For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Regev - Bowing our heads in respect
19 April '12..
Our family is small, and it is that way because of the Holocaust.
The home I grew up in was one where my parents had lost parents, brothers and sisters. On both sides. My parents made aliyah to pre-state Israel shortly before the war, and heard about the atrocities taking place there from here. They were proud of little brother Zecharia, who became the youngest fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He died with his weapon in his hands.
My wife's childhood home was similar: Her parents had lost many, many loved ones. Her father came to Israel after being sent to Auschwitz in a transport from the Lodz Ghetto. He was sent there and survived. Three other survivors from my wife's family also came to Israel: Uncle Hanan, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Abraham. They didn't only survive – they fought.
Hanan, Sarah and Abraham were young at the time, and did not go with their families when the Nazi soldiers arrived and took them away at gunpoint. As a result, they were not forced to stand before firing squads at the edge of pits dug and transformed into mass graves. Instead, they fled into the forests. All three became partisans.
Having been born in Israel, it was often hard for me to truly be a part of the conversations at family gatherings. They were full of weird names, names of small towns on the Russian-Polish border, of rivers, swamps and forests: Yanov, Volhynia, the Polisia Forest, the Pripyat swamps. We had Tel Aviv. But they still inhabited those far-away places.
As the years passed, we gained perspective, and with the successive wars we experienced, we also gained understanding and a sense of reverence. For us, there was an army induction center, basic training, battalions and a warm home to come home to. But how did those young people muster the courage, daring, and determination to live in the forests for two years, chased by those who had slaughtered their families, and pursuing them in turn? To wake up every morning not knowing if they would live till day's end. To lose friends who fought alongside them without knowing if tomorrow would be their turn to die.
After the war they made aliyah to Israel, building homes and raising families. But the families remained small, because so many had been left behind in Europe. Holocaust survivors reached a safe harbor, as did these former partisans, living testaments of heroism. They lived quiet lives in Israel, but the dark shadow of that place always loomed in the background. In recent years, they have started to pass away. First Aunt Sarah and then Uncle Hanan. Recently, it was Uncle Abraham's turn. They never surrendered to the enemy, but the fate of all mortals embraced them when their time came.
Indeed, that generation is gradually dying away. In the United States, those who experienced World War II are known as the "greatest generation." The moniker applies here as well, to our parents' generation, who founded the country. Day to day, as we walk down the street, through the public park, or down hospital corridors, we don't really notice them. We don't know which elderly people were there, or perhaps even fought there. But their generation brought us into the world, and enabled this country to be established. We should bow our heads with respect.
The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Israel Hayom.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"