Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More About Betar N.A. volunteers by Benny

The last episode.

After several days of off again, on again, the second group of volunteers left on an Olympic Airline (the only one where we could get last minute tockets) bound for Paris, France. I don't remember the exact date, but the war was over by then.

In Paris, we were met by a group of French Betarim, led by Jacques Kupfer, the Rosh HaHanhagah of France. They took us to their moadon, which was in a predominently jewish section of Paris, and that evening the French Betarim organized a kumzits for us.
The next day, they took us around to see some of the Parisian sites while we waited for an El Al plane to take us the rest of the way to Israel.

We had been instructed to not talk openly of our intentions.(I supposed that it was due to the American embargo on travel to Israel). As far as anybody was concerned, we were just a bunch of American students on holiday.

During our tour of Paris we met other American students "on holiday". Among them was Yedidiah "Didi" Soloveichik, a Cuban-American Betari, and Dave "Dizzy" Dizenghouse (sorry if I mispelled the name). They had been on our original list of the 200 who had been told that they would have to find their own way to Israel. They, too, were quite secretive about their intentions and we each played the game, knowing full well what they were.

Upon arrival in Israel, the Jewish Agency had already organized a clearing house for the hundreds of volunteers who were still pouring in from many parts of the world.
One interesting fellow we met was a Portuguese Catholic who though he descended from the "conversos" and wanted to rediscover his roots. For some strange reason his name. Pedro Da'Oliveira has stuck in my in my mind.

We were assigned to Kibbutz Ginnosar, by the Kinneret. Although several of the Chavrei Kibbutz received us warmly, the woman liaison with the volunteers soon brought us to another reality. As the Kibbutz was not know for its Kashrut and most of us kept Kosher, we requested some dishes which we would Kasher and provide for our own food, supplemented with the Kibbutz's
vegetables. Apparently, this was viewed as a great insult by the liaison lady to which she responded with as much self-righteous

indignation as she could muster: "If you want Jews, go back to the United States!"
Well, we didn't go back to the U.S. but all, except for Tzvi Neuwirth, who liked it at the Kibbutz and decided to remain, hitched rides back to the clearing house set up by the Jewish Agency.

From there, they assigned us to a youth village, at Kanot. We stayed there for a week or so until the Hanhagah Haolamit got its act together and sent Shlomo "Bubi" Ariav, our former Shaliach in N.Y., to gather up all the lost sheep. Eventually we wound up at Yohanah Jabotinsky youth village in Be'er Yaakov where we stayed until the end.

That's about it, except for one final commentary:
Opportunities are often presented to do the right thing. We, however, do not often take advantage of them. By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that what we did was heroic in any sense. Certainly not so when compared to the sacrifices of the previous generation of "machalnikim".

I would like to think, though, that at the very least, on this occasion, we took the opportunity to do the right thing.

Some names and dates are slowly forgotten, but the events and the faces are indelibly etched on my mind. I hope they are on yours as well...



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