Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
“Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? It is G‑d who has made us as we are, but it will be G‑d, too, who will raise us up again. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and only that reason do we suffer. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter. We will always remain Jews.”
—The Diary of Anne Frank
(April 11, 1944)
The month of April is always a difficult period for many of us in Israel, whether it be Holocaust Memorial Day or the IDF Memorial Day. Dealing with death and bereavement of our children, G‑d forbid, or our grandparents and extended family whom we have never met, is a wrenching experience always leaving a sense of it being unfinished and perpetually out there even though we can’t touch it or tuck it neatly in a drawer. It’s always out there throughout the year, with a focused intensity during these past weeks.
On Memorial Day for soldiers, I spend the day with the Guy family that lives in a moshav called Nir Banim in southern Israel. My buddy Jerry Wolf, Hy’d, whom we called Tzvi, his Hebrew name, was originally from Hollywood, Florida, and was an adopted lone soldier by the Guy family. Both Jerry and I were serving in Lebanon at the time, Tzvi in a tank and I as a medical officer.
On June 6, 1982, Tzvi was killed in action on the first day of the War of Lebanon. On the very same day, Shahar Guy, Hy’d, the only son of the Guy family, was also killed in action. Despite their being killed in action on the same day, notification of their deaths during the war came at an interval of 48 hours. So as we all meet, family and friends, we share with one another what has transpired over the past year and reminisce about Tzvi and Shahar.
This year, on Memorial Day, a group of middle-aged men whom we have never seen before, even though we have been attending this memorial service for the past 32 years, appeared at the military cemetery to participate in the service. Afterwards they joined us at the Guy home. They introduced themselves as Tzvi’s former tank buddies who served in the same unit and participated in the attack when Tzvi was killed. They brought with them yellowed and battered photo albums with pictures of the war and the actual tank in which Tzvi was fighting. They shared with us all sorts of facts and tidbits that we did not know.
Someone asked why it took them 32 years to show up. I quietly responded that till now they weren’t ready to come and face the family; only now can they bear the task of sharing what they know and meet the parents face-to-face. After 32 years, we were all thrust into a situation in which all of us relived those difficult days, reaffirming our collective sense of it being unfinished.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, I spend the day with my father, who at 89 never misses an opportunity to take pleasure in the fact that he is still around despite all that he experienced during the Holocaust. I usually begin the day by reviewing my mother’s personal papers from the year and a half she spent at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. When my mother was alive, she spoke extensively about her experiences, always remembering something new that she had never mentioned or had forgotten. In her personal papers is the original Jewish star patch that she wore on her clothes, identity cards, currency that was in use in the camp, permits allowing movement from one side of the camp to the other—a whole potpourri of objects that bring alive the Holocaust and give a slight inkling of what my mother and millions of other Jews had to deal with day in and day out.
Later in the day, I attend with my father the Holocaust ceremonies in Raanana, where he lives. One of my children always accompanies my father at this ceremony. This year Avraham, my second son, till recently an officer and commander in the Givati Reconnaissance Unit, joined us. We stood alongside one another as the siren went off at the beginning of the ceremony—three generations of Jews stood firm and proud of being Jews, and proud of living in the State of Israel.
So what ties these two monumental days together, making all else seem trivial and mundane? The depth of Jew-hatred then and now are really two sides of the same coin. The old anti-Semitism in the form of Nazi ideology to be superseded by the Islamic hatred of Jews and Israel occupy the same linear space of history, forever connected one to another. In the past, when the Nazis implemented the “Final Solution,” the world slowly learned that what was meant for the Jews was only the first act for a finale in which conquering the free world would be the true objective.
In the same manner, the world is beginning, albeit slowly, to understand the true objectives of Islamic terror. While this was perceived for decades as a Jewish problem and an Israeli problem, people are slowly beginning to understand that again the Jews and Israel are only the first act for the horrific finale that Islamic terror seeks. This is the new anti-Semitism based on the very same depth of Jew-hatred that began with the Nazis in the 1920s. v
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic advisor to the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. To contact him, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.ronjager.com.