(A7) Both my father, and my mother, were European-born… both… survived the Holocaust. Each had their own harrowing story to tell. Or, I should say – stories to tell.
My mother, lost all her relatives except for one older brother who had survived, quite miraculously, when he himself, was sent to Siberia during the war years, where he was tortured.
My mother’s story was itself quite miraculous, as were the stories of so many who had survived.
Everyone had a story that seemed somewhat unique.
My father’s story of survival was even more unique than the others. The stuff that almost defied belief. My father, the only survivor of his family, survived – along with a couple of cousins of a larger extended family.
His story was different.
My father – of Blessed memory – survived 13 concentration camps. Thirteen. Unprecedented.
And yet – as he later confessed – whether by accident, or fate, or circumstance… or by the grace of God – he lived in order to bear testimony.
It meant everything to me. It shaped my very being.
His misfortune, as was the case of my mother’s, was in some peculiar, perverse way, my good fortune.
Because I came to understand human nature, and what it was capable of doing.
While it seemed sometimes unimportant to a world that was quick to forget, and then deny, it meant everything to me.
That damn human race.
Yes, that damn human race.
Others read about it through Viktor Frankl, or even Mark Twain, I got it at home, at an unusually early age. A victim of the brutal anti-Semitism of the Nazis, he – as did my mother – made his way to Eretz Yisrael. The Land of Israel. They arrived on January 17, 1946, on a small ship – or more accurately, a large boat, the Enzo Sereni.
This was a 410-ton wooden vessel, driven by a 300 hp diesel engine that allowed it to make its way to the Jewish home, at a speed of 7.5 knots. The vessel sailed on January 7, 1946 from a small fishing pier in Italy, carrying 908 Ma’apilim – Jewish refugees – on board.
It arrived ten days later. Illegally.
Because the gates to the Land of Israel were closed, even to Jews who had survived the most murderous episode in man’s history. The Land of Israel. Where both my parents were summarily arrested. And imprisoned. Incarcerated in Atlit. In northern Israel. When it was still Mandatory Palestine. Under British rule.
My mother was released after a couple of weeks; my father after 2 months.
Finally – despite the fear of expulsion to Cyprus, they were allowed to stay. And, they were actually issued papers that made their presence in the Land of Israel, legal. Or more accurately – extra-legal.
They were later issued passports. The passport of Palestine. Mandatory Palestine. The designation on those passports stipulated: “Palestinian”. Yes – the Jews were Palestinians. The Arabs – on the passports THEY carried had a different designation: “Arab”.
You see – there were no Palestinian people then – as there was no sovereign nation of Palestine. There never had been.
Enough history for now – except to add this: The Palestinians as we know them today – were the Arabs of yesteryear, who were rebranded, and remanufactured, as Palestinians. In the 1960’s.
It was a cleverly devised political ploy to legitimize a fraudulent claim to a Palestine that was equally fraudulent. It was the lie that the world lives today.
I was born in Israel, only a few years after my parents arrived.
At a very early age, my parents taught me – and my siblings – about the world. And that damn human race.
About the Jew-hatred that they had faced, and survived. And the Jew-hatred that we now all faced – from a different form of Nazism. From a genocidal Islamic ideology.
If you paid attention during Israel’s short modern history – well, you understand.
Are you getting the picture? Or was it all in vain?
Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.