Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Entebbe and the Jews

I have few childhood memories. I don't know why. It seems that I blocked out so much. My mother tells me of the time that my brother had an asthma attack and couldn't breathe. She was told to put him in the car and drive him around with the wind blowing in his face. Sounds absurd to modern medical practices, but this is what she was told and this is what she did, She put her three children in the car and drove around, hoping to help my brother breathe better.

My mother says, "do you remember the time we drove around with Eric?" It is a traumatic memory for her and for me...nothing. She tells me I was there, that I was concerned. I remember nothing. I don't know how old I was, but I'm four years older than my brother so it stands to reason if he remembers it, I should.

I remember one thing from kindergarten - the first day. I remember very little about elementary school...the walk, a few teachers, at 6, when my brother was locked in the school (and he remembers nothing, while I still carry a discomfort of locked places).

But I remember July 4, 1976. I was 15. It was America's 200th birthday and my father took us to the shores of the Hudson River, perched high about the river watching the tall ships go by.  I remember looking at the ships - they were very beautiful and as they passed, people all around us clapped.

And I was outraged. I sat there refusing to find joy and comfort. In Entebbe, Jews were being held hostage. Jews only, because like the Nazis the Palestinian and German terrorists had separated out the Jews to keep them hostage. It was a nightmare and the only real help for these people was something like 2,000 miles (over 3,500 kilometers) away.

I had brought a radio to listen to the news. They were going to die, I was sure, all while I sat there on a beautiful, sunny summer day on the shores of the Hudson River. And then the news announced a rescue attempt had been made. Rescue attempt? How was that possible?

The Israelis.

Oh God, I thought. Fear had turned to terror. Oh God, more Jews in danger. Israel flew to Uganda?

Some casualties...I was crying. I don't remember seeing another ship that day. Everyone around me was listening to the radio. They did it! They did it! We cried and laughed and listened and prayed. There are some casualties, the radio announces and we stop laughing and celebrating. But most of the hostages are safe and on a plane back to Israel. We are back to worrying, not knowing if we should laugh or cry, dance or sit and wait to hear more.

I don't remember going home that day. I don't remember the moment I learned that the commander of the operation, Yoni Netanyahu, had been killed in the attack.

I remember only the feeling that we had, finally, explained to the world why Israel had to exist. Who else would fly 2,000 miles to save just over 100 Jews?

On July 9, 1976, just five days later, the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israel for violating Uganda's airspace.

I remember thinking that I should be outraged; I remember thinking how strange it was that I didn't care. Forty years later, I still don't.

We did then what we had to do. I wasn't an Israeli then, at least not in body. My heart had already been dedicated, my future promised. I once heard a US Congressman who was Jewish explain how his fellow politicians came up to him in the wake of Israel's Six Day War and congratulated him on the amazing victory, "and damn if I didn't say 'thank you.'" he explained.

That's the way it was after Entebbe too. It was a victory of all Jews. A bittersweet one because it would have been so much better if everyone had come home safe. But it was a victory; it was a justification. For this, we survived the Holocaust; for this we recreated our homeland. For this, there is an Israel.

So that the next time the Nazis come, and they do and they will, Israel will stop them; Israel will defy them. Israel will fly thousands of miles to save our people. We did it. We do it.

And they condemn us? We laugh at them; we smile and pat each other on the backs. We triumphed at Entebbe because we didn't let them murder our people. When no other nation would step forward; while the world waited for tragedy...our soldiers flew into hell to save our people.

America celebrated 200 years of freedom that day; but Israel celebrated the culmination of 2,000 years of exile. Never again will you separate us to the silence of all. We will not be silent ever again.

For this you condemn us? As with so many things the UN does, that vote spoke more about the abyss into which the UN has fallen than anything about Israel.

May God bless the memory of Yonatan Netanyahu. Your memory lives on, as does your name, in the land and people of Israel.


Anonymous said...

Memories of the 6 Day War?

A Soldier's Mother said...

I was too young to remember it. I remember the Yom Kippur War very clearly. I had just announced to the world that I wanted to live in Israel. I was almost 13 years old...and I thought that Israel would be destroyed in those early hours, before I ever got a chance to get there. I asked an adult, a rabbi that I respected so much to promise me that Israel would be okay and was shocked when his eyes filled with tears and he told me that he couldn't.

אסתר מרגוליס said...

How strange - I always thought I was the only one with hardly any childhood memories!
I also remember this very clearly; however it seems to me we found out on motzei shabbat. We heard it on the news, and then I ran out when my father came home from shul shouting the news and crying. my mother was mortified because I was in my fluffy yellow bathrobe. Am I mistaken? because I looked it up, and it says it was on a Sunday. why do I remember motzash? maybe it was just evening and he was coming home from arvit...
My only memory of the six-day-war is how the radio we had looked (it was left on on shabbat very low, and my parents would put their ear on it and listen - I guess the shock of that made me remember it). And by Yom Kippur I too had decided to live in Israel, though I had never even visited.
I think I made it here before you though! (1979) :)

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