Friday, February 27, 2009

Part 4 of "David Ben-Gurion"

Are you wishing that I would get done with this story and post something else? Well, I will. Sometime. I have been working hard on my book and haven't had much time for short stories. So for now, enjoy learning about David Ben-Gurion and be glad I have something to post.:)

World War II
It was the year 1939. World War II had begun and with it Hitler’s brutal determination to destroy the Jews. Ben Gurion knew that everyone in the Haganah and many others besides would have to work untiringly and efficiently to save their fellow Jews from the Nazis. He himself, though never actually assisting in the rescues, was in charge of everything. It was a heavy responsibility, and his approval was needed for each mission. The name they chose to use for their work of rescue was Aliyah Bet, which meant “second immigration.” Not only was the work strenuous and extremely dangerous anywhere behind Germany and her allies’ lines, but the British armed forces, under the direction of their leaders, also were doing all they could to keep more Jews out of Palestine. Their action was loudly denounced by Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, who was sympathetic to Zionism. The results produced by Aliyah Bet seemed to many as unexplainable miracles. And indeed they were. Miracles by the hand of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By the end of the war, hundreds of Jews were saved from their enemies by Aliyah Bet under the hand of God.

Ben Gurion sat leaning back in a comfortable chair enjoying an evening at home with his beloved wife. At 59 years old, his hair was white. Most people his age were thinking of slowing down, but not Ben Gurion.
“Paula,” he declared suddenly, sitting upright and leaning forward eagerly. “The war has been over now for some time. Hitler is dead, but the British still won’t change their minds about immigration. We have got to do something!”
Paula glanced up, the book she had been reading dropping into her lap. “Is there anything that can be done but what we have already been doing?”
“Yes, there is.” Ben Gurion spoke slowly and thoughtfully. “Instead of just smuggling Jews in and talking about a national homeland, I realize now that I must support the armed underground rebellion. Also,” he continued, “tomorrow I am going to authorize the Haganah to begin collecting arms. We may have to fight for our freedom.”
Paula sat quietly for a moment, then she spoke softly, “Just be careful. The British, if they found out. . .”
“We will take every necessary precaution. It will take quite some time, I’m afraid, but the Haganah can do it.”

The Haganah did do it. The year 1946 passed and 1947. All during this time the British, fearing the Arabs would revolt if many Jews came to Palestine, sought to keep other Jews from immigrating there. It was becoming harder for Jews from other countries to enter the “Promised Land.” Many ships bringing Jews over were captured by the British, and those on board were either transported to detention camps on the island of Cyprus or taken back to where they had come from. Despite all this, Ben Gurion continued to pursue the dream of an independent nation. To this end, he labored. When in 1947 he heard that the United Nations had approved a plan to divide the land of Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews, he was willing to cooperate. But the Arabs would have nothing to do with dividing the land with Jews! This was Arab land, they claimed, even though there had always been Jews living in the land ever since the days of old when Joshua had conquered the land of Cannan.

A Nation At Last
“It must be. There is no other way,” Ben Gurion spoke firmly. “The British are pulling out of Palestine at midnight on May 14th. We will then declare our independence.” A murmur arose from those seated around the room. May 14th, that was not very far away.
“You do know what will happen if we do this, don’t you?” asked a voice somewhat hesitantly.
“I know what will happen if we do not do it. The Arabs will claim this land, and no Jews will be allowed to remain in it.”
“But why May 14th?”
The debate hotly continued for some time before finally coming to a vote. The resolution to declare, on May 14, 1948, that Israel was an independent nation, passed 6 to 4.

Now the eagerly awaited day had finally arrived and he, David Ben Gurion, was signing his name to an historic declaration of independence. At midnight the news was flashed around the world. Israel is a nation! The dream of years, of hardships, struggles and tears had finally become a reality. Only eleven minutes after midnight a message was brought to Ben Gurion from the President of the United States of America, Harry S. Truman, in which he recognized Israel as an independent nation. Though this was a time of great thankfulness and joy, the Jews had no time to celebrate, for every Arab nation surrounding the tiny strip of land that was Israel had banded together to “drive the Jews into the sea!” be continued

Friday, February 20, 2009

Part 3 of "David Ben-Gurion"

I apologize for not telling you last week that the story of David Ben-Gurion would continue. It does in case you hadn't figured that out yet. And here is the next part. Enjoy!

World War I
Three years of exile passed, and in 1915 Ben Gurion returned to Palestine and again entered the Holy City of Jerusalem. This time he was in the uniform of the 38th Battalion of the Jewish Legion under British General Allenby with the rank of corporal. Jewish battalions had been recruited in England, and when one began in the United States, Canada and Argentine, Ben Gurion and Ben Zvi joined up. Ben Gurion had resided during his years of exile in New York where he met and married Paula Murweis. Paula had also been born in Russia to Jewish parents. At the close of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire had been destroyed and the British had control of Palestine, Ben Gurion moved his wife, and two-year-old daughter, Geula, back to Palestine. There he continued to work towards an independent Jewish state.

Leader In Palestine
“Ben Gurion, Sir!”
“What is it, Joseph?” Ben Gurion paused on the sidewalk and glanced at the young man. He could see excitement, as well as anxiety, in his eyes.
Joseph glanced around and instinctively lowered his voice. “I just received word that there is another group of Jews waiting to come to Palestine. Is there any way we can get them passports from the British?”
Ben Gurion frowned. “Not now. I am afraid they fear the Arabs too much to let many of our people come here. It has been that way for some time now, even though the United Nations has declared this a National Home for Jews.”
“Sir, what can we do? There are thousands of our people around the world who are being persecuted. Is there no way we can help them?”
“No way? Joseph, come now. Just because the Brits won’t help us doesn’t mean we are helpless. Come with me.” There was a slight smile on the leader’s face as he turned towards a motorcar with Joseph close behind.
Had anyone been following them, they would only have seen them casually travel to an inauspicious house and enter. A middle aged man looked up from a desk as the two strolled in. Rising to shake hands, he greeted Ben Gurion without formality, using his first name. Ben Gurion told of the problem Joseph had brought to his attention. “Can something be done about this?”
“Well, we already received word about that very same group,” the man at the desk answered briskly after glancing down at a few papers. “It will no doubt be difficult but. . .”
Ben Gurion smiled. “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer. Eh?”
“That’s it, Sir.”
Joseph waited until he was back in the car with Ben Gurion before asking, “The Haganah? How can our defense force bring Jews to Palestine?”
“A lonely coast of France, or somewhere else and a lonely coast of Palestine and a ship or two in between.” Ben Gurion smiled more broadly. It had worked time after time. The Haganah was ready for anything. Their secret training in hidden camps was paying off. How devoted, loyal and brave these men and even women were. Each was willing to risk his life for fellow Jews.

Ben Gurion went home that night to his wife and three children, Geula, Amos and little Ranana, in the center of Tel Aviv. The Haganah (The Defense) was certainly growing in many ways he had never dreamed of at the start. The group was begun in 1920 as simply a defense group. As a leader, Ben Gurion well knew that if the Jews were ever to have their own state or nation, they would have to defend themselves. Now, along with defending the frontier settlements, the Haganah was busy bringing more Jews secretly to Palestine.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Part 2 of "David Ben-Gurion"

In Palestine
The first night David spent in Petah Tikvah, the Gateway of Hope, he couldn’t sleep for happiness. He was in Palestine! Breathing deeply, he smelled the corn, heard the donkey's bray and felt the breeze that rustled the leaves in the fruit orchards. Petah Tikvah was a small village with swampy, mosquito breeding ground. There were some fruit orchards, but it was definitely not the “land of milk and honey” that it had been when the first Israelites conquered the land under the leadership of Joshua. Finding work in Palestine in those days of 1906 was hard if you were an untrained immigrant. Finally, after persistent searching, David found a job.
“Here, fill this wheelbarrow with manure at the stables; take it down to the orchard and mulch the trees,” he was told. “And make sure you spread it thickly.”
David did as he was instructed, and day after day mulched the trees with manure. The swampy area he was working in was full of mosquitoes, and he soon came down with malaria.
“Go back to Plonsk,” the doctor told him. “This climate is too hard for you.”
But David wouldn’t go back even though his malaria came back every two weeks. For a year David hauled manure and fought malaria. Then he and a friend traveled north into the frontier area of Nazareth. There, with forty-six other young men and women, he labored to clear the rocky soil. They weren’t planning on living there long, only long enough to make the ground ready for a small settlement. David worked hard for two years, living with the others in five wooden huts. It was there that his malaria left him for good, and though the work was strenuous with not a lot of food or fresh water, he always looked back on it as a happy time. There was just one problem. The Arabs kept stealing animals and equipment. The workers themselves were too tired to keep guard at night, and so a group of Jewish men, Shomrim (watch-men), were appointed to each frontier village as guards.

In time, David made a short visit back to Russia to visit his father. On returning to Palestine, he was asked to help edit the first Hebrew newspaper in Jerusalem. His co-editor was Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who was also from Russia.
“Hmm,” David murmured to himself as he paused before signing his name to his first article. “Green. That really doesn’t sound very Jewish or very strong. I need a new name. One that will identify me forever as a Jew. I know! From now on, I will be David Ben-Gurion, son of a lion-cub!”
And so it was that from that time on, David Green was known as “Ben-Gurion.”

“This Jewish paper is going too far!” stormed a young man in the office of the Palestinian Turkish governor.
“In what way?” the older man leaned back in his chair and yawned.
“Haven’t you seen the last few papers, Sir?”
“No, I don’t pay much attention to those things, Ekber. It’s just a bunch of talk.”
“Don’t pay attention. . . just talk! Why!. . . why. . .” the younger man stammered in disbelief. “Why, in this paper,” the mentioned paper was shaken in the older man’s face, “He says that the Jews must form a political force!”
“Who says that?” demanded the older man sitting up suddenly with more interest. Seeing that he had bestirred the older man, Ekber continued, “It’s Ben Gurion this time, but it might be Ben Zvi next time. They both seem to be leaders of the same mind. Anyhow, it also says that they must strive for Jewish autonomy in Palestine!”
“What!” thundered the older man, now thoroughly aroused. “Why that’s treason! They dare to conspire against the mighty Ottoman Empire! Those miserable Jewish nobodies!” Pacing the room in anger, the older man continued his tirade against Ben Gurion, Ben Zvi, and all the other leaders of the Zionist movement. “Such men as those should not be allowed in Palestine! I won’t tolerate it! Ekber, order their arrest at once! We’ll soon put an end to all such troublemakers.”
Both men were apprehended and charged with conspiring against the Ottoman Empire in order to create a Jewish state. Their sentence? Exile from Palestine!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Part 1 of "David Ben-Gurion"

This story has never been published before.

David Ben-Gurion, Leader of Israel

May 14, 1948. The hours slowly passed by approaching midnight when the British Mandate would end. It was afternoon in the Art Museum in Tel Aviv as a short stocky man, whose dark eyes flashed with determination and courage, began to speak, reading from a piece of paper with great feeling. A small group of men and women listened with passionate intensity. The lights in the room shone on his bushy white side hair and nearly bald head. The moment that he had dreamed of, struggled towards and fought for was fast approaching.
“In the Land of Israel the Jewish people came into being. In this land was shaped their spiritual, religious and national character. Here they lived in sovereign independence. They created a culture of national and universal import and gave to the world the eternal “Book of Books.”. . .” On he read, until at last, reaching the end of the paper, he laid it on a desk. The tension in the room grew as he silently reached for a pen. Two other men crowded forward to watch this historic event. There was a glint of a smile in those dark eyes as he boldly signed his name, David Ben-Gurion. As his pen scrawled across the paper, his thoughts flashed back nearly fifty-one years.

The Early Years
“David! Have you read the news?” In his home town of Plonsk, Russia (now a part of Poland), eleven-year-old David Green looked up from the book he was reading,.
“What news, Father?”
“About Dr. Theodore Herzl.” Young David looked puzzled. Slowly he shook his head. His father quickly explained, “Herzl is an Austrian Jew, and he has just called together a congress of Jewish delegates to meet in Switzerland! The delegates are from many different countries.”
“But what are they meeting for?” David interrupted.
“To try to secure a national home for Jewish people in the land of Palestine!”
“Palestine! Oh, Father!” David’s eyes shone with excitement - the same excitement that was in his father Avigdor’s heart. After his father left him, David sat staring at the book in his hand, yet not seeing it. A homeland for their people, his people. For centuries the Jewish people had been persecuted and oppressed in almost every country where they lived. The Jews were the troublemakers and scapegoats; the fewer there are the better the world will be seemed to be the general idea of most of the rulers towards these people of the Bible. And yet, the Jewish people continued to live and dream of maybe one day returning to the land of their heritage where they would be free to live as their ancestors had. Now maybe all this talk that David had heard all of his life would become a reality. As the days went by, there was much excitement in the house over this wonderful news, but it was soon subdued as Sheindel, David’s quiet, gentle mother, died giving birth to her eleventh child. Though overcome with grief, Avigdor did his best to fill the place of both father and mother to his children.
The years passed by swiftly and at 15, David, always more serious -minded than his friends, was an able leader for the cause of Zionism (a Jewish homeland) in Russia. He helped form a group of youths all interested in Zionism. Like Ezra, the scribe of the Old Testament, who returned to Palestine from Babylon some 25 centuries before them, so these youths (Their group was called “Ezra”) were eager to go for the first time to Palestine. Five years passed. The persecution of the Jews during the Russian revolution and afterwards increased greatly before David was prepared to leave his family and the land of his birth to travel with a friend to Palestine.

to be continued

All the Books

I guess not many people had a clue how many books we have. Before Christmas when they were first counted there were 3,660. But we had forgotten some, received books for Christmas and then Mom and I went to a few used book stores! And then when you add all the PaperBack Swap books that we seem to be continually receiving, the numbers grow. As of now, without counting the cookbooks, hymnbooks or song books, or the 80+ books listed on PBS, we have 4,011 and the number continues to grow. :)