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Posts Tagged ‘Six Day War’

From Liberating the Western Wall to Transforming Israel

Monday, October 7th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai presents audio from Tablet Magazine where they interview Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi on his new book Like Dreamers, a story about paratroopers from the 55th paratroop brigade who are most famous for liberating the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The book discusses individuals and how they went on to shape Israel following the war. Listen in to catch to this inspiring interview!

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Arabs Stage Mass Protests Same Day Kerry’s Deadline for Talks

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Palestinian Authority organizers in Ramallah and Gaza published on Monday plans for massive protests at the Temporary Armistice borders that existed from 1948 until the Six-Day War in 1967, on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has declared a deadline for an agreement by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israel to resume direct talks.

The protests and the deadline are on Friday, June 7, which also is the anniversary of the return of the Temple Mount to Jewish hands after 2,000 years.

It might have been a brainstorm by someone in the State Dept. to choose the date as being symbolic for enemies to make up and live in peace with each other forever.

If so, it illustrates to the Nth degree how little American policymakers understand the Israeli-Arab struggle, let alone the entire Middle East.

If the timing was a coincidence, it shows how totally inept they are.

Organizers of the protests plan simultaneous demonstrations in Jordan and other Arab countries.

In Israel, Arabs have been told to arrive in large numbers towards the old borders of Israel that existed as the Temporary Armistice Lines until the Six-Day War in 1967.

Protests are planned at the Kalandia checkpoint at northern Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate in the Old City, Rachel’s Tomb, which is several hundred yards from the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jerusalem and which borders Bethlehem, in northern Gaza near the security fence, and at the Jordanian border.

Previous mass marches have been a total failure, but this time the stakes are high. If Abbas actually does back down and agree to speak with Israel without pre-conditions, his life literally could be in danger. If he does not, he risks the total wrath of the United States, but at this point, he might not care.

“Despite his good intentions, Kerry so far looks like a naive and ham-handed diplomat who has been acting like a bull in the china shop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” wrote Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz.

“It is a Lone-Ranger type of effort so far,” said Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, quoted by Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohamed, who covers the State Dept.

“The perception in the region is this is a process of buying time … that the White House is not serious about committing to what it takes to get this issue resolved,” Muasher added. “I don’t think people are questioning the motives of Kerry, everyone thinks he is serious about this – and he is serious about this – but he is just acting alone.”

That is the truth. Kerry is alone in the Middle East, a fish out of water.

When Kerry talks to Abbas, he is talking to a wall, a man who for eight years has carefully and cleverly carried out a single-minded strategy of ”all or nothing” while assuming that the world really loves the Arabs and does not simply support its agenda because it cannot stomach dealing with a Jewish state that is not downtrodden.

When Kerry talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he is speaking with a man who knows that the State Dept. cannot see past its nose. Israel has dangerously played the “peace process” game with the assumption, proven correct for 65 years, that the Arabs will shoot themselves in the foot in the end.

On Friday, the best that Kerry can hope for is extending his June 7 deadline.

Maybe he will schedule the next one for November 29, the day that the United Nations recognized the re-establishment of Israel.

Disputed Territories: The Census of 1967

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

After the Six-Day War, Israel counted the populace of the territories it had taken over in the recent war. On October 3rd 1967 the Central Bureau of Statistics  (CBS) published its initial findings – so the document we’re presenting today was actually never classified at all. We’re posting it here not because it’s been secret all these years, but simply because we’re not aware that it’s online. So now it is.

The document starts out by explaining its methodology: a one-day curfew was placed on each of the various areas, and hundreds of Arabic-speaking census-takers tried to reach every single home (except what they called the ‘wanderers’, presumably the tent-living Bedouin). Every family filled out a form and received a form of confirmation; 20% were asked to fill out comprehensive questionnaires. Since the populace expected potential benefits to accrue from being counted, the CBS reported that compliance had been very high.

The census was taken in August (beginning on the Golan Heights) and September.

On the Golan 6,400 people were enumerated, 2,900 of them in Magdel Shams.

In northern Sinai 33,000 people were counted, 30,000 of them in El-Arish; the Bedouin of the vast Sinai desert were not counted.

In Gaza the census found 356,000 people, about half (175,000) in refugee camps.

On the “West Bank” there were about 600,000, not including East Jerusalem.

(The population of East Jerusalem has been counted, since the Six Day War, in the column of Arabs in Israel, not in the occupied territories. This creates some amusing results, most noticeably when western media outlets who would never accept Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem routinely count its Palestinian population as part of the 20% of today’s Israeli population who are Arab; present-day demographic statistics routinely double-count the 300-plus Arabs of East Jerusalem as being both part of Israel’s Arab population and the population of the West Bank.)

Beyond the simple numbers, the editors of the report point at a number of possible explanations for the numbers. In Gaza, the Egyptian data from 1965 had about 100,000 additional people, or 25% more than the Israelis counted. Since only a few thousands left as a consequence of the war, and many of them were Egyptians from Sinai and not Gazans, the report assumed someone had been inflating numbers, perhaps by failing to register deaths.

The Jordanian numbers from 1961 were also larger than those identified here, and the editors felt this probably expressed a significant phenomenon of migration during the Jordanian period and after the Six Day War.

The populace of all the territories was very young, children between 0-14 making up the largest group in all areas. the editors were struck, however, by the imbalance between young men and young women; their conjecture being that the relative lack of young men reflected large-scale emigration of laborers.

Visit Israel’s Documented Story.

Jordan Moves to Scrap Peace Treaty over Arrest of Jerusalem Mufti

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

The arrest of the Jerusalem Mufti on Tuesday for throwing chairs at Jews on the Temple Mount prompted the Jordanian parliament on Wednesday to demand that King Abdullah expel the Israeli envoy. The legislators also called to start a draft for a law to scrap the peace treaty with Israel.

Police arrested an Arab from entering the Temple Mount, and an enraged Grand Mufti and other Arabs began throwing plastic chairs at five Jews who entered the Temple Mount under police escort. Arab media said they prostrated themselves, an act of prayer that the Waqf prohibits, except for Muslims.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Washington Post the group did not carry out any act of prayer. As usual, Palestinian Authority media exaggerated the entire scene. Arab media always report that Jews “stormed” the Temple Mount. The Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency reported that 50, and not five, Jews prostrated themselves.

Israeli police stepped in to end the clash before it could get out of hand and arrested the Mufti, a rare action.

It did not take much time for Jordan to hear of the altercation, and the country’s parliament unanimously agreed that the kingdom should expel the Israeli ambassador and recall its own ambassador from Tel Aviv. The parliament added its own imagination to the facts and claimed that Israel is trying to build a bridge between the Al Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem “settlements.” The parliament also called for drafting legislation to scrap the peace treaty with Israel.

Several hours later, Israel released the Mufti, which probably was not related to the Jordanian parliament’s move. The government knows full well that the Arab world will not sit passive with the Jerusalem Mufti being taken from his home for interrogation.

The U.S. State Department was asked by reporters to comment on the fuss, and assistant spokesman Patrick Ventrell told them, “We urge all sides to respect the status quo of this holy site and to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative actions.

As usual, the State Dept. does not what it is talking about.

Status quo? From when? From 1967?

The Israeli government passed the Protection of Holy Places Law on June 27, 1967.

It states:

“The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.”

The wise State Dept. does not also know much about the Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein.

In 2006, he stated that suicide bombings of Israelis were “legitimate, of course, as long as it plays a role in the resistance.”

On the other hand, one could say he simply was maintaining the status quo, which the Oslo Accords and the peace treaty with Jordan changed.

Jordan controlled the Temple Mount until the Six-Day War in 1967. Before then, Amman did not let Jews visit holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It also prohibited Christians from most churches and holy sites in the Old City, Judea and Samaria, except for few and far between visiting foreign dignitaries.

After Jerusalem was restored to Israel in 1967, the Israeli government didn’t want to have much to do with the Temple Mount for many reasons, not the least of which was the concern of a religious war with Muslims as well as the complicated and complex issue in Jewish law of whether it is even permitted for a Jew to ascend to the site of the destroyed First and Second Temples.

The government left authority for the Temple Mount site in the hands of the Muslim Waqf site, with the stipulation that Israeli police could patrol the site and enter the mosque area, if necessary.

The “status quo” ended in 1969, when an Australian evangelical Christian tried to burn down the mosque to hasten the Second Coming, if not World War III.

Muslims began to renovate buildings on the Temple Mount and tried to minimize the presence of Israel soldiers. A plot by a Jewish underground movement to blow up he Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock to awaken Jews to a spiritual revival, or alternatively, bring on World War III.

The Brave Soldier from Auschwitz

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

My late father was a survivor of Auschwitz.  He arrived there as a young Hassid from a Jewish village in Poland, and he left as he had arrived, with his faith intact, and with an awareness that following the Holocaust, he must not be tempted by the offers of the JDC and HIAS to travel to America.  As he put it one of the few times he broke the long silence that characterized his life: “The time had come to go home.”

He went to fight in the War of Liberation, although my mother, who had survived the ghettos, already was carrying me in her belly.  They had made a decision to build a family together, and were married by a British military rabbi in a Cyprus detention camp for Jews who attempted to break the British blockade of the Land of Israel.

Upon arriving here in Israel he was immediately conscripted and sent to infantry training and then to serve at Haganah positions.  He left my pregnant mother in a village in the north with other families that had come from the gloom of the Diaspora and forged a community of Hassidic laborers out of its wreckage.

Alongside him served other survivors.  The cynics among them would later laugh about those days of “Yiddish soldiers” whose maneuvers were executed in exquisite Yiddish that to my ears sounded like a Dzigan sketch.   I remember their reminiscences about mortar-firing exercises accompanied by otherwordly orders straight out of the shtiebl.  “Arise, Reb Yechiel—honored with the firing of one bomb!”

As much as this was a Hassidic community, it was a Zionist one, at once hard-nosed and idealistic.  Its members took Independence Day with the utmost seriousness, and recited the formal blessing over the Hallel prayer.  “Anyone who wasn’t there has no business telling us not to say a blessing,” Daskal, the synagogue manager, once said to me.  He would later lose his son Ya’akov, a brilliant yeshiva student, when he fell with two fellow students in a terrorist ambush in the Jordan Valley.

There was no quibbling with decisions as to who was called up for duty.  Encounters at the shtiebl between Torah students and fighters lacked the tension that is there today.  There was agreement that everyone was on a mission, whether a military mission or one of Torah.

“A Head with Tefillin”

It was the first day of the Yom Kippur War.  We were in the middle of the Mussaf prayer, and I was there in my commanding role in the Hassidic choir as we sang “Be with the mouths of your people the House of Israel.”

My mother, who had been informed well in advance that two consecutive calls were due cause to pick up the phone on a Shabbat or holiday, arrived at the synagogue and hurried me out.

“I think they’re calling from your unit,” she said nervously.

Before saying goodbye to me, the old Hassidim sent me to receive a blessing from the rebbe of the neighboring shtiebl, who was considered a miracle worker.  He too had come from there.

With the convulsions of war and the battles, I moved around between various units so as to stay on the front.  As time went on, as would be expected of me, I lost more and more of my equipment—but not my gun or my tefillin.

My gun—granted, but tefillin?  To understand that you have to know a story from my youth.

One day in yeshiva I received a package of cookies from my mother, accompanied by an agitated letter from my father.

“My dear son,” he wrote in the rugged handwriting of a manual laborer, “you know what ‘a head without tefillin’ is.  But the head of the yeshiva has informed me that you missed putting on tefillin one day!”

He continued, adding that in Auschwitz there were no tefillin, until in 1943 a certain group of Hungarian Jews arrived.  When he heard that they had a pair of tefillin, he began crossing the fence that separated him from them very early each morning to put on tefillin for a moment and say “Shema.”

“Let this deed not seem trivial to you,” he wrote in Diasporic Hebrew.  “It was a very difficult thing to do, it was cold, and I stood the risk of missing the distribution of rations—and someone who missed receiving food for one day was in danger.  Nevertheless, this was [serving God] ‘with all your means.’”

When I came home I wanted to hear more of the story.  Was the fence electrified?  It wasn’t every day that he opened up, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

“What was, was,” he said definitively.  “That is all.”

“But wasn’t your life at risk?!” I said deviously.  “Is it really permitted to risk your life in order to perform a mitzva?”

That already was a halakhic discussion.  He responded.

“True.  As soon as I saw that other Jews were copying me and waiting on line, I stopped.”

I took this story with me to every war.  Before beginning a day of forced labor, a Jew goes and finds other Jews like him waiting at dawn on a long line to put on tefillin.  Just so they would not have “a head without tefillin,” as the Talmud puts it.  How then could I not be sure to put on tefillin every day?

Still, the Lebanon War came and, as luck would have it, my tefillin remained in the APC behind the lines with the rest of my equipment, while I was in the alleys of Baabda at the entrance to Beirut, part of the first battalion to arrive there.  A few inquiries later a pair of tefillin was found for me, and I went to the side, dressed in tefillin and talit.

Suddenly an Arab couple appeared, a man and woman dressed in their finest.  They drew closer, heading straight for me.

I pulled my gun out of the folds of the talit.

“Rifa ayadikum!” I ordered in Arabic.  “Put your hands up!”

As they stood there opposite me, their hands aloft, the man made a gesture to his wife with his raised hand.

“Marati!” he exclaimed.  “Yahudi.”  “She is a Jew.”

“Prove it,” I countered.  “What does it say inside this box?” as I pointed in the direction of my forehead.

“Shema Yisrael,” she answered, lowering one hand from above her head, covering her eyes, “Hashem elokeinu, Hashem echad.”

“Uchtei anta,” I said.  “You are my sister.”  Her eyes were moist.  I think mine were, too.

I could feel my father standing there with me, and his fathers as well.

“How great tefillin are,” I thought.  “They connect different worlds and different generations.  If I hadn’t been wearing them, the lost daughter who married a Christian man might not have dared approach the enemy invaders.  She might never have reconnected with her family in Bat Yam.”  Now, as she told the story of her family members with whom she had lost contact when they departed for Israel, the connection was renewed.

One good deed leads to another.  I don’t know what happened to that woman, but maybe, just maybe, her earth-shattering “Shema Yisrael,” together with the prayers for the safety of our soldiers, gave us the boost we needed in the ensuing battles.

A Dream

I have a strange occupation: I attend funerals and memorial services.  After a recent funeral, I had a dream in which my father appeared, waking me with his numbered hand.

“You cried?” he said.

“No.  Why?”

“I heard you cry.  I know you.  You’ve cried every time since you came back from the Six-Day War as a young man.  Anyway, I thought I heard you crying from up here, so I came.”

“So I cried.  So what?

“I’ve told you a thousand times you don’t have what to cry over.  We didn’t cry ….”  He gestured with his numbered hand.  “What we went through without crying … Thousands of us killed every hour, herded by the hundreds into the crematorium every seven minutes, and we didn’t cry!”

“Then maybe the time has come to cry,” I said.  “The numbers keep adding up.  There’s no end.  You promised us that we had come here to put an end to the era of death!”

“Nu, nu,” said my father in his Polish Yiddish Hebrew, clicking his tongue.  “Have you forgotten the inheritance I left you?”

“What inheritance, Abba?  You worked liked a dog your whole life, but there was no inheritance!  Not a dime!”

“What abbout the Kaddish prayer I left you?  That inheritance.  Every year I said Kaddish on the Tenth of Tevet and on Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of all the relatives who were murdered by the hundred.  Now it’s you, my heir, who has to say it instead of me.”

“What kind of an inheritance is that, Abba?” I yelled.  “I should say Kaddish?  I never even met them!”

“Precisely,” my father exclaimed with a victorious smile.  “You understand now.  You never met them, and I never meet them either.  They went to their deaths anonymously by the hundred, by the thousand, by the million.  Now everything has changed.  Today your newspapers are full of names, pictures, stories.  Every person who is killed has a name, and the whole nation remembers him.  Where we were, who remembered them?

“Now you understand that there is a difference.  In between the tears, you can smile a little, you have to allow yourself some happiness.  Now you have a state, and an army, and someone to bury the dead, which we did not have …”

With that my father disappeared, wearing the doleful smile he had worn when he came, offering a survivor’s consolation so relevant to these days.

Originally published in Makor Rishon, April 12. Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.

Memorial Day — To Live and Die for Israel

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I wrote this memoir few years ago:

In March of 1995 my friends and I were drafted to the Israeli army. We had passed some grueling tests and were accepted to the Paratrooper brigades, the Tzanchanim. The image of the red berets liberating the Western Wall was fused into our psyches like it was in so many young Israeli minds, and more than anything we wanted to serve our country honorably and to the best of our abilities. Six painful months of basic training were ahead of us. In this period of time our minds and bodies were converted from civilian use and become the property of the IDF. We learned to push the envelope of our individual human capacity, and to harness the great strength inherent in an indivisible platoon.

We kept our sights to the final day of basic training in which we would hike 86 kilometers, in utter silence with full infantry gear, up to Givat Ha-Tachmoshet, Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem where many Tzanchanim had perished in the 6 Day War, and where we would receive our very own red berets and be inducted into the ranks of the paratroopers.

However, one fine day in May, barely three months after we began basic training, the sergeant major came into our barracks with a large box. We had no clue what its contents were. The sergeant major proceeded to open the box, and much to our surprise, unveiled red berets for each one of us in the platoon. “You don’t deserve to be paratroopers yet,” he told us. “But tomorrow you will leave the base and think of yourselves as full-fledged Tzanchanim for one day. You will not get to keep these,” he added, “but wear them with pride and respect.”

The next day was Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, and the whole of the paratrooper brigade, thousands of men, would be released for one day to attend one of the many commemorations of fallen soldiers that took place in the cemeteries of this tiny nation. Each one of us was given precise directions to the cemetery and a plot number was also given to us. We were told that the plot number corresponded to a grave of a fallen paratrooper. We were ordered to stand next to that grave and next to the family of a young man who was once just like ourselves, wearing our red beret as he once did, and in a sense, to represent his memory and soul.

That next day, I had luck hitchhiking, the preferred mode of travel when in uniform. Hitchhiking was by no means a precise science, and though I had tweaked my “I’m a helpless soldier” stance to perfection, some days were better than others. I reached the gates of the cemetery about an hour early and the place was quiet and serene. I loitered at the gate and then wandered in. The large space echoed silence and only the birds chirped in the large trees. Nature had overtaken this resting place and many of the walls were covered in ivy. I tried listening to the graves and heard no cries of pain, no last words, and no fear of death. The dead, it seemed to me, had made peace with their fate, they were no longer bitter at having fallen so young. Alone amongst my dead I stood, a bit in a daydream, under the sun.

Soon, people began to arrive and I straightened my stance and made sure my beret was on right. I was nervous at meeting the family I was assigned to.

Who would they be?

How would they react to me?

Will they cry next to me?

Will they ask me who I am?

Most of all my soul wondered:

What is it like for a parent to stand on the grave of his child?

How would my parents feel if I were that child?

How would I feel, if it were my child?

I thought about my own mother and her reservations about my army service. Soon after, I spotted a family of three: father, mother and son, heading in my general direction. It was my family.

They greeted me kindly, and indeed, the father asked me who I was and where did I serve. The mother, who had been through this before, brought out some fruits and water to nourish the soldier with the red beret standing in front of her, and though she looked at me, I could see that her mind was far away, and that I was a painful reminder of her longing to nourish her own child.

Looking for Family of Soldier Killed in Fall of Gush Etzion, 1948

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Private Yitzchak Mizrachi is the only soldier who fell in the battle for Gush Etzion in the War of Independence whose relative have not been located.

During one of the bitterest battles fought by the Haganah prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, 241 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed in the final battle for Gush Etzion, which finally succumbed to the attacks of Jordanian Legionnaires and local Arabs on the fourth of, May 13, 1948.

The Legionnaires took 320 men and women into captivity, where they were to languish for many months. The next day, on the fifth of Iyar, David Ben Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence. Gush Etzion was resettled after the Six-Day War in 1967, and many of those who returned to the Gush were children who were evacuated before the falling of Gush Etzion.

There is detailed archival documentation on all those who heroically gave their lives during these acrimonious clashes, except for one, Private Yitzchak Mizrachi.

All that is known is that he served in squad 9 of platoon 6, under the command of the renowned composer Tzvi Ben Yosef.

Until this day, no relative has been tracked down in Israel. This has led those who are involved in the search for information about Private Mizrachi to believe that his family resides abroad.

A note found at the Haganah Museum archives states the exact date of his death and where he died. but someone erased the initial place of death because he thought the information was incorrect. His name was also crossed out and corrected to “Manosy”.

One of the museum managers, Yaron Rosenthal, calls on anyone who knows about him or his family to contact him “so that we will be able to bestow upon him and his relatives the proper honors he deserves as someone who gave his life for us all.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/looking-for-family-of-soldier-killed-in-fall-of-gush-etzion-1948/2013/04/10/

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