Friday, May 21, 2010

Jerusalem Day and the Commemoration of the Ammunition Hill Battle

To speak about the Jerusalem Day, we need also to speak about the Ammunition Hill Battle in June 1967. Both concepts are going hand in hand. It is true that, when we hear the word “Jerusalem”, we think about the Old City, the Kotel [Western Wall], the Shuk [the Arab market] and the different holy places that any person can find in this great and unique City.

Last May 11, Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day. The first thing we went to the Old city of Jerusalem, there we saw a big party. No, there was not a band neither food, just people dancing with the flag of Israel. Soldiers, the young, and those who were not so young, were dancing in big “HORA” (as we call it in Israel is a circle dance) with Israelis flags at the Kotel, it was not as many people as I expected, but It was great!

Songs, dances and happiness spread throughout the Holy City of Jerusalem. The happiness was contagious, we were invited to dance, separately -- and, of course we dance, we celebrate the Day of Jerusalem with the people who were there. We also pray to G-d to help us to keep Jerusalem forever.

From there, we took the number 1 bus to the “new” city and then the bus 19 which took us to the Ammunition Hill. Last time I was there, it was just a few years after the Six Day War. I do not remember seeing a museum and all the pictures that I saw today. It was just a lot of trenches. Also, there still were the concertina wires in every trench, and the person who took me there, in 1973, who also was one of the soldiers who fought in this battle, told me amazing stories that he remembered about this battle, his friends, and his feelings.

Here is a picture of the Entrance to the Ammunition Hill

Today, now that I have returned, there is a museum, in one of the old bunkers. I saw pictures, watched a video and heard the song that was written for this battle. No more concertina wires, no more trenches were there to walk in, rather, we just watched the stones as witness to one of the big battles in which the parachutes participated to bring us back Jerusalem.

Here is the link from which you can listen to the song and see many of the soldiers who were fighters at the גבעת התחמושת (Ammunition Hill) on June 6, 1967, the second day of the Six Day War.

Here also some pictures which one of the soldiers had drawn about the bloody and amazing battle here at the Giv’at Hatachmoshet.

When we were leaving the Giv’at, we meet a group of parachutists who were waiting for the big event, that night, to honor the soldiers who fell in this war. This group of soldiers was just between 18 to 20 years old, the same age as those who fell in 1967. They were from the same brigade (Paratroops Brigrade) as that of the soldiers who gave their lives to liberate the old city and give Her (Jerusalem) back to us. So, we can go back to the wall and the City of David without fear, free as the doves we saw that day around the Kotel.

We took pictures of the soldiers; they were having lunch, as one of them answered me when I ask him ?האוכל טעים[Is the meal tasty?], and he answer with a big smile
אין מן אוכל של אמא [There is nothing like Mom’s food!] I told him, "you are right and thanks a lot for taking care of us!"

Until my next blog, Rifka

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My meeting with Aharon Appelfeld

The International Writers Festival, Jerusalem, May 2010.

Aharon Appelfeld and Nicole Krauss chating about their common Judaism, life, and literature.

Mishkenot Sha’ananim, in Yemim Moshe, the first neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem’s old city, hosted The International Writers Festival in its International Cultural and Conference Center, where Israelis and international writers were chatting in pairs about their books. Because of my schedule of classes at the University, I could not attend most of the events. However, there was one event I could not allow myself to miss: Aharon Appelfeld's sharing with another writer. Last Thursday (on May 6), he and Nicole Krauss had an interesting and great conversation about their common Judaism, life, and literature. A lot of memories returned when I heard him that afternoon, at Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

Seeing Aharon Appelfeld again has been one of the best experiences I have had here in Israel since I came back to study. The first time I meet Aharon Appelfeld was as his student at Chaim Greenberg College here in Jerusalem, in 1973; when he was my teacher of Prose. I remember his soft voice telling us the stories about the Holocaust, how he escaped when he was just a child, what happened to his parents, the bohemian life he saw in Tel Aviv, his experiences when he was adopted, and his experiences when he arrived in Israel. In addition to hearing his stories, we, as students, read and analyzed parts of his books.

Our childhood and our experiences from this period of our lives, yours and mine, have not been oppressed beneath the same shadow which loomed over Aharon Appelfeld in his “childhood”[1]. His “childhood”, as he describes it, is the Holocaust as he knew it between the ages of 8 and 12. “It was my despair and my joy”. “I was terrified, but also I was a child”. "I was adopted by criminals in the forest, and … I learned a lot”. The experiences, -as Appelfeld used to say in class and that afternoon, enriched him. From these experiences, he learned to survive, to be what he is now. “The experiences that you have as a child are planted in you forever in your life”, he said. After his mother was killed and his father was sent to the forced labor camp, he knew that never again would he be at home and/or sees his parents. “I never can be a good boy as my parents had dreamed”

Aharon Appelfeld speaking about his experiences:

Aharon Appelfeld giving me one of his books, we said lehitraot [see you later].

"The Holocaust is a central event in many people's lives, but it also has become a metaphor for our century. There cannot be an end to speaking and writing about it. Besides, in Israel, everyone carries a biography deep inside him." (Aharon Appelfeld)

[1]I am adding quotes to the word “childhood”, because, usually, when we speak about childhood, it is something special and sweet, bringing us kindly memories; but the “childhood” that Aharon Appelfeld described was nothing of the kind.