What Makes You Good Makes Your Country Better

What Makes You Good Makes
Your Country Better

By

Leonard Zwelling

         For 4000 years, Tel Aviv was a sandy, barren suburb north of
the port city of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast. Jaffa was once the major
port of this part of Palestine.

Today,
about 100 years after its founding, Tel Aviv is the commercial center of Israel
and a major business crossroads that is bursting at the seams. Jaffa is a small
relic with boutiques, restaurants and museums. Jaffa is now the suburb; Tel
Aviv, “the city.” Like all the rest of Israel, parts stay very much the same
and parts change right before your eyes.

At
the Palmach Museum the history of the men and women who fought to make Israel a
country is told in a unique way. Using film projected on walls in nine rooms,
each representing a year between 1940 and 1948, actors depicting a group of
young men and women living in what would become Israel, first come together in
the early 1940s to begin military style training to aid the British war effort.
This was at a time when Rommel’s tank corps was sweeping across North Africa and
Palestine was clearly in the Nazi crosshairs before Rommel was defeated at El
Alemain (see the film Patton). It was only prudent for the locals in what was
then British Palestine to be ready to defend their land by intensely embracing
military discipline even with an initial dearth of weaponry.

After
WWII this military training paid off when the now battle-hardened Israelis
fought for their new homeland both before and after the UN declaration of
independence and the partition of British Palestine led to a Jewish state. There
were various factions of Israeli fighters, some who worked with the British and
others who tried to kill them, but who in the end joined forces to fight the
invading Arab armies and guarantee the new country for the Jews. Yes, Israel,
like the United States, was born of blood, sometimes British blood, and without
these “terrorists” there would be no modern day Israel.  These were Israel’s Minutemen.

One
can argue the rightness or wrongness of all of this and even its applicability
to the modern Middle East where the argument of who really should occupy
“Palestine” (a country that still does not exist) goes on. But history is
history and without the creation of a new Jewish identity, that of the tough, military
man and woman, an image dormant since Judah Maccabee, there would be no modern
Israel as a homeland for Jews from all over the world—Germany, Ethiopia or the
United States.

That
fighting force never waned and was very necessary in 1967, 1973 and many times
thereafter as we have recently seen yet again. Remember, all Jewish holidays
are the same: “they tried to kill us; we won; let’s eat.”

Rony
Rozen is a young woman born in Israel. She could not wait until her banker
father was relocated to New York City so she could attend high school on the
Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her father was transferred back to Israel, but
she finished high school in America before returning to Israel to complete her
military service, at least 2 years for all Israeli women and 3 for the men. Rony
had considered following her passion for computers to MIT after high school,
but found another passion writing software for the Israeli Air Force. Her 2
years became 6 and when she left the service as an officer, she naturally began
her own software company– the next day.

She
used the skills she was taught in the service to develop her own
entrepreneurial business, building apps for both Android and Apple platforms.
Her firm of 2 is now 10 and she has plans to keep growing.   Look
her up at poccaDot.com.

When
we were fortunate enough to meet in Rony’s sparse office decorated with Israeli
and Israeli Air Force flags along with the symbols of some of her successful
app products we met an energetic, focused, intelligent and articulate woman
critical of her own military nature, but fully conscious that it was both the
skills and discipline she learned in service of her country’s defense that
translated so well to the start-up world of software development.

Without
the militarization of the youth of the Palestinian Jewish community in the
1940s, there would be no Israel. The tradition of having the military invest in
its country’s future has now grown into translating military skills into skills
creating high tech information systems as well as future prime ministers. It is
of note that neither of the Baby Boom American President’s were combat
veterans.

No
one doubts that Israel would be better off without all that military conflict
from the need for combat at Israel’s birth to its current needs to eliminate
rocket launchers and tunnel-borne attacks on the civilian population near Gaza
and beyond. But what makes Israel better is the excellence of Israeli youth and
that makes Israel stronger. And when it is stronger, it is more likely to
survive even if that means just to fight another day.

Surely
we Americans can understand that.  David
beat Goliath. Israel defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria,
Saudi Arabia and Jordan in 1948. The Israeli Defense Force still remains on
guard to this day to preserve the nation carved out of the desert by the blood
and sweat of Israeli youth.

And
there ain’t no app for that! Although give Rony time….

http://www.ilmuseums.com/museum_eng.asp?id=227

The
Ayalon Institute (see link above) is not a scientific endeavor. Above the
ground, it appears to be a small kibbutz with a laundry and a bakery. And it
is, except it isn’t. Below that laundry and bakery was the factory that made
the bullets for the Haganah freedom fighters who helped liberate Israel at the
time of its birth. Without this ammunition factory, no Israel, for guns are
fine, but you have to have bullets to make an impact on your enemy and Israel
was surrounded by enemies then (1948) and now.

It
is all preserved as it was in 1948 with the original machinery and the bakery
and laundry too, although nothing is operating as it did in 1948. As with so
much we have seen already, this too was run by the young at the time, many of
whom appear in the film shown before the tour for they are still with us.
Imagine what it be would like to discuss the Constitution with James Madison,
the Declaration of Independence with Thomas Jefferson, or hear from the
survivors of Valley Forge or the Boston Tea Party. In Israel, one does not have
to imagine what it would be like to speak with those present at the birth of
the nation for many are here right now.

Another
contrast between America and Israel is the use of euphemisms. America does;
Israel does not. Like I have said, these Israelis are not confused people and
they always tell it like they see it.

Nowhere
is that more evident than at the small memorial on the spot where Yitzhak Rabin
was shot and killed in 1995. Our guide Gil called it “our Dallas,” but there is
no comparison between this spot and Dealey Plaza. Dealey Plaza is still
shrouded in questions as to who killed President Kennedy and surely why. Here
it’s all known with many witnesses and pictures of what happened. So I found it
fascinating that the Sixth Floor Museum in the Dallas School Book Depository
memorializes the “assassination” of a president while the spot in Tel Aviv is
labeled the site of the “murder” of the Prime Minister. Israelis never mince
words. In America the killing of a leader remains an unexplained political act.
Here, their national tragedy is called what it was, a crime.

To
sit at the precise spot where Israel was declared a nation by David Ben Gurion
in May of 1948 is awe inspiring. To hear the recording of his declaration and
the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, recorded that day in
Independence Hall is beyond humbling. Our guide asks us to stand before he plays
the recording. He did not have to ask for when hearing history that stretches
back only 66 years, but has roots thousands of years in the past one pays
attention and shows respect. Once again, imagine if you could have been there
on July 4, 1776 or even heard a recording of the birth of our country. No national
anthem then as neither the words nor music had yet been written. (Herbert
Hoover would have been the first President able to sing it after it was
declared our national anthem.)

Everything
in Tel Aviv is young. Everything in Jaffa is old. This is a world of contrasts.
And yet, we are about to venture out into relics even older. But, the take home
message so far on our trip to Israel is that without its youth, the nascent
nation of Israel would never have come into being.

Let’s
remember that is also true of our great country as well…and as we have seen since 9/11, and in our recent conflicts of choice, the youth of America is still up
to the task.

And,
for the best sorbet and ice cream in Tel Aviv: Anita’s—

square.com/v/anita-la-mamma-del-gelato-אניטה/4b488bfff964a520184f26e3

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