A TENACITY TO LIVE

December 31st, 2014

A little personal story

Background…

My life, starting at the ripe age of 15, when I joined the Underground to liberate Israel from British occupation, was so full of challenging events that a month seemed like a year, a year seemed like a lifetime. From running way from British bullets when gluing pamphlets in the streets, to facing the reality that my young, beloved leader, Menachem Rivenbach, only 18, was just killed in a Lechi Underground operation. So much happened, so many friends lost, and so many emotions were buried in me since I could not share them with anyone. I was not alone with this isolation, since we knew that we could be the next one to go, our emotions were well-hidden, no external recognitions of personal loss. Even when the body of our murdered kibbutz friend was in a casket on the truck with us seating around it, we just made jokes.

And we just kept going.

In the Lechi underground, I was mostly alone, until I found my girlfriend, that is. I had to be quiet and unassuming to disappear in a crowd. No personal friends. Not outside, or inside Lechi either. Secrecy above all. Unlike military, we were alone with no release by shared experiences. Just a double life of lies. I was unable to share my story and especially feelings, with anyone. I was unable to tell the truth to any one, especially not to my own family. They must not know or I would be sent away like my brother was.

After spending four years in Lechi fighting the mighty British to liberate Israel - I spent a year at the Lechi border kibbutz, Neve Yair. We were close to the Gaza strip as well as to the established kibbutz Nirim. Arab terrorists murdered savagely three of our members, a few months apart. We got numb to death. On another occasion, coincidentally, when a bullet was shot towards my heart, a tall friend, Yaacov Avnery, was walking in front of me and got the bullet in his stomach since he was taller. Badly injured, he survived. I would not have. I risked my life to get him to the hospital, but that was standard to all of us. I barely thought about it, but when I do, I thanked him in all my heart.

Our small kibbutz was full of challenges, from security to lack of water, but especially for me since I was the only technical guy there. I enjoyed building the electrical system and repairing tractors. I enjoyed dancing nearly every night, until my legs almost gave up. I risked burning to death mounting phosphorus mines under the barbed wired fence since I did not trust anyone else to be as diligent as me. I slide slowly on my back, inch by inch, underneath the barbed wired fence, mounting these fiery mines one after another and activating them. I knew all the time where every part of my body was while I slided on my back not to ignite the mines. In addition to doing all the hard technical tasks nearly alone, I had almost no rest since I also had to guard during my time off.

But the toughest thing was being far from my girlfriend R. - (I missed her a lot, she visited but did not stay in the kibbutz since she was a city girl, desiring comfort that a new kibbutz was unable to give). So, eventually I left the kibbutz after a lot of soul searching. Our Lechi leader Itzhak Shamir (later Israel Prime Minister) asked me to return to the kibbutz. It was hard for me to refuse him since I admired him considerably, but I did not want to return. I then started to relax, with no need to look behind my back if someone was ready to shoot me, either British or an Arab. I was happy to spend some time with my girlfriend, teaching new Yemenite immigrants Hebrew and a new way of life, in a transition camp, a tent city.

And then I was called to military service, I joined the Israel Defense Forces, IDF.

Two months of IDF basic training taught me to take orders, which I did not like, and train others to safely throw live hand grenades. And despite all the discipline troubles I caused my sergeant, (we actually did like one another but he ordered me frequently to run around the training grounds with my gun in the air...) He wanted to send me to officer training, but I was tired of years of duties and did not look forward to committing extra years to military service and told him: thank you, but no.

I served in the Air Force late 1950- to early 52, just 18 months, a shorter service than normal because I got 6 months credit for my four years of Lechi service. I worked in Unit 206, the electronics unit. My huge base originally was Sarafend, later called Zrifim. It was peace time and in the beginning it was not too interesting, equipment maintenance and the like. However, one thing that made it enjoyable was the daily visit from my older brother Pinhas.

Pinhas was doing his officer training at that same huge base, and he felt that he was insufficiently fit physically. So, every day he run around that huge base and visited me on the way.

It was lovely to see him frequently especially after his years in a British prison and later in a British detention camp in Africa after he was arrested as a Lechi leader.

As time passed by, I was assigned to erect tall military antennas around the country. It was fun climbing a very thin 300 feet antenna without any safety belt, and calling friends from above as they passed below, not realizing where I was. I also had to change safety red light bulbs at the top from time to time. I was very careful, I would climb one-step at a time without safety belts, no one used them then, leaving one leg inside the tower structure, and so even if I lost balance, I would be stuck safely up there. Nothing bad ever happened. I learned to be very careful from sliding under the barbed wired fence in the kibbutz.

At other times, I maintained and operated short wave transmitters at several Air Force bases. With 24 hours on and 48 hours off, week, after week, I was busy. During my off periods, I had just enough time to earn money erecting home antennas for private people on Tel Aviv roofs. It was much safer than the IDF jobs. Eliezer Sirkis, a friend from Lechi, had a radio store a short block west of Magen David Square and gave me jobs from time to time erecting roof antennas. My Air Force salary was $4 a month, and it was not sufficient even for bus tickets to go home on vacation. So I used my BSA motorcycle to drive around and worked during my time off to pay for the expensive gasoline.

With all of these risky Lechi understood and border kibbutz life behind me I thought I was safe. Little did I know what was awaiting me in a quite shelter underground.

CLOSE TO DEATH

For several months, I worked at a radio communication station in a bunker at Ramat David, an Air Force base in central Israel . At that quiet base, at that peaceful time in Israel , I came closer to death than any other time in my life.

It was a long trip to the base from my home in Tel Aviv, but working there 24 hours on and 48 hours off was a good arrangement for me. An “Egged” bus would drop me three miles from the base and I would walk to it. As long as it was good weather, it was no trouble at all, especially with a tasty compensation along the way.

The walk to the camp was between lovely apple orchards, belonging to a nearby kibbutz. Many soldiers walked back and forth to the base that way and also liked fresh green apples. They were not bashful stealing them, neither was I. The kibbutz placed foot square green and red signs all along the path saying: “private property, stay off.” And these signs were enforced by five foot high wired fences all around the orchards. Luckily they did not use barbed wired on the top like the ones that surrounded our military bases.

I love fresh fruits and vegetables and I ignored both the signs and the fences and always took my illegal apples as I passed by. I would first check left and right to see that no one was around, and listen that it was quiet for a time. I would then climb quickly the unstable fence, and pick two apples and climb back fast. I knew a lot about fences. I had already build wired fences in our Lechi kibbutz, and even climbed once a ten foot barbed wired fence, which I survived with millions of cuts, so these apple fences were a child’s play to me.

I stuffed the apples immediately in my backpack that contained spare clothes, books, etc and proceeded to the base, my home away from home.

One time I went to the base, but almost did not return. I was so close to heaven, it was sheer determination that saved my life. It was nearly noon and I was eager for a thick cheese sandwich with all the trimmings. I brought with me: tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, all so fresh- it was picked last evening and brought to market in just a few hours. After smearing the olive oil on the thick slices of black Russian bread, I spread on slices of Feta cheese and vegetables on top, almost drooling with anticipation. Meals were very important events in this boring environment.

There was very little to do alone in these underground bunkers beside reading and studying. On that day, after studying mathematics for a time, I had to stop. I became saturated with numbers and equations. My best high school friend Naftali Vilensky and I were studying mathematics. We hired a private teacher together to help us prepare and I did my homework at the bunker. We were planning to go to the US to study electronics and thought that they were probably so advanced compare to us (since we were 5 years after high school) that we better be prepared. A year later, at the University of Washington , I found out I was so advanced compare to my freshman class that after a short time they moved me to a higher level.

For safety sake, we were supposed to work in teams at the underground transmission centers, but budget cuts had eliminated that a long time ago. We were solidly alone for the duration of the 24 hours shift. No one saw us or knew that we existed. Several times a day I had to change the transmitters’ operating frequency to improve reception at the various bases across the country. We changed frequencies by changing coils, taking one out and replacing it with a different unit.

The powerful 500-watt short wave transmitters were US made, 4 feet cube, boxy, and ominously black. On the front, they had several small lights; one of them -bright red- was especially important. That light indicated that the thousand-volt DC power, enough high voltage to kill you several times over, was on. It alerted us to the danger of possible electrocution when we opened the unit. And several times a day we had to open the top of the transmitters and replace a set of coils.

Another safety feature was wisely built in- a visible power switch. In order to change the coils I had to open a 10 by 10 inch door at the top of the unit to reach the coils. As I opened that little door I saw clearly a large 2-inch long, open safety switch. I could see that the power was interrupted when the door was open by the position of the safety switch. And to be safe I looked again at the front red light. It was dark- clearly off. I believed that all was safe and I started to replace the coil.

I inserted my right hand inside the unit, grabbed the coil inside and froze. I saw only black with some bright stars moving around. I was awake but unable to move at all. Just a piece of granite, for all practical purpose. But something was still alive in me, my brain. I knew that high-level electricity, especially if crossing the heart from my hand to the ground, froze the muscles and thus I had negligible time to act, or die.

I ordered my body: "PULL, PULL, PULL, YOU MUST BREAK THE CONNECTION!" "DO IT NOW."

But my muscles were frozen by the one thousand volt going through me.

As electronic technician I was always careful with electricity, almost always wore rubber-soled shoes for insulation from electricity. I never wore a ring or other metal things on my fingers, to reduce likelihoods of electrocution. And luckily then, I was standing on a thin rubber mat. But none of it helped enough then.

I pulled and pulled with the last strength in my muscles. Nothing.

Finally, my determination broke my frozen state and I pulled my right hand away from the coil with the infinitely small strength I still had.

I have no idea how long it took, but it had to be in milliseconds otherwise I would not be alive. I did not feel any damage or pain. But I did not wait, I was not sure I was really ok so I ran up the concrete stairs to the ground above, saw the beautiful sunlight, breathed my lungs full again and again and said to myself loudly: “I am alive, I am alive!”

A few soldiers passed by looking at me and my strange exhilaration. One of them asked me, are you ok? You seem so white?

I wanted to tell him: if you just knew. But I told him, everything is fine. I could not explain what happened. They would not understand.

I sat on the entrance at ground level, looking around and continued to smile.

Wow! That was a close one.

Finally, after enjoying the beautiful day for a time I went back down and as I approached the door to the transmitter room, I saw again the big sign on the door:

IF YOU LOVE WINE, WOMEN AND SONG, BE CAREFUL, ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU.

I saw it many times before, but this time I did clearly know what it meant.

I felt then like killing the bastard who modified the safety switch. If he were there then I would have loved to give him a test of my 1000-volt DC.

I never found that idiot.

*******

EUROPE ANTI-SEMATISM IS LONG AND DEEP

March 12th, 2014

Do not waste your time worrying what Israel can do to alleviate European's hatred. They have proven to be anti-Semitic to the core and thus anti–Israeli too, without a shadow of a doubt.

Just a few concrete examples

There is no possible doubt that the Europeans have been anti-Semitic for millennia, they showed it in the past and they demonstrated it again and again in recent years. And it is better to accept it and deal with it as a fact than waste time and agonize about it. There is nothing that can be done to change their well established hatred.

The Nazi massacre of the Holocaust, would not have been possible on that vast scale without the help of the local population. Then, just a few years later, when Israel fought its devastating 1947-8 War of Independence, no European nation, neither the US, lifted a finger to help Israel. All of them declared weapon embargo. The Arabs nations had equipped Armies, Israel had nearly nothing. I was there, we guarded the border, five people to a gun. Neutrality always helps the aggressor, said Elie Wiesel. And he is absolutely right

Again, during Israel critical 1967 war, no European nation sold weapons to Israel and the only country that did before the war, France, stopped all new shipments.

Again in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when Israel was extremely unprepared for the Egyptian well-planed invasion of the Sinai, Israel was extremely short of ammunition. Only President Nixon was willing to fly immediate help. The US could not get refueling rights from any European country. Only tiny Portugal, gave the US planes refueling ability on their way to Israel.

However, in recent years, Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel, has made substantial contributions to the small Israeli Navy supplying several advanced submarines. But not in the political arena, such as the UN, Security Council, or the Iran's sanctions.

If someone is drowning and you do not lift a finger to help them, it is very clear that you want him dead.

Do not waste time worrying what Israel can do to alleviate European's hatred. Accept it and move on to find solutions elsewhere. Israel is increasing its commercial ties with the Asian sector, India, China, etc.

Matania

Israel's Jewish Birth Rate Up, Arab's Down

March 10th, 2014

For those who worry that Israel would stop being a Jewish State read this:

Israel's Jewish Birth Rate Up, Arab Birth Rate Down - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)

171,207 babies were born in Israel in 2013, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.

Jewish births increased 1.3% to 127,101 over 2012, while the number of births among Israeli Muslim Arabs declined by 5.5% to 34,766.

21 out of every 1,000 Jewish women gave birth in 2013, compared to 18.3 in the year 2000, while 24.8 Arab women gave birth in 2013, compared to 35 in 2000.

Separately, the Palestinian population is about 2 million in the West Bank and around a million in Gaza, and their birthrate is continuing to decline too.

A few thoughts about J St

February 25th, 2014

Here are some points about J Street for you to consider:

1. I believe that every one is free to think and feel as they desire, but once you are organized to force other people to your way of thinking you show contempt for them and their democratically elected leaders.

2. J street people want to influence the US Congress and government to pressure Israel to do what J St leaders believe is right for Israel, while J Streeters live here protected by the mighty US military and would not face the consequences of their actions.

3. Their blame is always on Israel, the Palestinians are innocent bystanders.

4. Morally superior arguments of liberals claiming to support Israel, while in reality only going out of their way to condemn it.

5. The obsession with ending the conflict by ending the “occupation” is baseless since that so-called occupation was the consequence of the Arab war against Israel, therefore it cannot retroactively have become its cause.*

6. Their superior hidden attitude: “I want Israel to change to my way of thinking because I am so moral, and so good-hearted … and these wicked Israelis are not as good hearted, not as moral as I am.

The key is:

J St (and similar Jewish "peace" groups) knows what is right for Israel, not the democratically elected Israeli government. In effect, they delegitimize Israel's right for self-determination. Exactly what the Arabs and Palestinians are trying to do for nearly a century.

Matania 2/14

 

* Some phrases are partially borrowed:

How Do You Solve a Problem Like J Street?

Tom Wilson02.19.2014 - 5:20 PM

 

Look Mommy, I am a good boy...

February 24th, 2014

The amount of articles trying to show how good the Israelis are is astounding. Most Jewish organizations, from the Federation to The World Jewish Congress, and every one else in between, participates in this immature game.

The Israelis invented this and that medicine or tool, the Israelis are healing sick Palestinians and Syrian casualties. The Israelis are sending aid to suffering abroad, and so forth and so forth.

It reminds me of the little boy who wants to be loved by his overly critical mother who admonishes him all the time. “Look at me Mommy, I took out the garbage, I am a good boy”.

What is wrong with this drive by so many Jews and Israelis to show how good Israel is?

Deep Jewish insecurity. No other nation is feeing so insecure, so needy to justify its existence.

No other people are so insecure so needy to justify their existence.

Why do we feel so bad when a Jewish financier broke the law? Does it mean that all Jews are bad? Nonsense. A person who happened to be Jewish is immoral. That is all. The Jewish people do not need to feel worse than Christians feel when a Christian broke the law; obviously it does not reflect badly on Christianity.

It reminds me that one of my visits to Israel my well-educated middle-aged cousin asked me:

“Matania, if so many people hate us, is it not true that we are so bad?”

This attitude is called the Stockholm syndrome - Identifying with the oppressor.

We believe the untold false accusations against Jews and Israel that we seek any and all ways to show how good we really are.

I do not feel, nor believe I need to justify my existence to any one. Neither should Israel. Israel has a right for its freedom and existence like any other nation.

We are still not a free people. It is due to the long shadow of the anti-Semitism that we accept as partially justified: Since so many people hate us, it must be true.

It is enough. Stand up straight and be proud we are Jews and Israel is a Jewish state and stop justifying for still being alive!

Matania

2/14

The world stands on three things

January 26th, 2014

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: (in the Wisdon of our Fathers -some 2 thousands of years ago)

The world stands upon three things:

Upon truth.

Upon peace.

Upon justice.

****

Show me any Muslim country in the Middle East that has these essential attributes.

Matania