Wednesday, April 22, 2020

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column


We found a chair on Tuesday morning. In Israel, unlike the USA, most people don’t have garages, basements, or attics to fill up with junk. When something is no longer useful to them, they often put it out on the street. And so we came upon a dining room chair, sound in frame but spattered with paint and with a damaged seat. We took it home, and I easily removed the paint spatters. Then I took off the seat and began the process of removing the countless staples that held the ruined vinyl cover on it. Whoever had put it together had been generous with staples, and they were driven into a chunk of that repulsive, hard particle board that seems to have replaced wood everywhere in recent years.

As I pried them out one at a time with an old screwdriver and pliers, I listened to the radio. A woman was describing her time in the hands of the Nazis. She was six years old at the time, and she remembered every horrifying detail. She talked very fast, but there were many details. She remembered everything, she said. Wasn’t it hard to carry all that around for so long, the radio host asked? That’s why I am telling you, dear, she said.

My wife came in to say that it was yom hashoah, as if I didn’t already know, and there was going to be a siren in a couple of minutes. I put down my pliers and we went out on our roof – one of my favorite things about this apartment is that it is on the top floor and we have a piece of roof for my wife’s plants and my antennas – as is our custom, and stood waiting for the siren.

The building is moderately tall, and when the sirens come on you can hear not only our own, which is located a few blocks away at the Magen David Adom compound, but others throughout the city, and maybe even as far away as Nes Tziona. First we hear our loud one, and then the sound arrives from sirens successively farther away, each one slightly weaker than its predecessor. The sirens sound continuously, rather than the rising and falling that warns of a rocket attack, which is the scariest sound you will ever hear.

We stood silently for two minutes, nothing moving in the street, and I could see someone standing still on their balcony in a building a few blocks away. As the sirens wound down, first ours, then the successively more distant ones, I imagined that I could hear hundreds of them from all over the Jewish state, and I thought that there were hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, all standing at attention to honor that woman who spoke on the radio, the rapidly dwindling group of survivors, and the memory of those who fought for their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto and even in the shadow of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor. And of course all those who didn’t survive.

From the roof I could see a small part of our Jewish state, roads, the green spot of the Hebrew University agricultural campus, a few tall buildings of the Weizmann institute. I am not sure exactly why, but I choked up, I couldn’t speak and I just hugged my wife, who is the emotionally tough one in our family.

Next week, the day before Independence Day will be another day of remembrance, this time for the soldiers, policemen, and terror victims lost in the struggle to preserve this beautiful Jewish state that makes me so proud to see. There will be two more sirens, and I will silently thank Hashem that my son, who spent nine years of his life in uniform, not including reserve duty, came home whole to his family.

***

So that was my morning. And then I read an article in the Forward (motto: “Jewish. Fearless. Since 1897”) , a debate between two youngish American Jews on the subject “Is anti-Zionism antisemitic?” Is anti-Zionism antisemitic?  You are kidding me, right? Ask the woman who spoke on the radio.




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