Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Blizzard in Shilo: Reprinted from on the Tenth Anniversary of the Mercaz HaRav Massacre

Yonaton Eldar h'yd

In Israel the winter of 1992 was famous for its blizzard. Shilo, the Shomron village which is my home, was snowed in for three days. For two of those three days the electricity, the water pump and phone lines were all not working. At one point I went to my neighbor across the street and she told me, "I think Avital is in labor." I could not understand how she could know such a thing. No one could have called her. The two block walk to Avital's house was almost impossible to trek due to the snow drifts. Her answer floored me. "I heard it on the transistor radio," she said.
Although Avital was not mentioned by name, the national news had indeed reported that a woman in Shilo needed to be evacuated in order to give birth. It had not been easy to evacuate her. The first idea was to send in a helicopter but it was not able to land because of all the snow. The second try was to send in an army half track truck. It's mission was successful. It took Avital all the way to Tapuach Junction where there was no snow. There Avital was transferred into a waiting ambulance and arrived safely at the Tel Aviv hospital. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy. A week later when Yonaton Yitzhak had his brit milah there was still some snow on the ground. The story of his birth became one of our favorite Shilo legends.

As in most communities Shilo has its share of beloved stories. Many of them come from watching most of our children grow up, mature into responsible adults, marry, and have families of their own. Lives become very intertwined when living in a small community and we share sorrows and tragedies, as well as joys and happiness.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Growing With My Cousin

Last week was the birth announcement of my novel and here’s the prologue. Want to read the rest? Go to  
“Is this the Chazon family?” Sondra asked uncertainly in Hebrew. She’d checked her watch before dialing the number. It was almost eight in the morning in Israel, not quite ten o’clock in the evening in Phoenix.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Not All Arabs Are Terrorists

My father taught me that not all Germans were Nazis. In turn I tried to teach my children that not all Arabs are terrorists. It was easier for my father. I never personally experienced the horror of the Nazis. Sadly my children have been exposed to Arab terror over and over again.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sometimes Dreams Come True

Forty years ago on the first day of the Hebrew month of Shvat seven young couples, a group of yeshiva students, and a handful of toddlers set out to make a dream into reality. What was the dream? To return a Jewish presence to Shilo, the one-time capital of Biblical Israel. The dreamers came with tiny trailers, lots of enthusiasm, and the support of many. Within twenty-four hours a water tower was built and the trailers connected to a generator for electricity.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Family Facts

When I wrote My Uncle Aaron’s Story last month I included a disclaimer that I may have had some of the details wrong. Indeed, my father’s youngest brother informed me that the lame hand that earned my grandfather his draft deferment came with his birth and not from the runaway horse and wagon as I’d written. That accident happened after World War One had already ended.  I’m thankful that Uncle Fred’s memory is good and he’s able to supply me with all sorts of interesting facts from my family history.

One of the most meaningful stories from our past is the one in which he’s the star. That’s the story of how he rescued a Torah scroll in Nazi Germany when he was only nine-years-old. Like all family legends, though, details change with the time and the teller. For example, some of my grandchildren thought that it was my father who rescued the Torah. My father is the one who first told me the story but it’s not exactly the same as my uncle’s version. Since my father was already in America when the rescue happened it’s Uncle Fred’s account that I repeat. Thankfully he wrote it down for me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Ben Schaefer* slammed on his brakes, double checked his doors were locked, and opened the passenger window just enough to stick his gun through.

“Throw whatever you have in your hands to the ground and lift your arms to the sky,” he ordered the man in Arabic. “Don’t try anything or I’ll shoot.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Growing up in Wichita, Kansas there were just a handful of Jews who’d been in the Nazi death camps. Therefore my father would be called upon from time-to-time to speak about his life in Hitler’s Germany. His stories seared my soul. So much so that at one point a close friend in Shilo asked me to speak on a local panel of second-generation Holocaust survivors. I had to refuse. Thankfully my father had escaped Europe in 1937. Technically I am not a second-generation Holocaust survivor and many of my neighbors are.