Monday, June 04, 2007

When B’ezrat HaShem Became Baruch HaShem

by: Schvach Yid

Thank Gd, and I mean it! Thank Gd for the miracle of Israel’s victory in the 1967 War. The self appointed leader of the Arab World, Gamal Abdul Nasser, the then president of the United Arab Republic – Egypt – railed against Israel like a caricature from 1930’s Germany, and just as was the case with 1930’s Germany, Nasser meant it. He ordered the UN to remove its ‘peace keeping’ troops from the Sinai, setup a naval blockade of the Gulf of Elat, and threatened to invade the Jewish State.

For Israel the future looked impossible. What to do? The lone voice of Naomi Shemer sang a lament for the Jewish love of Zion – Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – Jerusalem of Gold. Like a guitar strumming soprano-voiced Jewish version of Winston Churchill, her auric contribution of hope, a new tikvah, was offered at a moment when songs wouldn’t do, and hope seemed inadequate.

The Jewish State at age 19, still in its adolescence, was like an orphan with no one to turn to, its head in a vice, able only to turn within to summon the necessary strength needed to invoke audacity, chutzpah, and as any good New Yorker would say – ‘do what ya gotta do!’.

And they did. Both the political and military leadership knew what needed to be done and how the Jewish Nation needed to conduct itself. Did the Soviet Union demand a rematch against the United States over the humiliation the USSR suffered in the Cuban Missile Crisis? The Israeli leadership didn’t balk – thank Gd! To whom could Israel turn? The Nation of Israel knew – lo yanum v’lo yishan shomer yisrael – neither slumbers nor sleeps the Keeper of Israel.

And the Aybischter was there, and Israel prevailed, Baruch HaShem, and the Jerusalem of Gold invoked by Naomi Shemer’s guitar-strummed tune was ours again for the first time in 2 millenia, but not the Temple Mount, because the Israeli leadership chose to not recite the complete Hallel – but none of that in this blog.

The war ended with a cease fire agreement on June 10, 1967. That summer, 3 weeks later, we went to our bungalow in the Catskill Mountains of New York. A creek ran past the bungalow colony, separated from us by just a narrow roadway and a grassy shoulder. Its flowing water was clearly audible during the day, and lulled everyone to sleep at night. One had to cross a very rickety and decaying wooden bridge over that creek to enter the grounds. There we sat, by the waters of the creek, but unlike our forbearers of Psalm 137 we expressed elation. We were ebullient – we were on top of Zion. The adults passed around copies of a paperback titled Strike Zion, and we congratulated each other – we bragged.

My bar mitzvah had been the previous year, but what did I know? In that bungalow colony I had been surrounded by experts – Holocaust survivors and refugees, many Hungarian. My maternal grandfather had just died of natural causes 2 days after the ceasefire, on June 12th. He barely had time to celebrate – to offer his Hallel. He too had escaped, from Vienna, and landed in England. Three days later England had declared war on Germany, and my grandfather was taken into custody and interred in a camp for immigrants who had arrived from countries hostile to England. Several months later all the inmates were released; my grandfather, grandmother, and mother were then informed by the authorities that they had until the end of the year to find another homeland or they would be forcibly returned to their country of origin – Germany (the Anschluss had taken place in 1938).

Two days after HaShem’s miracle in 1967 was granted to the Jewish people, he was dead. My maternal grandfather, along with my father and all the other fathers, had worked during the summer weeks and would arrive upstate late Friday afternoons before licht benchen (we weren’t orthodox). But, as I’ve written in an earlier blog, to see the mothers, those female survivors of the Holocaust, light Shabbos candles was the lesson of one’s lifetime, and for one’s life.

That summer, 1967, the glee was palpable among the summering congregation of Holocaust survivors and refugees. There was no lamentation or weeping for a hopeful future as in Psalm 137, but rather an exaltation of thanks, their Hallel, for that second miracle of their lives.

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