Monday, February 4, 2008

More About 1967 Betar Volunteers by Benny

Shortly after the first group of volunteers left for Israel (sometime in late April or early May, 1967), those of us left behind began to make preparations for a second group of volunteers. The main activity was to raise transportation funds, although we didn't know exactly who or how many of the chevreh would be able to go to Israel .

Meanwhile, something truly bizarre and unexptected began to occur. Somehow, word got around that Betar was sending volunteers (the first and only organization during that time - in early May -who had sent volunteers). Within days of the first group's departure, we began to receive phone calls, telegrams, letters, and visits from all sorts of individuals who wanted to volunteer to go to Israel. One individual said that he got our address from a taxi cab driver. Another claimed that he was referrd to us by a nun in a convent. Yet another cabled my mother-in-law, writing that he was leaving his wife in Puerto Rico to volunteer in Israel and wanting to know how to get in touch with me .

Ultimately, we compiled a list of close to 2000 names of prospective volunteers. We, of course, did not have the resources to check out all of them. But after some interviews, phone calls, and frankly mostly instinct, we whittled down the list to some 200 names.

Transportation was still the main problem We approached the Revisionists with this and after they heard that we had approx. 200 volunteers ready to go, they told us that if we make the arrangements, they would charter a plane for us.

In addition, another Revisionist, Mr. Samuel Wang, who owned a shipping line, also offered the use of one of his ships, then sailing along the eastern Mediterraenean, to take us to Israel; assuming that we could fly the volunteers to Cyprus by a certain date.

At the news, we became prematurely overjoyed, naively thinking that the transportation problem had been settled.

We called airline after airline to try and charter a plane. When they heard who we were and where we wanted to go, they all turned us down. We later discovered that, for political reasons,
the State Dept. exherted intense pressure on the airlines to refuse charter flights to any organization wanting to travel to Israel. One of the excuses being that their insurance would not cover flights into potential war zones. By that time, the State Dpt. also clamped down on private travel of Americans to the Mid-East.

In any event, one of the bigger ironies in that episode was that the State Dept. requested the very same ship that was to take us to Israel, in order to evacuate Americans from Alexandria, Egypt.

By then, quite dejected, we were forced to inform the people on our list that they would have to get to Israel on their own.

Tho' very few of us remained, we were still determined to get to Israel by any means possible. We took a poll and eight of us decided to travel to Israel together. We were: Chaim Fishgrund,
Nisan Teman, Tzvi Neuwirth, Sara Rosenberg, Bill Lump ( a friend of Ben Rappoport's), Risa Rich, Miriam and Ben Rosen.

Despite the previous let down, the Revisionists still came through with the money for the plane tickets.

As it was Shabbat, we had arranged for a telephone signal with the chevreh. 3 rings if it was a go. As I was later told, people were waiting by the phone - all packed up- . Some cheered, others cried a bit in emotional release, as soon as they heard the 3rd. ring.
The last episode to come...

I still invite others to contribute their memories of those defining days.

Benny

5 comments:

Batya said...

I remember seeing off some Betar volunteers on May 25. Yes, that's the date; it's an easy one for me to remember.

YMedad said...

Had to be late May as the crisis only began on the day after Yom HaAtzmaut which was May 15th. I will get up a recollection of the first group with whom I met at Mevo Betar the Sunday night before the was broke out.

Risa said...

Benny,
I think that the third females in the group were Miriam (who at the time went by the nickname of 'Chame' not pronounced kh but ch as in champion and Miriam Bryks. If my memory is not completely dried up, I believe Sara Rosenberg joined us when we were already in Be'er Ya'akov along with Doris Doronski and JJ Gross. There was also a very young guy with reddish hair who was not really a member of Betar.

big3ben said...

Two comments.
Benny, your scaring me. I have absolutely no recollection of a Bill Lump !!! ‘Bill Lump ( a friend of Ben Rappoport's)’ Who is Bill Lump ????? Mr. Rozen, my name is spelled Rappaport.

On two occasions I received a note from the US Embassy. It requested to contact them so arrangements be made to evacuate Israel. I remember one note was blue-purple print that looked like it was made by a Gestestner. Gestestner, where do I remember that …..?
Ben

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