rise in rank and a new medal in the lofty ascent of devotion, so we didn’t feel the pain either.”
At which point Meshi Zahav turns on the bright lights and regales his late uncle with the wonders of the Zionist State he had feared so much. “Today, after 70 years of a Zionist state, I am happy to inform you, my dear uncle, that your fears have been proven false: we have a wonderful Jewish-Zionist state that serves as a model for all the countries of the world in every field: education, health, immigrant absorption, and Judaism. About 7 million Jews – more than fifty percent of the Jewish people – already live in the State of Israel, and in Jerusalem alone we are approaching one million residents, which may be bigger than the city’s population during the time of the Temple.”
Meshi Zahav, whose ZAKA group is renowned for its meticulous care for collecting the remains of victims of terrorist attacks as well as lethal car accidents, and whose son, Ariel, served in the IDF, tells his uncle: “Who would have believed that 73 years after the terrible Holocaust, when the people of Israel were almost extinct, and there was hardly any trace of the world of Torah and Hasidism, we would have a Jewish state of our own, the State of Israel, a state in which the world of Torah reaches a prosperity unparalleled in the history of the Jewish people.”
“Since King Hezekiah there hasn’t been so much Torah study in the Land of Israel as there is today,” he continues, delivering the following stunning tidbit to his anti-Zionist zealot of an uncle: “And you will be surprised to hear who is the greatest proponent of the Torah in the world: the Zionist regime. Every year the Israeli government invests billions of shekels in the Torah world.”
Meshi Zahav continues to sing the praises of the Jewish State for all its acts of charity and justice in the world, quite contrary to Blau’s predictions, including the fact that “when drought is feared, the minister of agriculture organizes a mass prayer at the Western Wall to beg for rain,” and that “100 percent of the agricultural crops are tithed,” and the state supports Shmita-observing farmers with hundreds of millions of shekels.”
“So rest in peace, my uncle Rabbi Amram z”l, you don’t have to fight anymore,” Blau’s living nephew concludes. “While your generation was rightly concerned about the Zionist state, after 70 years it has been proven that the State of Israel, with God’s help, saves and protects the people of Israel, and is the safest and best place to live as a Jew who observes Torah and mitzvot.”