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Newsletter 227: The Spirit of the Jewish Pioneer


The Spirit of the Jewish Pioneer

I’m often in the bus and the Jerusalem Mini Rail and last week I even used the train to travel from Tel Aviv to Cfar Saba to attend my cousin Avremele’s funeral. I felt sad about him, because he and his brother and the rest of the family gave me a very warm welcome when I arrived in Israel for the first time, at the age of 19, in December 1959. I remember piling into a Packard, stuffed between the door and one of my aunts, I think it was Ida. The car belonged to one of my uncles, David Jeger. A car was considered a great luxury in those days. I still think it is a luxury. I don’t drive anymore, since I bumped into two people, who weren’t as badly injured as my nerves were shattered. I use public transport unless I travel with Ettie, who won’t hear of it.

I still remember passing a series of identical looking, cream colored apartment blocks near Petach Tikva on my way from the airport, which was then known as Lydda airport. My aunt explained that these were for the new immigrants who immigrated to Israel from the Arab countries, soon after the establishment of the state.

My family had come as pioneers in the 1930’s, conscious of the fact that they were the pathfinders coming here, not for their own personal enrichment, but to rejuvenate the ancient homeland and to prepare it to be a safe haven for their brethren when it would be needed. And its existence certainly helped to saved many Jews who, otherwise would have died in the holocaust or perished as unwanted refugees after the war.

Even today we, in Israel feel responsible for the Jewish People outside Israel. We feel that we are playing an important role in their safety in those countries as well as building a country which will be here for them always. We feel we have this mission. We know that not all Jews can immigrate to Israel and that the standard of living in Israel is not as high as the standard of living of Jews in other countries. But it’s good for them and for us to feel that they have a homeland to go to in times of need.

When I think of Netanyahu going to plead with America not to make an agreement with Iran I think of him making this plea for Jews all over the world, because part of his job, as prime minister of Israel, in my opinion is to work for the safety of Jews everywhere not only for the Jews in Israel.

This is why his critics in Israel are wrong in saying that he should stay in Israel and work to raise the standard of living for us here in Israel and not be going to America to try and deal with the Iranian threat. Israel needs to be strong for the sake of the entire Jewish People and if we have to suffer in our standard of living for the sake of the entire Jewish People so let it be, because we are living here for the sake of Jews everywhere. The survival of the Jewish People is more important than the standard of living of the Israelis.

Avremele was the same age as me and was, with his brother Jehoshua, even then the mainstay of their family. Their father, Mordecai, was a milkman, who drove around Cfar Saba on a horse drawn wagon, delivering milk. They say, in Cfar Saba, that the horse knew the route so well that Mordecai could sleep, holding the reigns loosely in his hands while the horse came to each of the customers. They especially took care of my grandmother Bluma, who was very old and who they loved very much. I have since heard many stories about her wisdom and kindness to people when she was younger of course and they lived in the village of Poswel in Lithuania before immigrating to Israel.

Young people, generally, in Israel take on more responsibility than young people, for example in South Africa. At the age of 19 I was dependent on my parents. I did virtually nothing, they did everything. While here in Israel I came upon cousins my age who were responsible, running the whole family.

Even my children started taking on very responsible tasks and the age of 18 and 19. I look at the boys in the army, they are virtually running the show and they are very smart. I took a back to the days of my youth and I, in my old age still take a back seat.

Being back in Tel Aviv at about 4 o’clock and my granddaughter Tamar being busy I looked on my smartphone, which I had received from Ettie after I had lost mine and she had received a present of a really smart smart phone, an Iphone 6 from her brother in Canada, I found that the ballet Spartacus was to be performed at the Tel Aviv Opera House and a ticket at a special discount for pensioners was available. The idea seemed okay but it was to begin at 9 o’clock. I checked my smartphone again and found that the movie called “Why not?” was showing at 5 so I said Why not and went along.

It was a cute love story taking place between Dublin and Toronto. It was light hearted and had a happy end and I had filled the gap and was off to the Bolshoi.

I thought that I couldn’t miss; what could be bad about a bunch of half-dressed lissome young maidens cavorting in colorful costumes around the stage waving spears and shields to the accompaniment of Kachachurian, no fire dance but quite lively. I would have liked there to be an orchestra but all in all it was satisfactory and by 1:30 I was in my bed in Jerusalem.

The next day I looked at smarty pants again and found a new modern dance called The Hole by Ohad Neharin and the Bat Sheva Dance Company at the Susan Dallal cultural center.

Seeing that I’ve admired Ohad Neharin’s skill and imagination as a choreographer since seeing a film of a dance called “Who knows One”, based on a song in the Passover Haggadah, I rushed to this performance, as fast as a half mile walk and two busses could get me there just on time to take my front row seat about 1 metre from the stage, which was circular in the middle of the theater, at eye level, so that as each of the beautiful dancers, after running spider like round the stage as if on a hunt for prey, came to rest within arm’s reach of me. The male dancers hung frantically on the wall of the round theater as if transfixed with fear of the hunting spiders. Well you can guess that eventually the spiders caught their prey. It was electrifying and to top it all, the end was with the spiders swinging happily like little children from swings hanging from the roof.

I have tried to convey my feelings of this performance but it really is something each person can feel seeing the show. It was fantastic. There is no other word, simply fantastic.

Wishing you a great No newsday

Yours truly

Leon Gork

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