‘Hatikva’ Regains Its Meaning in Neve Monosson


By Uri Dromi

Published April 27, 2007, issue of April 27, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

It has become a tradition for me to celebrate Israeli Independence Day with my friends in Neve Monosson, not far from Ben-Gurion Airport. Neve Monosson was founded in 1953 by a group of airport employees supported by Efraim “Fred” Monosson, a wealthy raincoat manufacturer and a leading Zionist from Boston. It later became popular with the families of airline pilots and information-technology engineers and managers.

Every year around this time, the community of Neve Monosson gathers in the local basketball hall to sing along and salute the unsung heroes of Israel. This year, after an ice-breaker by the local amateur choir, a representative of the local school told a story about Yosef Amzaleg.

Amzaleg was a young Moroccan Jew who in 1948, upon hearing that the young Jewish state had been attacked, left his family and went to fight for Israel. After a fierce battle in which all his comrades had been killed, he disappeared.

His family arrived in Israel after the war and started looking for him. Only after years of searching was he was found — in a mental home in France, of all places, where he had been mysteriously hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown from which he had never recovered.

The family fought and succeeded in bringing him back to Israel, and secured for him a decent, well-deserved pension. He died last year, but he was not forgotten. The pupils of the local school heard about him and decided to make him their hero. They commemorated him by planting a tree in his name in the school’s yard and by vowing to keep his story alive.

Then we listened to the soft voices of the local citizens-singers, who revived for us the beautiful melodies of our country. All this celebration is the product of many volunteers working hard for months, with none of the participants getting a shekel — not so common a thing in today’s materialistic Israel.

And then we watched on a large screen the events of last year’s war in Lebanon, a war that left a lot of doubts and bitter questions unanswered. Neve Monosson, however, is not a place for whining.

We watched a military doctor, who saved so many lives during the war, rush to treat Captain Tomer Bohadana, a company commander who had been severely wounded in his neck. The military doctor took one look at the rugged soldier’s face and declared, “He will survive.”

And we watched as Bohadana was rushed on a stretcher from a helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the doctor holding his hand against Bohadana’s wound so he wouldn’t lose any more blood. Seeing the crowd of journalists and photographers waiting outside the hospital, the severely wounded Bohadana raised his hand and made a “V for victory” sign with his fingers.

Hardly had we in Neve Monosson digested that when Bohadana himself appeared on stage. He received a standing ovation, and as the clapping mixed with yet more singing, we could all feel our batteries being recharged.

Afterward, during a break for falafel, I bumped into Gur Yisraeli, my student at the Air Force Academy some four decades ago. He came here to tell his story, and what a story it was.

He shared with us, in a casual way, his memories as a prisoner of war. On the third day of the Yom Kippur War, as a navigator in an F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft, he was hit by a surface–to-air missile over Damascus and was taken prisoner by the Syrians. Gur skipped the grim details of his interrogations, and focused instead on the weeks he was confined to his cell, alone and struggling to maintain his sanity.

Before the war Gur was a basketball player on his kibbutz, so in solitary confinement he played imaginary games of hoops in his head. “Michael Jordan could have taken lessons from me,” he said.

With all the miserable conditions in the Syrian winter of 1973, he was never sick. “This was a luxury you just couldn’t afford,” he told us.

The most dangerous part of his ordeal, Gur concluded with a dry smile, was that moment back in Ben-Gurion Airport, when a mob of anxious aunts nearly crushed the frail, liberated POWs with their mighty hugs. We laughed wholeheartedly, but as I looked around, I saw quite a few wet eyes.

Finally, we rose to sing our national anthem. It’s slow in rhythm and a bit gloomy, maybe to reflect the Jewish predicament, but at that proud gathering in Neve Monosson the singing was unusually vigorous — as if “Hatikva” had regained its meaning: hope.

Uri Dromi, director of international outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, was chief spokesman for the Israeli government under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.