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September 01, 1967 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-09-01

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Closeup of Heroes—Dramatic Story of Young Israeli Settlers


Editor's Note: Ben Gil, an Israeli
journalist, served on two of Israel's
fronts during the six-day June war
and was in active service, as a re-
servist, for six weeks. A native of
Great Britain, he settled in Israel
several years ago after marrying an
American girl.
Heroes are not special people;
they are the people you see every
day who are suddenly elevated into
a heroic situation. David and Miri
are ordinary Israelis, part of the
extraordinary so c i a 1, economic,
spiritual fabric that is Israel, the
flesh and blood behind the popula-
tion statistics, production figures
and economic plans. When prices
rise in Israel, it is Miri who buys
a cheaper cut of meat; when a new
school is built, it is their children
who will attend it; when exports
are to be increased, David will
have to work more; when there is
danger of war, it is David and Miri

who will face it.
They live in Jerusalem with Rafi,
their son who will soon be five,
and a baby daughter, Dina. David
was born 33 years ago in Poland
and was brought to Israel as a
young boy through Aliyat Hano'ar.
He attended high school and won
a scholarship to study chemistry
at the Hebrew University.
' i comes from Chicago, where
she studied social work, and after

graduation she decided to spend a
summer in Israel with some

friends. They met by chance on a

bus tour in the Negev, and within
a few weeks decided to marry.
They went on a visit to the USA to
see Miri's' family, but returned to
Israel, where David had been offer-
ed a good job in a new pharmaceu-
tical plant in Jerusalem. They had
never discussed it, but it was taken
for granted they would live in
They did not have a large

amount of money at their dis-
posal, and moved into an apart-
ment built for new immigrants
in a new neighborhood of the
city, very close to the border.
David settled down into his job
and Miri began working for a
social welfare agency dealing
with delinquency in poor neigh-
In many ways she missed Chi-

cago — the comforts of home, the
material abundance, and her family
and friends. It was especially dif-
ficult when she received visitors
from home, or when she would
look through an American maga-
zine. Generally it was the little
things that were the hardest to get
used to — she missed the taste of
American coffee, the Sunday pa-
pers, the family car. But in spite
of all this she felt this was her
country, just as they had grown to
feel that Jerusalem was their city.
They came to love the silence of
the hills around them, the pink
and grey stones of the buildings,
the sweet air; Miri became expert
at buying in the open-air market
and David developed a deep in-
terest in the history of his adopted
city (although it was not clear who
had adopted whom). On weekends

they would walk through the quiet
streets and look across to the Old
City and Mt. Scopus or spend the
whole day in the Judean Hills.
Like every other citizen, David
did army reserve duty every year.
He was attached to the Jerusalem
Brigade but had never considered
himself an exemplary soldier; after

one period of rough exercises in
rocky terrain he came home com-
pletely exhausted and said to Miri,
as he was soaking his feet, that he
hoped the army had better men
than himself in reserve.

Life went on as usual. They
paid bills, took a vacation in the
autumn, and decided to buy a
small car as soon as David's
long-awaited pay rise should
materialize. It was already time
to worry about Rafi's school and
to settle the perennial argument
over whether they should speak
English or Hebrew with the chil-

increased steadily and to the well-
tuned ears of the Israelis, the situa-
tion seemed far more menacing
than usual. At first they tried to
sandwich it between their daily
affairs, but it kept looming larger
and larger. Friends and acquaint.
ances were no longer around; im-
perceptibly the streets, the stores
and event the movie houses (for
Jerusalemites are the world's great-
est movie fans). began to empty.
People stood in small groups on
street corners quietly talking, peo-
ple began buying sacks to fill with
sand, began taping windows. There
was only one topic of conversation.
Miri and David began to think of
what could happen if . . . They
lived less than half a mile from
the border, right under the guns of
Nebi Samwil. Finally David was
also called. He had been expecting
this and was even hurt that many
of his friends had gone before him.
His uniform and boots were ready,
toothbrush, socks and razor thrown
into an overnight bag — and he
was off.
He was posted to a unit guarding
the western border of the city and
he could see his own home a few
hundred yards behind him. They
dug in and waited just as the whole
country waited. At night they could
see the lights of Jerusalem behind
them and darkness ahead. During
these days David learned that
night in Jerusalem is not black
but blue and the dew is heavy at
dawn. He felt strengthened by
knowing that other Jews before
him, who had wanted nothing more
than to live and work in their own
country, had also defended their
city against invaders.

On the Saturday, June 3, David
impulsively went to a synagogue
for the first time in many years.
He was embarrassed by his uni-
form and shy to be among the
orthodox congregation with whom
he had felt no common interest;
but he was welcomed like a
prince and invited afterwards to
the Rebbe's home.

The last time he went home be-
fore the fighting he was in full
battle dress and his children were
frightened by his helmet and his
gun and he felt very awkward, like
a stranger in his home.
He had wanted to tell Miri about
what he was feeling but found she
had felt the same things. Her par-
ents had cabled her to return but
suddenly all the things she had
missed seemed very unimportant
and she knew that by staying in
Jerusalem at this time she was
stating a central fact of Israel's

Monday began like another of
this long chain of days of ten-
sion and anxiety. Miri had just
sent Rafi off to nursery school
when the program of light
music on the radio was inter-
rupted by a news flash — Israel
and Egypt were at war ! A neigh-
bor went off to bring the chil-
dren back home again and Miri
and her friends prepared them-
selves for what ever might come
as though they had done it many
times before. They had already
prepared a shelter, stocked with
supplies, bedding, toys and
books and began to move in
For a while nothing happened —

the whole city waited as the last
of its men went off in buses, trucks,
taxis, on bikes and on foot to keep
an appointment. Jerusalem was
familiar with war, suffering and
bloodshed and was bracing itself
for a new ordeal. The women had
just finished arranging beds in the
shelter when the first shots began
— rapid and distinct. Miri was un-
familiar with the sound of heavy
machine guns and it seemed like
a gigantic sewing machine. It be-
came louder as more guns joined
in, and then different sounds were
added to the noise — thumps,
whines, crashes, coughs. Some of
them sounded very close. Miri was
too worried to be frightened be-
cause she knew that the purpose
of this barage was to smash David's
position just in front of their
house. The attack went on all that

And then the trouble began.
Miri and David were used to pe-
riods of tension, but this time it day and night. Through the open

windows (they had removed the
panes) they could see a colossal
fireworks display as tracers and
shells made kaleidoscopic patterns
of light over the city.

During the day they received

messages from outside —homes,
hospitals, even the Museum were
being shelled and it seemed im-
possible that anything could sur-
vive this bombardment, The
radio was on the whole time
but the news from Israel was

non-committal and the news from
the Arab stations in Hebrew
and English only spoke of de-
struction, murder and rape. Then
just as the shelling seemed un-

It's Never Too Late
to Become Bar Mitzva

endurable, Kol Yisrael broad-
cast the report of Israel's air
victory. Suddenly it was possible

to breathe again,

has now decided to be Yitzhak
Rabin. One day he was playing
with one of his friends in their
apartment, the little girl ran into
the kitchen in tears and said to
Miri: "Rafi says I can't be like
Yitzhak Rabin because I'm only a
girl." Miri smiled and comforted
her. "No, you can't be like Rabin
but you can grow up to be some-
thing just as important. You can't
have soldiers who don't have any-
thing to fight for."
These are two heroes of Israel's
Six-Day War.

The next morning, even though
there was still an alert, Miri rush-
ed back to her apartment to feed
her birds and see if any of the eggs
had hatched. At the bottom of the
cage was a limp piece of fluff and
bone, cheeping and trying to walk.
Irrationally, all Miri's fears and
hopes burst out from her —this
precious, fragile thing, with its
terrible, unquenchable will to live
summed up all her indistinct feel-
ings about Israel.
That day she sent a card to
David who by then had gone for-
ward as the front advanced.
We were all frightened but
I was more worried about you.
Everyone is mad with happiness
but until I hear from you, I won't
feel easy. P.S. You remember the
tower at Nebi Samwil. Well, it's
much shorter now."
David phoned home a few days
later and then was able to spend
a few hours with his family. Two
weeks later he was released. He
came home, threw his clothes into
the washing machine, spent a very
long time in the bath and went to
David and Miri have already re-
turned to normal life. They have
almost taken for granted the fact
that their city is now whole again.
Their little boy Rafi has given up
the idea of being a bus driver; he

NEW YORK — Three adult
males, all heads of families, be-
came belatedly Bar Mitzva Satur-
day at Temple Beth El in Queens.
The ceremony was performed
for Arthur Hirsch, 58, a grand-
father, Martin Kaminsky, 46, the
father of two, and Sanford Stern,
36, the father of three.
In each case, the ceremony had
been neglected during young man-

Friday, September 1, 1967-11

Rep. Taft Off to Russia
to View Jewish Life

current situation of Soviet Jewry
and Moscow's attitudes toward the
Middle East problem will be ex-
amined by Rep. Robert Taft, Jr.,
a member of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, who left Tues-
day for a visit to the Soviet Union.
Rep. Taft said he wishes "to take
a first hand look at present con-
ditions in the Soviet Union."



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