Tuesday, April 28, 2020

My Father’s Israel Independence Day

My father never had a burning desire to live in Israel. When, in !933, his mother knew they needed to leave Germany, America was always their focus. Yes, she had two sisters who had settled in Palestine but they were struggling. Her brother-in-law, on the other hand, had come to The Golden Medina before World War One. He made his fortune, had connections with a Congressman, and managed to get my father into the United States in 1937 with one brother coming six months later and the rest of the family coming after The Kristallnacht.

America didn’t have a more loyal citizen than my father and he often said to me, “America took me in when I had no place to go.” He believed that a good Jew supported Israel financially but wasn’t even interested in visiting the Holy Land. It was only in 1975, because my mother wanted it so badly, that he agreed to a trip to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. It was a good vacation but he probably had no intentions of making a return trip.

That changed eleven years later when his only child, me, left the nation he had so much gratitude to and Israel became my home. He retired a year later and he and my mother came to see for themselves our new surroundings. At that time they were in their sixties and it wasn’t an easy journey. Since they lived in the center of America they couldn’t arrive in Israel without taking three, tiring flights. Still, they came again and again, for four Bar Mitzvahs and several more times just so they could see all their grandchildren at once.

After my mother died my father came by himself for three weddings. And then, following emergency surgery, the oncologist gave him two months to live. Thankfully, he agreed to make Aliyah and come live with me. He arrived the day before Chanukah and as the doctor’s two months stretched until almost a year, he merited celebrating all the holidays with us.

By the time Purim came around he had recovered from his surgery and was able to enjoy the little schoolgirls who brought him mishloch manot. My father sat at a seat of honor at our Pesach seder and it was thrilling to have four generations at the table. Like every year the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot were marked with special days, none more special than Israel Independence Day.

My father declined to accompany us to the special, crowded prayers and dancing in the evening and most certainly on the hike we took with family friends the following morning, but in the afternoon he was very much a part of our potluck Independence Day BBQ.

While by himself he watched various documentaries and relived memories of the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. That was at a time before computers, smart phones, and internet. Television was just becoming popular. Most people, my father among them, heard David Ben Gurion’s proclamation of the State of Israel on radio.
I can only imagine what his feelings were then. What a dream-come-true for the Jewish people to witness just three years after the death camps of Europe had been liberated. Many wept as they listened to their radios. I’m certain my father did because fifty-nine years later he had tears running down his face as he described the interview between President Harry Truman, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, and haberdasher, Eddie Jacobson, he’d seen in one of the documentaries.

My father, also a haberdasher, knew Eddie Jacobson from going to sales markets together. He knew the story well of how Eddie Jacobson had pleaded with Truman, his old friend from Missouri, to recognize the fledging Jewish nation. As we know from history Truman did as Eddie had asked.

In this interview, according to my father, Harry Truman said something to the effect that You two Jews made me to do it. I hadn’t seen the documentary and I don’t even know if my father described it accurately but as I listened to him tears ran down my face also. I was overcome with emotion thinking of the miracles my father who had fled Nazi Germany, made a life for himself in America, and was now living in The Promised Land, had seen.

This year, as we celebrate Israel Independence Day, there will be no crowded prayer services and dancing, no group hikes, nor any potluck BBQs. This year we will celebrate with quiet prayers of thanksgiving and probably join in on some of the many Zoom programs celebrating seventy-two years of one the biggest gifts the Almighty ever gave the world. As we do so we’ll pray for an even bigger gift, the end of the Corona plague and full redemption for all. 

Poll: Majority of Israeli Jews, Arabs view Israel favorably ...
courtesy of Israel National News


Ariela ben-Eliezer said...

very nice, ester. yr father had a great zchut to spend his final year here in eretz yisrael and a great zchut to have a devoted daughter to love and take care of him. he seemed very pleased to be here surrounded by his daughter and son-in-law, grandkids and great grandkids...his legacy.
חג עצמאות בריא ושמח!

ester said...

Thank you, Ariela. My father had a talent to see the cup half full and make the best of things. I know he missed his friends and life in Wichita but he never complained and concentrated on what he had here that was good.