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.

*******

The quiet Kotel

February 8th, 2013

I like to fold myself into a small ball and just observe. The fish do not notice me and I can see them in their natural habitat without disturbing their routine. It is a fascinating experience and I do it every time we snorkeled in Hawaii. But I also do it in Israel, but not in the water- just standing/seating quietly, sometimes for hours, especially at the beach, just observing, getting the local feeling, local interactions, without disturbing it. Simply, an amazing experience.

The sun was clear, no cloud in the sky, the temperature mild and pleasant on my last visit to Israel in the Spring of 2011. The Arab world was not quiet, nor peaceful, it was in the middle of its internal revolt: the “Arab Spring” with its riots, and killings in a number of Arab states not far from Israel.

Israel was quiet and secure as my son, his wife and my first granddaughter were visiting with me my homeland for the first time. And were enjoying Old Jerusalem and its fascinating history quite a bit.

While the family was wondering around on a nice spring day at the Kotel plaza, the Western Wall, I sat and looked around with pleasure at the numerous activities around this huge and distinguished plaza. Hundreds were praying near the Wall, on the left side the men and the right the women. Several large groups of young military officers were preparing themselves for their swearing-in ceremony. Many with kipas, some serious, some joking around at every opportunity, just having fun. I stopped, listen and observed, enjoying their free spirit, the lovely interaction with their commanders. The harsh military future ahead of them was forgotten for the moment.

As I moved around taking numerous pictures from as many vantage points as I could, using two cameras just to be sure, I noticed at the upper, farther side of this huge Kotel plaza a very large number of police cars. It seemed odd, I had not seen them on our previous visits just a few days earlier. I went closer wondering why the police brought 60 or more cars to this quiet, so peaceful location.

I looked around and found the Police Commander of the Kotel area. A tall, erect, distinguish man, wearing a kipa and smart police uniform. He had a small, well trimmed beard and a nice friendly smile. It was easy to see why he had this important duty, he radiated self confidence and respect mixed with clarity of thinking.

We talked about the Kotel area activities in general and I then asked him in Hebrew: why do you have so many police cars here? On a number of previous visits in the week I did not see even police one car here.

He smiled, but his smile was just a surface smile, to be polite, and after some hesitation said, The Arab world is in a mess right now and some local Arabs want to start riots here also, to drag us into the mess. Today is Friday, and in a short time thousands of Arabs will come to the Mosques above the Kotel for their Friday prayers. Some may want to start a riot, but when they see how prepared we are, they may think twice and drop the idea. Or, if they do start throwing stones on the Jews praying below, as they did a number of times already, or start a bigger riot, we have enough police force here ready to nip it in the bud, quickly, before it triggers the dark mood of other Arabs to join the riot.. We can not take a chance with the Kotel area security.

As we parted, and we continued our tour of the Old City, I noticed the many Israeli military patrols all around the narrow streets and the peaceful march of large number of religious visitors from all over the world enjoying Old Jerusalem and the security of a peaceful Israel.

 

Matania

2/13

 

 

A ltr to a friend- Israel needs our support!

January 15th, 2013

My friend, your concerns about Israel are understandable. Your heart is in the right place. But that is not enough.

Israel is not perfect and will never be- as no human affair can be. It is a young state under continuous stress of survival. Amazing resilient people! But even they can not do magic. It takes time to improve the situation there. The best thing for now is to enhance Israel's security now and :"give peace a chance"-- as the opportunity may come.

 

Some people see me as a "right winger"- I am simply realistic, as an engineer and scientist it is in my blood to accept reality and not wish it to disappear--and I spent 9 years full time to create pressure on Congress to reduce the nuclear arms race-pro bono.

 

I supported the Peace Accord, but reality opened my eyes. Your view that Israel wants to be an apartheid state is strange. Israel does not want to control the Palestinians under its wings. But they are not capable of being peaceful neighbors for the foreseeable future. Read Arab poll below: the dream of the Palestinians is still to use force again.

 

Just look all over the Middle East- it is an ingrained culture of violence- they murder their own brothers without a second thought. Quarter of a million civilians was murders by sectarian war in Iraq- independent of the war. Some 60,000 were murdered in Syria. As one of the key Hamas leader said: we will win in the end- you care about life- we do not.

 

The Palestinians should not have a free state- period- It will make life in Israel impossible- see Gaza experience.

They may join Jordan or Egypt- but they do not want them. Giving away Gaza should have wakened any one who is open to reality.

 

Almost all Israelis want peace with the Palestinians and all Arab states. There is no question about that. But the majority of Arabs/Palestinians want to eliminate Israel-there is no doubt about that either. a century of murders and wars have thought us that without any shadow of a doubt.

even old leftists Israelis accept that reality now. facts overcame their dreams: you remember Shlomo Avinery key adviser to Rabin? he has changed his tune too.

you can not argue and give to a murderer-period. you will die. and that is their hope that Jews and Israelis will argue themselves to death and hate one another "in the name of truth".

Time to wake up from the Galut mentality- "be nice---look how the world is looking at us," and accept the unpleasant reality of life. No other people behaves/think so meekly about their own national survival. Sadly, a devastating experience of 2000 years would not disappear in a century or two.

If I am not for myself, who will be?

If we do not support Israel security who will?

 

Matania

 

Palestinian Poll: To Build a State, 60 Percent Say Hamas' Way Is Best - Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)

A poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza on Dec. 13-15, 2012, asked:

In the latest war between Hamas and Israel, who was the winner? Hamas - 81%, Israel - 3%.

Given the outcome of the war, whose way is the best to build a Palestinian state? Hamas' way - 60%, Abbas' way - 28%.

Can people in the West Bank today criticize the authority without fear? Yes - 35%, No - 61%.

Can people in Gaza today criticize the authority without fear? Yes - 29%, No - 59%.

 

 

Al Gore and Al Jazeera-by Jonathan Tobin

January 8th, 2013

Jonathan S. Tobin | @tobincommentary 01.04.2013 - 10:15 AM

The sale of Al Gore's Current TV to Al Jazeera is apparently more than just a business deal in which the world's most prominent critic of fossil fuels made a fortune with an oil-rich emirate. According to the New York Times editorial page, the creation of a new Al Jazeera America is a blow struck for diversity in journalism. The Times feels Time Warner Cable is wrong to drop the new channel from its broadcast lineup. The implication is that those who have expressed shock or outrage about the spectacle of a former vice president of the United States becoming not merely a business partner but an advocate for a network that is well known for its anti-American and anti-Israel bias are either narrow-minded or in some way prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims.

The idea that the general disgust about Gore's $100 million Arab oil windfall is more evidence of American parochialism or prejudice is absurd. No one is trying to censor Al Jazeera. If there are enough American viewers who want to watch news broadcast from the perspective of the channel's Qatari government owners, then cable providers will give it to them and they are welcome to it. But that doesn't obligate Time Warner or any other distributor to give it valuable space on a list of available channels if there aren't enough viewers to justify such a decision. After all, those who want to look at the world from the point of view of those who promote 9/11 truther myths and who sympathize with those who fought the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan can always watch Al Jazeera on the Internet or find other outlier niches to hold their attention.

The real issue here is not a false argument about diversity. It is instead one about what it means to be a liberal in today's media environment. As Alana noted yesterday, Gore refused to sell his channel to conservative Glenn Beck saying that he didn't wish to see his vanity project fall into the hands of those who disagreed with his politics. Fair enough. But the fact that Gore sees Al Jazeera as a good match for his brand of American liberalism speaks volumes about the nature of that set of beliefs.

Most Americans still think of Al Jazeera as the network that was Osama bin Laden's outlet to the world in the years after 9/11. Since then, it has earned a reputation in some quarters as the best source of news about the Arab and Muslim world, especially during the Arab Spring protests. But its perspective remains one in which the United States and Israel are routinely pilloried and where terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are depicted as freedom fighters.

I don't worry about Al Jazeera being able to persuade most Americans to buy into this skewed view of the world. What is worrisome is that Gore and other liberals such as the editorial writers at the Times seem to think there is a connection between this perspective and contemporary American liberalism.

Though the overwhelming majority of Americans reject this point of view and are strong supporters of Israel, polls have consistently shown us that liberals and Democrats are less likely to back the Jewish state than conservatives and Republicans. At the beginning of his career Gore was seen as the leader of the next generation of Scoop Jackson Democrats. That Al Gore would never have gotten into bed with Al Jazeera. But in his current incarnation as hypocritical environmental huckster and profiteer he seems to reflect the way the left has abandoned the principles that once united Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy. While conservatives and liberals have plenty to argue about, one would have hoped that they would be united in their revulsion against the kind of bias that Al Jazeera exemplifies. If indeed there is a connection between Al Jazeera's views and contemporary liberalism, there is a sickness on the left that ought to trouble all Americans.

 

 

Answer to a Doubter

December 3rd, 2012

It is simple:

As the US and its administration needs to think about its own needs, so does Israel, or any other country. Netanyahu's responsibility is to satisfy his coalition, that is the way political democracy works. And he needs to look to what they, Israeli majority believes, not Americans, not even American Jews, what is best for Israel.

I am glad that finally the Israelis are showing some smarts, just a little, to build a larger Jerusalem region.

The 1993 Oslo Peace Accord, which I supported, is dead, the Palestinians killed it long ago by breaking almost all agreements in this accord. So the Israelis need to do what is right for them. And the more they build the better it is for Israel. Time for them to stop being second class citizens in the Middle East.   They should not repeat the mistakes they have made, try to placate the Arabs. They take it as weakness and demand more.

The Arabs never gave and inch in any area of importance, if any. Any one who does not yet realize that the Palestinians are only eager to destroy Israel and not make a true peace with it did not study the issue over time and very carefully.

We need to eliminate wishful thinking and be realistic- that is, accept the reality that have been demonstrated for so many years.

As I wrote years ago, I wish for a 2 states solution [demilitarized Arab state!] based on peace and cooperation, this is not possible for many years to come. Not possible. And not because Israel does not want it.

Matania

Did President Bush bring on the Gaza wars?

November 22nd, 2012

Every recent American President prolonged the Arab Israeli conflict by forcing Israel to act against its own best interest. They have very strong leverage and use it to weakened Israel and thus prolong the tragedy there. With a weakened Israel, the Arabs/Palestinians believe that their victory is just a matter of time. And they have a very long horizon, and will carry their determination to destroy Israel for not only decades, but centuries. It is almost one hundred years of murderous attacks by Arabs on Israeli Jews.

Some US Presidents talked “nicer” about Israel than others, some supported Israel in emergency better than others, as President Nixon did admirably during the 1973 war. But, they and their advisers’ ignorance of the Arab/Muslim world’s mentality have driven them to force Israel to act against its best interest and propagate this sad conflict.

But, if you think a Republican President is more likely to be “good” for Israel than a Democratic one, you may be very wrong. Both Republican and Democratic Presidents look for American interest first, as it is their duty. They want to get the best deal America needs- according to their own grasp of Middle East reality. However, they are mostly unable to grasp the fundamental facts of the Muslim world because our Western mentality and morality are so drastically opposite to the Muslim’s world. And those primitive Muslim’s views govern almost all aspects of their lives- even for some to love to die murdering other people. On 9/11 my 8 yr old grandson asked: how can these people be so eager to kill themselves in order to kill other people? We had no answer. Most of us Westerns are unable to accept the radical Muslim’s violent makeup. Look at the large amount of Arabs murdering Arabs all over the Muslim world. Some quarter of a million civilians were murdered in Iraq alone by sectarian killing [Sunnis vs. Shiite] independent of the war we started. Make no mistake; it is not just a few extremists of the Muslim world support suicide murderers. Did you ever hear public Muslim renunciations of them?

But how could Hamas have such a huge number of dangerous rockets to continuously attack Israel, when Israeli forces surround Gaza in the air, sea, and 2 sides of the land? Because they do not control the third side: the semi open border with Egypt that President Bush forced Israel to accept. This thousand foot wide missing border is the “Philadelphia Corridor” between Gaza and Egypt that Israel was determined to controll. But Bush’ Secretary of State- Condoleezza Rice forced Israel to give up.

Most people remember President Bush [the second] as a solid friend of Israel- he was verbally so, but not in all actions. The indications are that President Bush in allowing Secretary Rice to intimidate Israel was the fundamental “cause” of the two Gaza wars and the numerous rockets inflicted on Israel from the time Israel erroneously left Gaza unilaterally in 2005.

At that time the Israeli military was planning to surround Gaza from all sides to prevent smuggling of any weapons into Gaza and materials that could be used to fabricate weapons. But Secretary Rice alone in a room with the Israeli Chief of Staff- Dan Halutz- put extreme pressure on him, shouting, intimidating, and threatening Israel to force it to give up the control of that critical side of the border with Egypt. Obviously, Egyptians did not have the same interest as Israel to stop weapon smuggling and the Gazan were determined to import them to destroy Israel communities.

If Israel had the control of that last border, few homemade, ineffective rockets might have been the most Gaza could lobe into Israel.

In addition, President Bush forced P.M. Sharon to allow elections in the Gaza strip naively seeing elections as a process of democratization while ignoring the contexts in which it is being held - armed terror organization ruling the streets. Hamas won this elections and thus gain legitimacy ever since that it never had before.

This was the major blow to the Palestinian Authority which was showing some interest in calming the situation.

That lack of understanding by an unsophisticated may be even well meaning President has caused immense amount of suffering on both side of the Gaza border.

Until Israel controls all the Gaza borders I doubt that Gaza will be a peaceful place.

Matania