O’ Temple Mount

I know that most  of our readers have heard much about the dismal situation on our holiest site – the Temple Mount but today when I was there it really came home.
I went  to the mikva and wore non leather shoes as halacha prescribes. Then there were the humiliating preparations. I was told by our guide that since we are a Jewish group, we will be closely scrutinized by the Israeli police at the entrance. Any sign of Jewish identity would be reason to detain us yell at us, demand our ID and ban us from entering. And so, no kipa,no tzitit and certainly no dangerous contraband as a siddur or Tihilim. A magan david  design on ones  hat is also forbidden.

We were  the only Jews waitng on  the line. I saw a  non Jewish person have his Bible confiscated. Nothing but Muslim religious articles allowed on the site of the Holy Temple.
It seems that there is one particular loud, bossy and rude police office who runs the place and sets the ugly tone. He does his job just as his bosses like. He  ordered  a map of the Bet  Hamikdash confiscated and began yelling threatening us ..claiming that we were planning to make trouble. Our guide just lowered his head  and absorbed the abuse as the other  Gentile tourist looked on at the spectacle of Jews beng humiliated by Jewish police  at our holiest site.
. I could not help but think how far we have come from the moment of grace God gave us in 1967 when Am Yisroel were thrilled  as “The Temple Mount is in our hands!!”

Not long  ago, a religious Jew who made the mistake of not disguising himself as a Gentile, had his bottle of water confiscated because the police claimed… he  might make  a bracha on the Mount…

Well, we were finally on the Mount  and were the only  Jews there. The area is huge  – seventeen foot ball fields!.
There  were a number of tourist groups and lots of Muslims. Some of them were having classes , some were strolling. Others were playing soccer. They were all at home. The Muslim authorities (Waqf) eyed us suspiciously. They  knew when they smelled Jew. They were on their walky talkies and signaled to each other all over the mount. Were  we going to move our lips in prayer, bow in the direction of the holy  of Holies or do some other Jewish thing.?.
We continued our walk around the perimeter of the Mount – in the areas that halacha allows one to tread witnessing the places where our people have come up to for many centuries when Am Yisroel were indeed home  and acted like it.
There was panic  for  a brief moment in our group when I took off my hat to wipe my brow – and ..my kipppa was visible! Imagine. In the very heart of Yerushalayim.
What  have we done to ourselves?!

In the year 2000 , Prime minister  Ehud Barak agreed to  the Waqf’s  request to make an emergency exit for  the Al Aksa mosque. They brought up bull dozers, mack trucks and guted  the belly of the southern part of the mountain. That was some emergency exit. When the dust settled a few years later they had built under ground, the  largest mosque in Israel. Done.
The had extracted tons of dirt and rock, destroying precious  remains of the Temple and  then threw the whole lot in a garbage dump.Those remains are now being sifted to salvage what can  be saved from the destruction.

During the brutal  and unsurpevised  earth moving, the very walls of the mount began to buckle. This is when the Isaeli authorities woke up and insisted that  the ancient southern support wall be attened to and strengthened. The Waqf insisted that no impure Infidel will touch any thing on their holy site,  and so a Jordanian team is doing the job, in a rather unasthetic manner I might add.

What can I say? Rabbi Akiva and his fellow rabbis saw the Mount and Temple in its ruins with foxes running about He laughed. His colleagues asked, “what are you laughing at”. He answered ,” Just as the prophet said there will be a destruction, he also said there will be  a rebuilding and redemption.”

I saw the foxes today. I would have liked to  laugh but it wasn’t  the Romans who were responsible for the desecration  and destruction. It was our own. We gave the keys back to our enemies  and tormentors  only moments after he greatest miracle since the Exodus.
Yes, we are in the midst of the time of redemption.
Yes, we have indeed come a long way.
Yes, the prophets have foreseen it all.

Rabbi Akiva you have comforted me.

Candles and flowers

Kneeling on a Paris street, right next to the place where hundreds of people have placed flowers and candles to commemorate the victims of Friday’s atrocious terror attacks, a French reporter interviews a little boy, maybe four or five years old. Do you understand why these people did what they did, the reporter wants to know.

Yes, because they’re very, very, evil. They’re not very nice, these bad guys,” the boy replies. “You have to be very careful and you have to switch houses,” he adds. “Don’t worry,” his dad interrupts, gently stroking the boy’s head. France is our home, he declares, and we’re not going anywhere.

But, the young boy argues, “they have guns and they can shoot at us, because they’re very evil.” True, but we have flowers, the father retorts, pointing at the sea of people showing their respect to the victims. “Look, everybody is putting down flowers. That’s to fight the guns.” At first the boy is skeptical — “flowers don’t do anything,” he says — but his father reassures him that the flowers, together with the candles, protect us from the evildoers. The boy looks relieved. “I feel better now,” he says, as his father gives a satisfying smile to the reporter.

The above, is part of an article I read today and fits perfectly with the experience that I had yesterday, as I guided a very pleasant group of pastors from Holland.

The theme of the tour was the topographic /strategic and demographic influences on Jerusalem today and tomorrow. Just my cup of tea.

I was able to demonstrate some of the very basic but essential facts that are vital in order to even discuss political and inter communal issues of the city.

We began on Ammunition Hill, the main battle for Jerusalem in 1967.

I think that some of my guests were surprised to hear that all the neighborhoods that can be seen from the strategic, former Jordanian hill fortress, were Jewish and most built after 1967. I explained that 280,000 Jews of Jerusalem live beyond the “green line” in areas that their Dutch ambassador would not visit because it was “occupied territory”. They seemed riveted as they were exposed to this information. I was certain that this did not jive with their conceptions of an “occupied East Jerusalem.”

I knew that the expected questions would be asked sooner or later as we began to feel a bit more familiar with each other..

“So” , I was asked, what about the illegal and immoral occupation of other’s lands”?

I was not surprised that they needed a basic history lesson of the Arab – Israel conflict. I explained how there never was a “Palestinian state or even people”; how Jordan was an artificial creation on land that was designated for a Jewish state and how Jordan illegally occupied the “West bank” when she attacked Israel in 1948 and then lost it to Israel when Jordan again attacked in 1967.

“Why then are their claims to the territories any better than ours”, I asked.

There was no response but one man in particular did not look very convinced. I asked him, “you seem unhappy with my historical and legal presentation”. He agreed that he was not. He said, do you think it is correct to occupy people’s private lands? I explained that every Jewish town and village (about 400,000 people today) was built on government land; land that was once controlled by the Turks, the British, the Jordanians (never “Palestinians”) and now by Israel.

I asked again, “why are our claims inferior to any one else’s? Again, he could not answer me but still something was bothering him. I asked him what it was?

He just about blurted, “so what about the Arab rights, what about their state? What is your solution.

Ah, I was waiting for that, the $60,000 question.

I knew I would absolutely shock these liberal, politically correct ladies and gentlemen and I loved it.

I told them, “They must go”.

They asked me to repeat that as if they could not believe their ears.

I said yes, they will not live in peace with us. They indoctrinate their children to hate us and kill us, so they must go, and we will help them. In fact if the world was honestly concerned about solving the “Palestinian problem” they would contribute land and resources to resettle them. It could be done rather easily.

This really got my Dutch guest going. He said, “why don’t the Jews find some place to go, like North Dakota.” ( I would have prefered southern California..)

I explained to him that if the entire reason for a Jewish state was physical safety and human comforts, yes that would be a theoretical solution. But, I informed him that I did not leave the USA because I sought security or creature comforts. I am here because this is the only land that God commanded me to live in..

How simple an argument, especially to a group of pastors who claim to take their Bible seriously. You should have seen the looks on their faces. I don’t think they ever heard that one before.

They have finally met a real live Israeli extremist, and without horns.

On the way back to the bus, I asked one of them for his assessment of the Muslim problem inundating Europe. He agreed that there was a real problem. And how to solve it? He said ,” we have to hope that the next generation will be better educated and see there are better ways of living together. We must reach out to them and show them a better way. That is all we can do, that is all…”

And if that does not work..there are always flowers and candles.

Such nice people. Pity

My gallery

Herodion – The mountain built around a tomb

Herodion – The mountain built around a tomb

After a thirty five year(!) search Professor Ehud Netzer felt he was able to announce to the world that he finally found what he was looking for – the Royal tomb of King Herod the Great ( or Harasha – the evil one, 73 BCE – 4 CE).
He spent the last thirty years unearthing the areas at the base of the partially man made volcano like mountain just between Jerusalem and Bethlehem skirting the Judean Desert.

He unearthed magnificent swimming pools , bath houses palaces parade grounds – but no tomb.
It was not on top of the fortress palace . That area was extensively excavated and though it did indeed reveal very impressive remains – no tomb. So, it was not on the top and it was not on the bottom. But Josephus Flavius, the prominent historian of Herod, clearly states that he was buried in Herodion . He just did not bother to say where.
In steps Prof. Netzer. Where else is there left to look? He did not suspect that Josephus was having a laugh with archaeologists of the future so he did not give up on Herodion in desperation he began to poke at the most unlikely spots – the hidden sides of the mountain. BINGO!.

The only similar monumental marble casks set in an ornate mausoleum belonged to Queen Helena( from what is south Russia today) who converted to Judaism in the time of the Maccabees and moved to Jerusalem where she is buried. Her ornate royal tomb was discovered about a century ago in Jerusalem.

The similarity helped convince him that he had indeed finally found Herod’s tomb. Beside the main reddish marble tomb he found two smaller white marble sarcophagi which probably belongs to family members. Near by, an entire mini Roman theater was also unearthed with a raised private viewing porch decorated in multi colored frescoes of the finest art. And all this cut into the side of the mountain!

Apparently at one point Herod gave the order to cover up all the magnificent designs with dirt to recreate the perfect volcano form. Did we mention that he was mad?

Herod ion is similar to another even more famous structure designed by Herod , Masada along the Dead Sea. Both were built on isolated flat mountains and converted into very powerful fortresses and at the same time opulent palaces. Both symbolized Herod’s reputation as the greatest builder of the ancient world. The Talmud says , “If you have not seen the Temple that Herod built you have not seen the most beautiful structure in the world.”

Both wonders were eventually used by Jewish rebels against Rome, in the Great Rebellion which ended with the destruction of the Second Temple and sixty years later by the followers of Bar Cochba and Rabbi Akive . The synagogues and ritual baths built by the temporary but desperate and determined Jewish occupants attest to the very different agendas of Herod and of these practicing Jews.

Unlike Masada , on Herodion there was no dramatic last stand – just careful preparations for one. When visiting Herodion one can see and feel the stage being set for the battle which apparantly never did take place In the nineteen sixties professor Yigal Yadin discovered in the caves of the Judean desert, letters sent to the Jewish fighters on Herod ion by their commander, Simon Bar Cochran. The letter instructed that the fighters to be supplied with lulavs and etros for the Sukkot holiday. Now thats a Jewish army! Imagine standing in the synagogue where these men prayed!

Amongst the very impressive phenomenon on Herodion is the vast water system Herod carved into the belly of the mountain. He built an aqueduct to bring water to the desert fortress form ten miles away!.

Herod was indeed the greatest of builders and knew how to live a life of luxury and to be buried in an unmatched way – but he had a difficult personality.. In fact the Roman Emperor said it was safer to be his pig than his friend. Indeed he did kill many of his children, his brother ,close friends and drove one of his wives to suicide. But he id not neglct to build great edifices named in honor of some of his victims..

He was not accepted by the rabbis as an authentic Jew because his father Antipater the Edomite converted under the duress of the Maccabbean king Yochanan Hurceanus
To make a very long story of intrigue and violence short, his father and he managed to have Rome appoint them as rulers of Judea

The Talmud tels us that when he became king he was very unhappy with the peculiar Jewish laws that did not recognize kings as gods and that a Jewish king had limited powers granted in the Torah etc..

He summoned the rabbis to him to be sure that indeed they were teaching the people that he . did not have absolute power. When this was confirmed, he ordered all the rabbis killed. He decided to leave one alive, Rabba Bar Buta, and had him blinded

The Talmud tells us that he later approached the blind rabbi and tried to learn of plans to topple the king. At first he did not reveal who he was but when the rabbi convinced him that he was not a potential rebel leader and simply accepted the fate as it is, Herod revealed himself and begged the rabbi to tell him how he might repent for being so rash.
The blind rabbi told him, “You have put out the lights of the world by murdering the rabbis. Try toin some way rekindle the lights by tending to the Temple.”
Herod then decided to embark upon the greatest construction of the ancient world The Western Wall is a tiny bit of only the outer support walls of that wonder.

Lest you think that Herod was a changed man, listen to what he planned for the day he would die. Herod was on his death bed in his winter palace in Jericho, deteriorating from a social disease . He knew that he was hated for the tyrant he was and so his last order on earth was ; “Gather all the rabbis to the room next to me. Announce, that the moment I die so do the rabbis. Thus, the day I die will not be a happy one. I n fact all will pray for my health” This last order was not executed but such was the man.to the very end

Herod was a very evil king but the greatest of builders . Herodion will no doubt be one of the top tourist destinations in the coming years. A new road has just opened from Jerusalem cutting down travel to less than twenty five minutes. With the completed excavations of the tomb and theater areas along with the the base of the mountain with its swimming pools, palaces and largest bath house yet found in the country. it will be a must see. Add to that, the dramatic spirit of the Jewish rebels that hovers in every part of the mountain and Herodion is where you will be on your next visit. Oh ,and did I mention the view from the top?

Gush Etzion then and now

Gush Etzion

Gush Etzion

Honestly, it would be hard to choose the one place or area that can be win the title of the  most dramatic  site in the Land of Israel over the thousands of years.  Not an easy choice.  However one strong candidate has to be Gush Etzion. Gush Etzion

Between Jerusalem and Hevron in the middle of  of Judea, is a hilly area crisscrossed by  colorful  fertile valleys and gorges. This is the heart land of the Holy Land .

Today the greater Gush Etzion area is home to about 60,000 Jews and growing. This area has not seen this number  of its sons and daughters since the great revolts against Rome when they were expelled. But they are back and making up for lost time!

In this area  David and before him Benjamin, son of Rachel were born.  Yes, its been a Jewish neighborhood for some time.

After Ezra and Nehemiah  led the Jews  back from Babylonian exile  2,4000 years ago, they rebuilt their homes in the heart land.
It was here that the great show down with the Greek empire occurred. The rulers of  ancient Greece declared that it was going to  be  their way or no way. They would not tolerate anti social , dangerous ideas like   the belief in just one god, a day of rest – even for slaves and cattle! Not putting old parents out to die.. Judaism was dangerous!. It must end in favor of modernity. Loyal Jews felt otherwise.

And so the family of the Maccabees raised the banner of revolt.
“Those who are for God – come to me!” And an irregular band of farmers and patriots set off to defeat Greece. They did. That is the story of Chanukah.
During one of the more crucial battles in the heart of what is today Gush Etzion, Elazar the Maccabee noted that the lead enemy elephant was carrying the general. Breaking ranks, he rushed the elephant and speared him from his soft under belly. The general was killed along with our hero – and blunted the Greek attack.
Jerusalem was saved.

Yes, it was all about Jerusalem. Gush Etzion lies on the “Road of the Patriachs” between Jerusalem and Hevron. Jerusalem can not  be taken from the south as long as the Gush Etzion area holds.

Which brings us to the modern era.
As the in gathering of the exiles began to trickle in from the four corners of the world as the prophets promised, the ancient, craggy soil began to respond to the love and care of her  long lost sons and daughters. The land blossomed once again.

In 1922, the village of Migdal Eder was established by Yemenite Jews who made the three month journey home  by foot. from the end of the southern Arabian peninsula. The holy soil responded – but the Arabs  were not happy about the return of the rightful heirs and  forced them out during the bloody 1929 country wide riots.

The Jews were not discouraged. They returned in 1935. Mr Holtzman bought land in the area and rebuilt.  In Yiddish Holtz means wood which is Etz in Hebrew. Thus the word Etzion (wood) for the modern settlements

Things were going great – until the next wave of Arab pogroms and the Jews were forced out  –   again

They did  not despair.

In 1942 as their Jewish brothers in Europe were being butchered, other young Jews were preparing for a Jewish future in the Jewish home land. Kibutz Kfar Etzion ws established by a group of  Jewish youth on land purchased by the Jewish Ntional fund. Then in 1945, Mauot Yitzchok was established. In 1946, Ein Tzurim and in 1947 young Zionist / socialist pioneers joined their religious brothers and sisters in near by Kibbutz Ravadim The hills were coming alive again. Nothing could stop these young starry eyed idealist now. They were building a country for the holocaust survivors. and for  the returning exiles the world over.

1947.
The British had just called it quits. They could not quell the  resolute revolt of the Irgun and Lechi Jewish underground groups that waged war against the 100,000 British occupation army.  Finally  the British buckled and announced the end of their occupation of Palestine ( Eretz Yisroel)

On November 29, 1947 the UN voted to partition western Eretz Yisroel into two states. Another Arab one (The Britissh had already established  what became Jordan in 1922 ) The Jews accepted the offer .

The Arabs were not interested in borders. There could not be a Jewish state .Period.

And so the four fledgling Gush Etzion settlements found themselves cut off and threatened by both the local Arab mobs and the British led Jordanian army.

They took a vote. It was decided that despite the slim chances of survival they would stay and fight.  The children and mothers were evacuated and they dug in.
It was about Jrusalem

The Arabs cut  off all the roads.  Convoys were attacked and  casualties mounted.
In one famous battle, a convoy of 51 vehicles made it to the Gush with supplies but were delayed leaving due to a stubborn prize breeding bull who would not get onto the truck.

The Arabs were waiting on the road just out side Bethlehem in the way to Jerusalem. The lead truck was stopped by a road block and the men and women took refuge in a small stone building off the road. For 30 hours the Arabs kept up their attack. The “neuteral” British would not intervene as the number of Jewish dead and wounded mounted. Finally the Jews had to agree to hand over all their vehicles and weapons to the Arabs in return for a British safe escort.

For years I have traveled that road and stopped to explain to visitors about the famous stone house with the memorial plaque out side.

That was before the Oslo “peace “ accords, before this area was given to our “peace partners”. After that I noticed that he sign disappeared . Then the building was gone. What battle? What history ? Were the Jews  ever there at all..?
Finally I noticed near the former battle site, a 30 foot high granite stone map of the Land of Israel from the river to the sea – draped in PLO flag colors. So much for the two state solution…)

In a desperate attempt to supply the beleaguered, valiant villages. Thirty five students volunteered to carry supplies walking all night through the Judean hills. Towards morning, within site of Gush Etzion, they were observed by an Arab shepherd but took no action against him.

A fatal mistake.

He alerted the villages in the area and hundreds of shrieking armed Arabs descended on the tiny band. They fought to the last man atop a small hill. When it was over their bodies were beyond any recognition.

Out of ammunition and short on supplies the Arabs swarmed the settlements. The British led, Jordan army joined the attack assuring an Arab victory

Five hundred and thirty five men and women held off a  very  well armed force ten times their size. One hundred and fifty seven were killed . 128 of them massacred after surrender.

Gush Etzion fell for the third time.

Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister said,If there is  Jewish  Jerusalem today  we  owe it to the defenders of Gush  Etzion” They bought the valuable time needed

In the ensuing years the orphans and survivors would look longingly at the lone
oak tree seen from far.  A symbol of what was. Who dreamed that it could be again?

But it was not over yet.  Many  are  the thoughts of me  but  God’s will shall prevail” _ Proverbs.

In 1967, the Arabs launched attacks on Israel and in the miraculous six day war her sons returned to Gush Etzion – for a fourth time.

Today the “Gush “ has expanded twenty times and from four tiny settlement hugging the land for dear life, there are fifteen towns and villages – 60,000 strong and growing.
Today there is tons to do and see there. From history, archeology, wine tasting nature hikes, fruit picking and
Do not miss the dramatic audio visual presentation of the 1947 –48 events.

Will these “west bank settlements” today  withstand the multiple onslaughts of Arab terror threats, Israeli “land for peace” fanatics , Obama’s diktats..? The prophets promised that we would return for good. And that is as good as it gets.

Gamla- The Masada of the North

Gamla Israel

Gamla Israel

Josephus  Flavius ( or Yosef ben  Matityahu –  his  Hebrew name), the  famous historian has made  us  familiar with the dramatic  last stand of the  Jewish  rebels  on Masada against the  Roman  Legions  after the  destruction of the  Second Temple.

But according to the  same historian, a  very similar drama  took place on  another isolated mountain in the very  north of the  country.

Gamla  stands perched on  the southern  end  of the  Golan  Heights. It’s humb  back shape  gave it is’s  name as Gamal means Camel in Hebrew. Surrounded by  protective deep  ravines on all sides. Gamla  was  a  Jewish district  town  when the great revolt against Rome broke out in 66 CE.

One thousand  four hundred  years  earlier, Moses conquered this land  from Og the giant of Bashan. Two and  a half tribes requested the lands  to the east of the Jordan river  for their inheritance and so a part of the tribe of Menashe  settled on what is today the Golan heights or  the Biblical  Bashan.

When Joshua divided up the Promised  Land amongst the tribes, cities of refuge used by people guilty of man slaughter, were established on either side of the Jordan.
Gamla may have been  one of these biblical cities of refuge.

Fast  forwarding  again to the time of the Great Revolt we find Gamla as a crucial strategic position. Not only  was it an isolated walled town that  welcomed  rebels and refugees fleeing  the  advancing Roman Legions, it became a symbol  as the Jews defied the Roman Empire.
In addition, it was geographically on the north east  frontier, closest to two possible threats to Rome. First the  powerful and ever threatening Parathion empire was  not  far  from this frontier. The Parthians would  certainly  grab an opportunity  to  weaken  Roman rule on the international frontier by aiding the Jewish rebels.

Secondly, there was the possibility that the   very large and influential Jewish  communities  within the Parthian  borders would organize  expeditionary armies in aid of their brothers in Eretz Yisroel
For these  reasons it was  deemed necessary to make a convincing  example of Gamla  a the very outset.

As  expected, Gamla  held well against he Romans. Roman assaults were repulsed as the Jews rained  death down on the attackers . In a bold  move the Romans  led by their commander managed to tunnel under one of the watch towers and undermined it so  that it  crumbled down into the ravine.
The Romans  then rushed into the gap with  the Jewish fighters pulling  their families up the slope on the roofs towards the hump of the mountain.
Josephus describes how the Romans hotly  pursued them on the roofs and then, suddenly,  due  to the  extreme weight of the soldiers bunching together charging up, the roofs buckled and the soldiers fell into the buildings and  down the slope.
Panic  broke out. In the  thick of the night and  clouds  of  dust the stunned Romans   hacked at each other as they  beat  a hasty retreat out the  walls .

But this was just a tactical victory for the  defenders of Gamla.
The Romans filled in the ravine and brought up the entire army to the walls careful not to  repeat  their earlier mistakes.
What happened  next was inevitable. The Romans slowly made their way up  the slope forcing the defenders to the summit as the  defenders  formed a  protective ring  around their families at  the very top.  Rather than fall into the  hands of the sadistic Romans, they took their  families  by their   hands  and leaped  to the depths  of  the ravine. One can guess  only  imagine the mass hysteria and their final  cries as the ravine  floor rushed up towards  them   towards  certain death. .. Shema yisroel…

Thus Gamla  fell. Four years later the  Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and three years  after that the last strong hold, Masada was the scene of the  famous  last   stand.

For  almost two thousand years Gamla  lie in ruins. Her stones sharing the  story with  no one
It was only  after the miraculous Six Day War of 1967 that  her sons returned to her. When Israeli forces liberated the Golan from  the Syrian attackers above,  Israeli archaeologists  were thrilled at  the opportunity to  explore and uncover that part of the home land. And uncover they did! Dozens of Jewish towns with synagogues, ritual baths,  Hebrew inscriptions… even  one adorning  the study hall of one of the  authors of the Talmud! Rabbi Ekiezer  Hakapar’s !
In  Gamla was   found the oldest  synagogue in the world!
The story  of the  first brave Jewish  stand against the Roman Empire was revealed by Prof Shmirayu Gutman  who I had the honor of speaking with as he uncovered the  site in 1979.  When  he held up a coin found in Gamla which displays   the word “redemption” and a vessel from the Temple, tears came to his eyes as he exclaimed, “now I understand what  all this sacrifice was for.  It was not for Gamla alone  but rather it was for the “redemption” The redemption of Jerusalem and the Jewish People. It was for this they gave their lives.”

And today , Gamala  and the Golan is  back  where it  belongs. No longer forlorn, an orphan occupied by conquerors. Today there are dozens of modern Jewish towns on the Golan and Gamla is visited by throngs of visitors who pay their  respect and learn   from the stones that  have been redeemed from the dust  by returning sons and daughters
No wonder , the  residents of the Golan Heights chose to list   the names of  their sons who fell in the modern wars of Israel on a  dramatic perch over looking Gamla.
Each village and town today has  its name engraved in the stones over looking the  former Jewish strong hold.   Inscribed in the  stones is in  bold letters is:  GAMLA SHALL FALL NO  MORE”

Acco then and now

Always  seeking to increase our knowledge of Israel’s  tourist  sites we tour guides  take   refresher tours form time to time.
Recently I joined a group of my colleagues on an in depth tour of the famous ancient port city of Acco on Israel’s northern coast. Acco is a gem of history, archaeology and folk lore From the  ancient Egyptians, to the Maccabees. Maimonides,Richard Lion Heart, Napoleon , the the Jewish underground  fighters break out from the  British “Bastille” and the victorious Israeli army of 1967; Acco has seen them all and its winding old street and alleys and picturesque  fishing port seem eager to tell their story.
Before I go any further, let  me highly recommend a visit to the former Turkish/British prison – fortress where the Jewish underground fighters of the Irgun  and the Lechi were imprisoned and  nine of them hanged by the British occupation museum now offers a state of the art series of presentations that ,using the back drop of the actual prison locations offer a wonderful  dramatic, reenactment  and explanation of the events and the “zeit geist
A hand full of determined young men  and women defeated the British empire and won their people’s independence  for the first time in two  thousand years. Not a bad  story Line. If  you  are a movie goer you may remember how in “Cast a giant shadow”,Paul Newman ran along the roofs as he blew a hole in the prison walls

But our story does not begi with  Hollywood. Archaeology has uncovered remains  from the times or Alexander the great as he  used Acco  port to dislodge the Persians, Yonatan the Maccabee  was murdered by his supposed Greek  hosts  and buried near the  “Land gate “ of Acco. Roman remains from the time when the Legions entered the land through Acco on their way to suppressing the great Jewish revolt and eventually destroying the Temple in Jerusalem

The most extensive unearthing are by far  those of the Crusader kingdom
When the horde of French and Italians  suddenly appeared on the horizon it was too late for the Muslim defenders to put up a good enough fight. Acco was stormed by the knights of the Crusades in 1096 when Muslims and Jews fought and  fell before the   sword liberating the holy Land for Christendom. In 1099 Jerusalem was sacked.
When Saladin finally defeated the Crusades , Richard the Lion Heart was able to hang on to the  port city of Acco for another fifty years until the  last Crusader set sail for  home.
It is  this Crusader city that has  been and is still being excavated in a truly impressive  way. As later Mamluk and Ottoman residents built upon the Crusader ruins, the latter were allowed to sleep in the dust of time undisturbed until  very recently
Hall after hall, secret escape tunnels Knights grand dining rooms -all as they looked when the swords and shields were gashing and  pounding

With Saladin s ultimate victory over the western invaders, some  famous Jewish luminaries came form the corners of the diaspora to make Acco their home. In fact Rabbi Yechial of Paris and a few hundred of the great “ba’ale tosafot” set  up a yeshiva in Acco. Eventually the great Ramban – Nachmanadies became the head of the Torah school there
Maimonides entered into te land of Israel through Acco port and the spot where he  set foot is named after him
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov actually found himself in Acco at not quite the best time. He  had visited the Holy land and Jerusalem and was ready to depart form Acco when Napoleon just began his famous siege of the city. He  escaped on a Muslim was ship and was given a gun to help in the battle against the French. Not what he had planned.
When Napoleon made his bid for Mid East conquest he  tried to sway the Turkish governors key Jewish adviser to  join him. He issued the French”Balfour declaration” in which he acknowledged the Jewish longing for their land and he agreed it was just to restore it t them after their long suffering and longing to come home. Napoleon promised to make it happen if  he  won. Chaim Farchi, the Pasha’s (Al Jazir -” the Butcher”) adviser would not betray his master. Napoleon lost the battle and Chaim Farchi was eventually executed by the Pasha’s heir. So much for loyalty. What if Napoleon Had indeed won..?… ..
The  Ramchal and the Ohr Hachaim, two  famous Jewish scholars made Acco their  home in the eighteenth century. The synagogue  named after the Ramchal is  a lone Jewish out post in the other wise  Arab Old city

In 1936 when the Arabs launched one of their rounds of pogroms as the British looked on, Acco’s jews fled , not to return until 1948 when it was liberated by the Israeli army. Many Arabs fled the fighting and Jews forced to flee their homes in Arab lands moved in. There were some  wise Arabs did not flee the fighting  and became Israeli citizens, the only Arabs in the Mid East enjoying who  democracy and civil liberties.
In  the last  years the Arab population has been expanding to former Jewish neighborhoods and there have been some Arab riots and intimidation as a group of young Jews moved in around the Hesder Yeshiva in an attempt to stem the tide of Jewish flight form the city  that is  a treasure of Jewish history and martyrdom
On our tour, our Acco city employee told  us that the  forty artistic  signs  placed above Jewish land marks in the old city were torn all  down by the “Muslim Movement of  the Galilee”  They were replaced with verses of the Koran and  are undisturbed
. The latest battle for  the city is being fought in the real estate offices. I had .occasion to look at  a number of buildings in the “changing” , former solid Jewish areas.  They fled Arabs in the old country and are doing the same in the “new country” It was  an eerie site to see many apartments with the mezuzas torn off the door posts and pictures of Mecca in its place. This is the latest battle for Acco. No storming of the walls or cannon fire. It is in the real estate offices where the silent  victory or defeat is determined.  I was told by agents  that  Jews sell to any one in his desire to flee the “changing neighborhood

Just this week I heard on the radio the pathetic plea of a young Jewish other living in a “mixed” neighborhood in Acco.
Each time her children enter the play ground to play, Arab children  with threatening dogs appear
demanding the courts for themselves.  The Jewish attempts to share the space is met with increasing
The elderly are not spared either,
In the threats(sounds  familiar?) .
. ”

Manya Shochat – Jewish Wonder Woman

maya shonet

Manya Vilboshvitz Shochat (1879 – 1960) was more than a product of her times, she helped create them.

Born in Losusna, a small village in rural Belarus, Manya was immediately subject to sharply different influences.maya shonet
Her grand parents lived the “good life” as totally assimilated, self indulging Jews who lived the “Russian dream”, her grandfather a major supplier for the Czar’s army. Manya recalls detesting their flaunted riches and their airs. Indeed her father rebelled against his parents by refusing to attend the fine Russian “Gymnasium”. He threatened suicide if he was not allowed to study with Rav Nachum, a pious Torah scholar in the shtetel near his parents’ sprawling estate.
He was a stern parent but Manya recalls how he would stay up all night with her when she was ill. He instilled Manya and some of her other twelve siblings with a love for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. He was also, oddly perhaps, a Monarchist and had a portrait of Czar Nicholas on his wall. Not a common site in Orthodox Jewish homes but her father valued order and respect. She remembers her father hiding a gypsy, accused of being a horse thief. At his instruction, Manya brought food to him as he hid in their barn. When she asked her father why they were helping a criminal, he said, “I know him since we were boys. We can not be certain what is right and what is wrong. Only God can.” Her love for people and the desire to help came from this man of contradiction but principal.
Manya’s mother was a “modern” woman who did not share her husband’s warm spot for Judaism and tried to steer her children towards a respectable place amongst the Russian elite.

Her father, Wolf owned lands which were farmed by the local peasants. Manya befriended them and tried her best to be “one of the gang”, often bringing them goodies from her comfortable home. One particular young man, Pieter was her “best buddy” in the group – or so she thought.
Once as she approached the workers’ cabins, she over heard her “friend” boast to his buddies that he is using his friendship with Manya the Zhid, to eventually” burn down her father’s house and take all his lands, just as was being done to Jews- Zhids like him in other parts of Russia….”
Manya’s heart skipped a beat. She ran home, locked the door to her room and swallowed a bottle of pills. She did not want to live in a world of senseless hatred. She asked God why Jews are hated – rich or poor… She was saved from this suicide attempt only to try again by jumping into the near by icy river. Again she was fated to

Suicide was not to be a stranger to her family.
Her families were indeed doers – often to the extreme. As father rebelled against his own wealthy and assimilated father.. Some of her siblings became capitalist industrialists, some Communist revolutionaries; one brother became a “Tolstoyist” and lived with the peasants.
One brother, Yitzhok, was the only Jew in an agriculture college. When the professor opined that the “Zhids” are sucking the blood out of the Ukraine, Yitzchok slapped him. This did not advance his grades.. He joined the BILU pioneer movement and went to Eretz Yisroel.
He however, returned to Russia to do his military service. He wanted to prove that Jews are not shirkers. When he discovered that his lover betrayed him, he ended his own life.
One brother moved to the USA and died childless. Two brothers made Akiah and became Zionist pioneers. Their letters home enchanted Manya.

During the great famine of 1898, Manya volunteered with the starving and disease ridden Tarter population living on agricultural collectives. She was always ready to help – everyone, any where.

Manya chose to leave the comfort of the country manor and the disappointment of her “friend” Pieter to work as a factory laborer. She disguised her self as a boy and found employment in her brother’s factory in Grodno. It was there, in the big city where she came into contact with the proletariat and their wretched working conditions at the beginning of the industrial age in Russia. She shared her food and tiny room with the less fortunate and tutored the uneducated.

She became a leader in the Socialist Jewish Bund but later felt it was not militant or clearly focused enough one hand, and not traditionally Jewish or Zionist either.
Manya organized the workers in a strike against the management (her brother) for better conditions and for an end to the fourteen hour work day.
She became a leader in the Worker’s movement, a rather dangerous activity in the Russia of the Czars. She indeed landed in a tiny, dirty jail, which she shared with rats which she recalls she treated like friendly house cats. Jail could not break her.

She did not cooperate with her interrogators and was not fazed by the threat of Siberian exile. However, when she was told that she had to choose between turning in three fellow revolutionaries of having forty workers sent to Siberia.. she contemplated suicide.
The Minister of Interior, Zubatov was impressed with this young woman and tried to convince her to abandon revolutionary politics in favor of a state acknowledged labor movement. Manya, First very suspicious, would not cooperate. However she relented when Zubatov convinced her that he too does not like the way things were going and said that change can come gradually if labor and politics were not mixed. He believed that the leaders of the Communist movement, if they came to power, would oppress the workers even more than the Czar.
Manya had an ideological love / hate with him.
Suspecting him of treachery, she invited him to a private meeting. Manya pointed a gun at him and he told her, “If I have lost your trust, I do not want to live”. She pulled the trigger but the gun jammed.

Eventually the openly anti Semitic Von Phleve, was appointed minister of the interior and Zobotov was sent to Siberia. Now the gloves came off and government sponsored pogroms were instigated allowing the masses to “let off some steam” on the traditional target.
The 1903 Kishinev pogrom sponsored by the “Black Hundreds” was the ultimate expression of the slogan,” strike the Jews and save Russia”
Before Zobotov’s exile, he suggested that Manya see Von Phleve in Saint Petersberg, as the worker’s representative. She was seen through twelve guarded halls before she was ushered into the Minister’s lavish chambers. Manya addressed the questions of worker’s conditions, hours etc.. When she raised the Jewish issue Von Phleve exploded!
How could you, a Jewess come before me with demands!? Manya knew there was no chance for dialogue or justice with this man. She picked up a heavy object and prepared to throw it at him. A guard’s quick grip saved her from a fateful act.
The 1903 Kishinev pogroms convinced Manya that her priority in Russia was to defend her fellow Jews and not lead a social revolution.

Manya joined a group of Jewish conspirators planning to assassinate the anti Semitic Minister. She left for France on a mission to raise funds for the plan which included tunneling under his mansion and blowing it up. While away her comrades were betrayed by a government provocateur, caught and executed. Manya’s brothers felt they must get their determined little sister away from Russia and Europe. They made up the excuse that her brother Gedalya, a pioneer in Palestine, was ill and needed Manya’s help.

On June 2,1904, Manya made her first trip to Eretz Yisroel – a trip that would change her life.
Manya remembers that the moment she stepped foot on to the soil of Eretz Yisroel, she regretted every day of her life that she had not spent in the home land. Her efforts to change Russia and save its masses and Jews were now behind her. She had very her own land to bring back to life
.
Meanwhile her brother Biyomin died in the USA and left an inheritance. Manya and her two pioneer brothers used the money for a six week survey of the Land. It took them to the Golan Heights and beyond, to the Haran plateau where some of the lands had been purchased for Jewish settlement.
Manya was amazed by the emptiness of the vast area and how time had seemed to stand still, just waiting for her children to return to a place kept alive in the hearts of a people who never forgot.

Unbeknown to her, Manya was part of the “Second Aliyah”(1905- 1920) wave to Eretz Yisrol in the Zionist narrative. (The actual first wave o “Olim” to Eretz Yisroel was a century earlier when the Bal Shem Tov and the Violna Goan sen their students to Eretz Yisroel. Some of them founded the first agricultural settlements and owns as well as new neighborhoods in Yerusalayim)
Her Aliyah was comprised of young single people like herself, mostly from Russia, Socialist, rebellious and scornful of tradition. These young people were desperate to work the land and create a new society based on self reliance and mutual aid. They believed in Jewish labor and Jewish defence. These were concepts foreign to the “First Aliyah”(1889 – 1905) settlers who came as families and settled lands largely bought by Baron Edmond Rothchild of Paris.
He sent his representatives to aid and over see the farmers on the lands that he purchased. Relations between the Baron’s representatives were often strained as they lorded themselves over the struggling and beholden pioneers and their families. The French advisors and over seers introduced secular education and a life style foreign to the observant farmers from Eastern Europe.
The young Olim of the second Aliyah were at times on the brink of starvation. They sought work on the Jewish farms for food and board. They slept in the orchards and ate oranges and pita bread.

In the Baron’s settlements, the Jewish farmers hired cheap Arab labor and Bedouin or Circassian guards to protect their property. Often it was a thinly veiled protection racket which the young new comers unmasked and challenged. When Manya approached them with the idea of Jewish self defense and hired labor they thought it so absurd that she was suspected of being a spy for the Baron’s clerks. Some even thought she may have really been a man disguised…

Frustrated, in 1905 Manya decided to travel to Europe to see the Baron and other Jewish/Zionist leaders.
Max Nordau, Herzl’s associate, told her to seek the aid of a psychiatrist.
She had an audience with Baron Rothschild who did agree to set aside land for the young pioneers but with no additional support. Manya was delighted. It wasn’t much later that the first collective farm was established in 1909.
While in France, Manya was contacted by some of her old comrades.
There were big troubles in Russia. Pogroms against the Jews were increasing and her friends decided to arm the Jews and defend themselves. Hey need arms and money. Could Manya help? While her mission was about Jews in Eretz Yisroel, she could not ignore the pleas of her suffering people in Russia.
Manya returned to Baron Rothschild with a new and different request. The Baron
insisted that he could not be mixed up in a possible French – Russian diplomatic confrontation. Manya would not take no for an answer. She returned to make another plea. Rothschild agreed on the condition that it remained a sealed secret. He then gave 50,000 Francs which went to buy the arms to be smuggled into Russia.
Eight crates of “holy books” crossed four borders to a pre arranged address in Odessa. When Manya arrived she was met by a man who Manya immediately understood was a police agent. She coolly ended the short meeting with a well placed bullet. The agent’s remains were shipped in the crate labeled “holy books” to a non existent destination.

In 1907 Manya traveled to the USA in search of support, both for Jewish self defense in Russia and in Eretz |Yisroel and for Jewish collective settlement there.
Some of the leaders she met such as Judah Magnes, Henrietta Szold were not as enthusiastic.
While in the US, Manya lived on a commune in upstate NY,in an attempt to learn from a living social- economic experiment. She reached out to the Jewish masses in an attempt to spread her fired spirit.
She returned to her newly adopted land with an even greater determination.
Along with Yitzchak Shochat and other like minded pioneers, she founded “Bar Giora”, named after one of the Jewish leaders in the revolt against Rome before the destruction of the Second Temple. It was the first official (yet underground, since the ruling Turks strictly ruled out the option Jews being armed) Jewish self defense group for centuries.
Manya was befriended by many who would later comprise the first leaders of the newly born Jewish state, such as Yitzchak (and Yanai) Ben Zvi who was the second president of Israel. Ben Zvi gave her an even deeper deeper appreciation of Jewish history and destiny in its Land. At one point Manya suggested robbing the churches in Jerusalem of their gold to support the activities of the armed Jewish group.
On Pesach 1909,”Bar Giora” became the”Hashomer” group. It widened its ranks and its slogan,” In blood Judea fell, in blood she shall rise” was translated into bold and unexpected raids on Arab marauders and raiders of Jewish farms and transportation. Now Jewish farmer began to hire them as workers /guards and their presence won the desired effect. They learned the Bedouin ways and dressed like them as they challenged them on their own turf.

With the out break of the First World War, Turkey outlawed Zionist activity, forbade speaking or teaching Hebrew and confiscated all weapons. Hasomer went into hiding.
Manya was imprisoned when she was betrayed by a Jew who feared Turkish reprisals. When she honestly and matter of factly told the Turkish governor, Baladin of her hopes for a Jewish country, he exploded ; “what, a state within a state”!? When he threatened her with her fists. Manya picked up a dagger and threw it at his feet calling him a hateful person and a coward.
The Shochats (Yitschak had married Manya) were expelled from Eretz Yisroel and returned after the war in 1919 to a new reality. Great Britain was the new over lord of Eretz Yisroel. Hashomer was to become the larger Hagana and then Irgun spinned off from that. Manya no longer kept the position of founder and trail blazer. Times were changing and there were many new players. There seemed to be fewer places for a knaive idealist.
Her marriage was not a happy one and so dedicated herself wholly to her public activities. In 1930 she founded the “League for Jewish Arab Friendship” – another unfulfilled love.
The couple had two children, Gadi and Alona.
Gadi took his own life in 1967.
When Ben Gurion praised her mother, Alona replied bitterly,”I was an orphan with parents. They were always busy with every important cause except us.”
Alona married the famous Israeli singer, Arik Einstein and their two daughters became observant Jews and married the sons of the famous bohemian actor – singer (turned famous Rabbi) Uri Zohar.
Manya died in 1962 and Alona in 2005.

Manya may not have won the award for mom of the year but she was certainly one of the mid wives of a nation.

Shochat – Jewish Wonder Woman

Manya Vilboshvitz Shochat (1879 – 1960) was more than a product of her times, she helped create them.

Born in Losusna, a small village in rural Belarus, Manya was immediately subject to sharply different influences.
Her grand parents lived the “good life” as totally assimilated, self indulging Jews who lived the “Russian dream”, her grandfather a major supplier for the Czar’s army. Manya recalls detesting their flaunted riches and their airs. Indeed her father rebelled against his parents by refusing to attend the fine Russian “Gymnasium”. He threatened suicide if he was not allowed to study with Rav Nachum, a pious Torah scholar in the shtetel near his parents’ sprawling estate.
He was a stern parent but Manya recalls how he would stay up all night with her when she was ill. He instilled Manya and some of her other twelve siblings with a love for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. He was also, oddly perhaps, a Monarchist and had a portrait of Czar Nicholas on his wall. Not a common site in Orthodox Jewish homes but her father valued order and respect. She remembers her father hiding a gypsy, accused of being a horse thief. At his instruction, Manya brought food to him as he hid in their barn. When she asked her father why they were helping a criminal, he said, “I know him since we were boys. We can not be certain what is right and what is wrong. Only God can.” Her love for people and the desire to help came from this man of contradiction but principal.
Manya’s mother was a “modern” woman who did not share her husband’s warm spot for Judaism and tried to steer her children towards a respectable place amongst the Russian elite.

Her father, Wolf owned lands which were farmed by the local peasants. Manya befriended them and tried her best to be “one of the gang”, often bringing them goodies from her comfortable home. One particular young man, Pieter was her “best buddy” in the group – or so she thought.
Once as she approached the workers’ cabins, she over heard her “friend” boast to his buddies that he is using his friendship with Manya the Zhid, to eventually” burn down her father’s house and take all his lands, just as was being done to Jews- Zhids like him in other parts of Russia….”
Manya’s heart skipped a beat. She ran home, locked the door to her room and swallowed a bottle of pills. She did not want to live in a world of senseless hatred. She asked God why Jews are hated – rich or poor… She was saved from this suicide attempt only to try again by jumping into the near by icy river. Again she was fated to

Suicide was not to be a stranger to her family.
Her families were indeed doers – often to the extreme. As father rebelled against his own wealthy and assimilated father.. Some of her siblings became capitalist industrialists, some Communist revolutionaries; one brother became a “Tolstoyist” and lived with the peasants.
One brother, Yitzhok, was the only Jew in an agriculture college. When the professor opined that the “Zhids” are sucking the blood out of the Ukraine, Yitzchok slapped him. This did not advance his grades.. He joined the BILU pioneer movement and went to Eretz Yisroel.
He however, returned to Russia to do his military service. He wanted to prove that Jews are not shirkers. When he discovered that his lover betrayed him, he ended his own life.
One brother moved to the USA and died childless. Two brothers made Akiah and became Zionist pioneers. Their letters home enchanted Manya.

During the great famine of 1898, Manya volunteered with the starving and disease ridden Tarter population living on agricultural collectives. She was always ready to help – everyone, any where.

Manya chose to leave the comfort of the country manor and the disappointment of her “friend” Pieter to work as a factory laborer. She disguised her self as a boy and found employment in her brother’s factory in Grodno. It was there, in the big city where she came into contact with the proletariat and their wretched working conditions at the beginning of the industrial age in Russia. She shared her food and tiny room with the less fortunate and tutored the uneducated.

She became a leader in the Socialist Jewish Bund but later felt it was not militant or clearly focused enough one hand, and not traditionally Jewish or Zionist either.
Manya organized the workers in a strike against the management (her brother) for better conditions and for an end to the fourteen hour work day.
She became a leader in the Worker’s movement, a rather dangerous activity in the Russia of the Czars. She indeed landed in a tiny, dirty jail, which she shared with rats which she recalls she treated like friendly house cats. Jail could not break her.

She did not cooperate with her interrogators and was not fazed by the threat of Siberian exile. However, when she was told that she had to choose between turning in three fellow revolutionaries of having forty workers sent to Siberia.. she contemplated suicide.
The Minister of Interior, Zubatov was impressed with this young woman and tried to convince her to abandon revolutionary politics in favor of a state acknowledged labor movement. Manya, First very suspicious, would not cooperate. However she relented when Zubatov convinced her that he too does not like the way things were going and said that change can come gradually if labor and politics were not mixed. He believed that the leaders of the Communist movement, if they came to power, would oppress the workers even more than the Czar.
Manya had an ideological love / hate with him.
Suspecting him of treachery, she invited him to a private meeting. Manya pointed a gun at him and he told her, “If I have lost your trust, I do not want to live”. She pulled the trigger but the gun jammed.

Eventually the openly anti Semitic Von Phleve, was appointed minister of the interior and Zobotov was sent to Siberia. Now the gloves came off and government sponsored pogroms were instigated allowing the masses to “let off some steam” on the traditional target.
The 1903 Kishinev pogrom sponsored by the “Black Hundreds” was the ultimate expression of the slogan,” strike the Jews and save Russia”
Before Zobotov’s exile, he suggested that Manya see Von Phleve in Saint Petersberg, as the worker’s representative. She was seen through twelve guarded halls before she was ushered into the Minister’s lavish chambers. Manya addressed the questions of worker’s conditions, hours etc.. When she raised the Jewish issue Von Phleve exploded!
How could you, a Jewess come before me with demands!? Manya knew there was no chance for dialogue or justice with this man. She picked up a heavy object and prepared to throw it at him. A guard’s quick grip saved her from a fateful act.
The 1903 Kishinev pogroms convinced Manya that her priority in Russia was to defend her fellow Jews and not lead a social revolution.

Manya joined a group of Jewish conspirators planning to assassinate the anti Semitic Minister. She left for France on a mission to raise funds for the plan which included tunneling under his mansion and blowing it up. While away her comrades were betrayed by a government provocateur, caught and executed. Manya’s brothers felt they must get their determined little sister away from Russia and Europe. They made up the excuse that her brother Gedalya, a pioneer in Palestine, was ill and needed Manya’s help.

On June 2, 1904, Manya made her first trip to Eretz Yisroel – a trip that would change her life.
Manya remembers that the moment she stepped foot on to the soil of Eretz Yisroel, she regretted every day of her life that she had not spent in the home land. Her efforts to change Russia and save its masses and Jews were now behind her. She had very her own land to bring back to life
.
Meanwhile her brother Biyomin died in the USA and left an inheritance. Manya and her two pioneer brothers used the money for a six week survey of the Land. It took them to the Golan Heights and beyond, to the Haran plateau where some of the lands had been purchased for Jewish settlement.
Manya was amazed by the emptiness of the vast area and how time had seemed to stand still, just waiting for her children to return to a place kept alive in the hearts of a people who never forgot.

Unbeknown to her, Manya was part of the “Second Aliyah”(1905- 1920) wave to Eretz Yisrol in the Zionist narrative. (The actual first wave o “Olim” to Eretz Yisroel was a century earlier when the Bal Shem Tov and the Violna Goan sen their students to Eretz Yisroel. Some of them founded the first agricultural settlements and owns as well as new neighborhoods in Yerusalayim)
Her Aliyah was comprised of young single people like herself, mostly from Russia, Socialist, rebellious and scornful of tradition. These young people were desperate to work the land and create a new society based on self reliance and mutual aid. They believed in Jewish labor and Jewish defence. These were concepts foreign to the “First Aliyah”(1889 – 1905) settlers who came as families and settled lands largely bought by Baron Edmond Rothchild of Paris.
He sent his representatives to aid and over see the farmers on the lands that he purchased. Relations between the Baron’s representatives were often strained as they lorded themselves over the struggling and beholden pioneers and their families. The French advisors and over seers introduced secular education and a life style foreign to the observant farmers from Eastern Europe.
The young Olim of the second Aliyah were at times on the brink of starvation. They sought work on the Jewish farms for food and board. They slept in the orchards and ate oranges and pita bread.

In the Baron’s settlements, the Jewish farmers hired cheap Arab labor and Bedouin or Circassian guards to protect their property. Often it was a thinly veiled protection racket which the young new comers unmasked and challenged. When Manya approached them with the idea of Jewish self defense and hired labor they thought it so absurd that she was suspected of being a spy for the Baron’s clerks. Some even thought she may have really been a man disguised…

Frustrated, in 1905 Manya decided to travel to Europe to see the Baron and other Jewish/Zionist leaders.
Max Nordau, Herzl’s associate, told her to seek the aid of a psychiatrist.
She had an audience with Baron Rothschild who did agree to set aside land for the young pioneers but with no additional support. Manya was delighted. It wasn’t much later that the first collective farm was established in 1909.
While in France, Manya was contacted by some of her old comrades.
There were big troubles in Russia. Pogroms against the Jews were increasing and her friends decided to arm the Jews and defend themselves. Hey need arms and money. Could Manya help? While her mission was about Jews in Eretz Yisroel, she could not ignore the pleas of her suffering people in Russia.
Manya returned to Baron Rothschild with a new and different request. The Baron
insisted that he could not be mixed up in a possible French – Russian diplomatic confrontation. Manya would not take no for an answer. She returned to make another plea. Rothschild agreed on the condition that it remained a sealed secret. He then gave 50,000 Francs which went to buy the arms to be smuggled into Russia.
Eight crates of “holy books” crossed four borders to a pre arranged address in Odessa. When Manya arrived she was met by a man who Manya immediately understood was a police agent. She coolly ended the short meeting with a well placed bullet. The agent’s remains were shipped in the crate labeled “holy books” to a non existent destination.

In 1907 Manya traveled to the USA in search of support, both for Jewish self defense in Russia and in Eretz |Yisroel and for Jewish collective settlement there.
Some of the leaders she met such as Judah Magnes, Henrietta Szold were not as enthusiastic.
While in the US, Manya lived on a commune in upstate NY,in an attempt to learn from a living social- economic experiment. She reached out to the Jewish masses in an attempt to spread her fired spirit.
She returned to her newly adopted land with an even greater determination.
Along with Yisroel Shochat and other like minded pioneers, she founded “Bar Giora”, named after one of the Jewish leaders in the revolt against Rome before the destruction of the Second Temple. It was the first official (yet underground, since the ruling Turks strictly ruled out the option Jews being armed) Jewish self defense group for centuries.
Manya was befriended by many who would later comprise the first leaders of the newly born Jewish state, such as Yitzchak (and Yanai) Ben Zvi who was the second president of Israel. Ben Zvi gave her an even deeper deeper appreciation of Jewish history and destiny in its Land. At one point Manya suggested robbing the churches in Jerusalem of their gold to support the activities of the armed Jewish group.
On Pesach 1909,”Bar Giora” became the”Hashomer” group. It widened its ranks and its slogan,” In blood Judea fell, in blood she shall rise” was translated into bold and unexpected raids on Arab marauders and raiders of Jewish farms and transportation. Now Jewish farmer began to hire them as workers /guards and their presence won the desired effect. They learned the Bedouin ways and dressed like them as they challenged them on their own turf.

With the out break of the First World War, Turkey outlawed Zionist activity, forbade speaking or teaching Hebrew and confiscated all weapons. Hasomer went into hiding.
Manya was imprisoned when she was betrayed by a Jew who feared Turkish reprisals. When she honestly and matter of factly told the Turkish governor, Baladin of her hopes for a Jewish country, he exploded; “what, a state within a state”!? and threatened her with her fists. Manya picked up a dagger and threw it at his feet calling him a hateful person and a coward.
The Shochats (Yisroel had married Manya) were expelled from Eretz Yisroel and returned after the war in 1919 to a new reality. Great Britain was the new over lord of Eretz Yisroel. Hashomer was to become the larger Hagana and then Irgun spinned off from that. Manya no longer kept the position of founder and trail blazer. Times were changing and there were many new players. There seemed to be fewer places for a knaive idealist.
Her marriage was not a happy one and so dedicated herself wholly to her public activities. In 1930 she founded the “League for Jewish Arab Friendship” – another unfulfilled love.
Manya and Yitzchak had two children, Gadi and Alona. Gady took his own life in 1967 and Alona died in 2005
When Ben Gurion complimented Alona on her heroic mother, she responded,” I was an orphan with parents. They were always busy with great causes but not with us.
Alona married the famous Israeli singer icon (who passed away this year) Arik Einstein and had two daughters. They both became religious and married the sons of Rabbi Uri Zohar. Uri Zohar was a friend of Einstein’s when they were a famous entertainment duo.
Perhaps Alona was right about her mother. Manya was not a typical Jewish mother, she was one of the mid wives of a Nation.

Jewish lives matter

Detained minor: “A policeman punched me.” Sunday, September 11, 2016, 19:47 Honenu filed a urgent complaint with the Police Investigation Unit on behalf of a detained minor who complained that a policeman punched him at the police station after another policeman threatened him. The sixteen-year old youth was detained for interrogation on the morning of Sunday, September 11 after he ascended the Temple Mount. The policemen claimed that as the minor was leaving he walked backwards and bowed slightly towards the site of the Holy of Holies. According to the complaint filed by Honenu ( the angelic organisation that offers free legal aid to Jewish soldiers and civilians facing the heavily  biased security/legal establishment)  Attorney Menasheh Yado, when the minor arrived at the Department of Holy Sites Police Station escorted by two policemen, one of them impatiently hurried him to sit on a bench and ordered him to, “Sit, sit, before I break your bones!” and the other policeman punched him in the stomach. Then the minor was interrogated and released with an order distancing him from the Old City of Jerusalem for 15 days. Another minor detained the same morning after prostrating himself at the exit from the Temple Mount was released and summoned to a deliberation on the police demand to order him distanced from the area. In the complaint Honenu Attorney Menasheh Yado filed with the Police Investigation Unit, he wrote, “This is an incident of police brutality on a handcuffed minor who did not use any violence, neither at the police station, nor in general. I sincerely hope that your investigation and objective work will lead to a reduction in complaints about police brutality at the Department of Holy Sites Police Station.” Yado also mentioned that this was not an isolated incident of misconduct by Merchav David (Old City) District policemen in their treatment of Jews on the Temple Mount. When I read this report, it did not shock me as it should.  I am getting used to it. That angered me even more. This is one of the(far too many) articles I try not to have fall into the hands of my non Jewish readers. I am so ashamed! When  I was  a teen in Brooklyn, NY, I did not fear the cops. We were  so proud when we discovered the rare Jewish policeman. It was a foretaste of what a Jewish country would look  like I thought. I remember jumping  a turnstile in the subway. The cop caught me and I remember well, feeling a  mixture of embarrassment and slight fear. Imagine If he  would detain me for moving my lips in prayer..? Never  happen  – in America; but in the heart of Jerusalem! – by Jewish cops (well, many most are Arab in the old city  – yet  another scandal). Which is worse;a Jewish cop beating a Jewish teen for moving his lips in prayer, or an Arab cop doing the same? Not a dilemma that I faced in Brooklyn.  This hurts. Who the hell is giving these orders? Israeli cops have their hands full with real policing and security issues, Intimidating ,arresting and beating  young idealistic Jews for expressing the same fundamental right of any Muslim or Christian in any part of our Jewish country is an on going Jewish  horror. Why am I so flabbergasted? Have I not witnessed the brutality of Gush Katif and Amona and dozens of smaller  super ugly episodes? I have seen the bald headed, arrogant police commanders who exactly what their  political bosses want of them. In the gross language that their  underlings understand well, they  unleash the dregs (the commanders know who exactly to call upon for the dirty work) upon the finest souls that we have. I know this sounds harsh but I guess if my son were punched in the stomach and threatened with broken bones because he moved his lips in prayer, I would be even harsher. Besides, I am encouraged by my mentor of blessed memory, to tell it like it is. Hiding the truth solves nothing. Still, I hope that my non Jewish friends do not read this.
          

Happy Birthday little miracle!

Shalom Pollack

Shalom PollackHappy Birthday little miracle!

It is Independence Day; our sixty ninth. Not bad for a tiny country smaller than Lake Michigan under threat of annihilation every day of each those years.

The stats are nothing short of miraculous.

Israel boasts the best milk cows in the world; same for wheat production per acre dates per tree. And the unbelievable list goes on This tiny desert land and its people break the mold. It is an anti history phenomenon.

I met a group of Vietnamese at the Kotel last month. This was the first group I have ever seen in Israel from that country.

I mentioned that to one of them. He said,” No we are no tourists. We are a group of selected farmers here to learn about farming from Israel.”

They are a country of one hundred million, farmers for millennia with the best soil in the world and they come to learn farming from a handful of Jewish desert farmers who just returned to the soil very recently…

Shall we talk high tech? No need. We all know that Israel is a high tech super power.

Medicine? water technology..?optics, software, nana space technology, miniature satellite innovation?

Israel’s emergency aid teams are always first on the scene to help when natural disasters strike.

The world is witness that indeed a hand full of Jews fulfills the Biblical statement that the Jews will indeed be a blessing for the world.

So why does Iran want to destroy us. Our Arab neighbors? Why the hate from Europe? Why does the family of nations at the UN have it in for us?  Why? Why?

This too has been prophesied, just as the ingathering of the exiles has been prophesied.

It is all unfolding very quickly and it is exciting.

I just finished guiding a group of six Chinese young professionals. They were a high tech. bunch and very curious about the tiny country they chose to visit.

Some takeaways:

They said that the Chinese and the Jews are the smartest people on earth.

They feel that Israel and China has much in common; strong family ties, very long traditions and history, not understood by the world, surrounded and threatened by enemies.

I thought the last one was cute.

They do not care much for Arabs or Muslims. They see them as backwards and crude. (Don’t blame me!)

I do not see Sharia law being discussed in China for some time or them being woken by Mosque loudspeakers (as I  am) in the near future.

They understand that their country is not a democracy but “only a strong leadership can keep China united and prevent civil war. Interesting.

They do not know much about Tiananmen Square other than that “outsider instigators” were trying to weaken China through the students.

I did not even mention Tibet.

They are very proud of their country’s accomplishments and accept the price paid in the lack of western style freedoms.

Mao is a national hero who saved and united China. The Cultural Revolution was a mistake in which Mao was misguided by advisors.

Sixty million dead was not a good thing but nothing is perfect.

These are the thoughts of my young Chinese professionals.

They reminded me of a story I heard a few years ago.

An Israeli general was invited for an official visit to China. He commented to his Chinese counterpart that he is jealous of china. Why?, asked his host.

Because as huge as your country is, you would fight forever and not relinquish even one grain, right? Of Course answered the Chinese general.

Well, my tiny country is trying its best to give away huge parts of it…

This made me ask myself,” are the Jews and Chinese really the two smartest people in the world..?”

Somebody is looking after us out there; sometimes despite us.

The first sixty nine years are always the most challenging.

It only gets better.

Happy birthday to you; you little miracle!.