Monday, May 13, 2013
“Soviet Union – yes … Egypt – no … Greece – no … United States – Yes … Grandpa, with a sheet of paper of all the countries in the UN assembly, was adding the numbers. On November 29th 1947 everyone was glued to the radio.
“As soon as the last vote was counted, we all rushed out, flooding the streets, heading for the city center, singing David Melech Israel Chai Vekaiam (David the king of Israel alive and living). Shops and restaurants opened their doors and handed out free food and drinks. Circles inside circles of hora dances erupted, and I, too, was singing and dancing, carried along by the crowd, unable to choose my way. After two thousand years, a dream was coming true; we were going to have a country again. The sight of the brightening eastern skyline startled me and brought me back to reality. Dreading punishment, I rushed back to the Old city. Grandpa was very strict.
“From the street below I could see that the light in the kitchen was on, and I knew that grandpa was awake, awaiting me. As soon as I put my key in, he opened the door. I froze. My throat was dry. I did not know what to expect. This was the first time I’d been out the whole night.
“Grandpa did not say a word. Slowly I looked up. ‘There is someone here to see you,’ he said, his face solemn, not angry. I followed him to the kitchen, my anxiety turning to curiosity. Who would visit so early in the morning? Two men were sitting at the table. Grandpa did not mention their names. Instead, he leaned forward and whispered, ‘These are members of the Haganah. They want to speak to you.’”
“What’s Haganah?” Tali interrupted.
“It’s a secret army when we were not allowed to have a real army,” I said.
“Let her tell the story,” someone hushed me. I looked around. Having pulled the mattresses closer, everyone was sitting in a circle around us.
“Boaz is right,” mom said. “The Haganah was an underground organization that defended us from the Arabs. They were our heroes. I remember one night when Grandpa entered my room with a bag in his hand. He thought I was asleep. From his bag he pulled a gun and tucked under a tile in the floor. That was when I learned that he, too, was with the Haganah.”
“Grandpa was in the Haganah?” I asked, loud enough to make sure that nobody had missed it.
Mom shot at me one of her warning glares, long enough to make me regret my comment. Then she continued. “I was disappointed. The men looked so ordinary, not like heroes at all. One was short and very thin. The other spoke in a secretive voice. He had a pointy mustache and looked like a kibbutznick. They invited me to sit with them, and told me how the Arab Higher Committee did not accept the UN resolution, and that the seven Arab states were planning a war.
“None of this was new to me. Arguing politics was our favorite pastime at school, in the youth movement, and at home. Everybody knew that the League of Arab Nations had promised 'to soak with blood every inch of Palestine' should the resolution pass. I still didn’t know why they came to speak politics with me, especially so early in the morning.
“‘We were hoping you’d help us,’ the short one said.
“I was tall and strong for my age, but could not imagine how a young girl like me could help. Still, I was excited. I didn’t think about danger or war, only that the Hagana was asking for my help. Of course I’d help. What child wouldn't?
“I jumped to my feet, stood upright and saluted. ‘At your command,’ I said
“Grandpa, who had joined us at the table with coffee and slices of cake, laughed.
“The short guy laughed, too. ‘At ease,’ he said. Then he turned serious again. ‘The Arabs do not agree to turn Jerusalem into an international city. They believe that destroying Jewish Jerusalem will break our spirit.’
“He took the last sip from the coffee and, turned the cup upside down, letting a few drops fall into the saucer. ‘You've always made the best coffee,’ he sighed looking at Sabba. Then he turned back to me. ‘The British will be leaving in six months. But they won’t let us prepare. They’ll search and arrest adults, but we believe they’ll let children pass. Your father says that you can find your way around in the Old City with your eyes shut. We need you to help us get ready.’”