Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Bells of Redemption

“Night after night the city sighed, as if its pulse was fading away, weaker and weaker, night after night. And with it sighed every nation and every people in the Holy City.” 
David Kimche, in The Last Year of the World War.

In 1917, the British Empire issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which stated that there was going to be a National Home for the Jewish people. At that time, England was the greatest empire in the whole world.  

1917. Jerusalem’s occupants were desperate. Since the beginning of the Great War, three years earlier, they had been subjected to famine, epidemics and destruction. This period of starvation and deprivation under Turkish rule in the final days of Ottoman authority was now coming to an end. After 400 years of Ottoman rule, Jerusalem had passed into British hands.

In the night of December 8, 1917, the Ottoman Turks abandoned the city of Jerusalem. 
The Turkish governor handed a letter of surrender to the mayor, Hussein al-Husseini. Carrying a white flag, accompanied by high ranking officers, the mayor eventually found the right British officers to hand over Jerusalem. (There are different accounts and myths on what actually happened.)

December 9, 1917, he first day of Hanukkah and two weeks before Christmas, the British Imperial Army entered Jerusalem under the command of General Edmund Allenby. 

It was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Jerusalem. 
On December 10, a formal announcement was made in the British parliament. Throughout Europe, church bells (Bells of Redemption) pealed in thanksgiving and special prayers were held in synagogues. In the eyes of Jews and Christians, Allenby’s entry into Jerusalem was a historic event. The Jews called it a “Hanukkah miracle” while the Christian world regard it as a “Christmas present”.

On December 11, people streamed toward Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate. Cheering crowds packed the roofs
and balconies lining Jaffa Road and people from different nationalities jostled for a good spot. General Allenby was accompanied by his staff (T. E. Lawrence ["Lawrence of Arabia"] among them), French and Italian officers, and various other international representatives. At the Jaffa gate he was greeted by an honour guard of Commonwealth and Allied troops; dismounting, he and his comrades entered the city on foot, as instructed.

Link to historic footage: http://www.colonialfilm.org.uk/node/6131

“Not a trumpet was sounded as the English army entered the Holy City. […] Hush! To avoid desecrating the sanctity of the Divine presence hovering over the Holy City. “ The Palestine News. 

Standing above the steps at the entrance to the Citadel of David, General Allenby was flanked by military officers and religious and civilian dignitaries. His proclamation, issued in several languages, was read out in English, Arabic, French and Italian.

The Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts literally ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by embellishing used shell cases with different decorative motifs. Christmas cards and souvenirs were sent out from the Holy City.

The British military administration took steps to establish new order and restore normal life. By imposing military administration (martial law, issues in seven languages) they also supplied food and water and began to collect taxes. As the Turkish postal services had collapsed, the British offered free civilian postal services in Jerusalem. They also outlawed Turkish money and introduced British coinage.

In December 1918, The Palestine News wrote:
“The Jewish neighborhoods are lit up tonight, the first candle of Hanukkah dancing joyfully in every window […] This time, they say the English were the Hasmoneans and general Sir Allenby was Judas Maccabeus.”
1918 Christmas card:
Residents of Jerusalem emerge from hiding at the sight of British warplanes hoeriing over the city. Associated with Isaiah’s vision, symbolizing the city’s miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian army in 701 BC and the sanctitiy of Jerusalem “As birds flying, so shal the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem.” Isiaiah 31:5

Conquest Babylonia – deliverance by the R.A.F.
7 times – 2520 years
“I will punish you yet seven times for your sins.” Lev. 26:24
“As birds flying, so shall the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem.” Isaiah 31:5

Exactly 100 years later, December 11, 2017, we had the privilege to witness the historic re-enactment of Allenby's entry into Jerusalem. Actors mingled with the many tourists and Israelis, and family members of the people who had been part of this event in 1917, were also in attendance.

In Genesis 12:3 we read what God promised Abraham: 
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you…”

However, instead of continuing to be a blessing to the Jewish people, the British Empire opted to become a curse to them by issuing the “White Paper” and giving 77% of the promised territory to the Arabs. 
Obadiah 1:15 says “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. And as you [nations] have done, it’s going to be done unto you. Your deeds will return upon your own head.” 

From 1948 onwards, the once powerful British Empire eventually lost everything.

But that’s another story...

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Chanukah in Bergen-Belsen

“The Candle of God is the soul of man.” 
Proverbs 20:27

Towards the end of WWII, rabbi Shraga Shmuel Shnitzler, a Hungarian Chassid and Torah scholar was deported from Theresienstadt to Bergen-Belsen. 
Hungarian Jews

Despite the horrors he continued to suffer, he always tried to encourage his fellow inmates. 
"A Jew and despair are contradictory in essence; they cannot co-exist," he would often tell them.

Reb Shmelke, as he was called, managed to organize a minyan for the prayer times and at night told Chassidic stories to the men in his barrack. 
The SS assigned him the job of removing the dead bodies from inmates who had died during the night of illness and malnutrition.

Chanukiah made by a prisoner
in a forced labor camp
 in Upper Silesia
A few weeks before the Chanukah holiday, Reb Shmelke asked around if anybody had a bit of oil or something that could be substituted. Especially during these dark times, he wanted to light the Chanukah candles. It would bring much needed encouragement and hope to the Jews in the camp. There would be light shining in the deepest darkness. They would celebrate the victory of few over many and the pure over the impure. But there was nobody who could give him some oil, not even a drop to light the first Chanukah ‘candle’ for a few seconds.  

On the day before Chanukah, Reb Shmelke was ordered to go to a barrack where some people had died the previous night. While walking across a field, he almost tripped when his foot got stuck in a small hole in the frozen earth.
After a quick look around to make sure no Nazi guards saw him, he knelt to investigate. Inside the hole he found a jar with some liquid. Oil! Oil for Chanukah! he thought. 

But there was more. 
Carefully he pulled out a package. Inside the paper wrapping were eight little cups and eight thin strands of cotton.
Who buried this? he wondered. Where is he? Transported to another camp? Or did he die?
Perhaps the man will come back for his hidden treasure. 
Reb Shmelke quickly reburied the items. It would also have been too dangerous for him to keep them in his possession.
Every Jew he met during the day, he asked, “I found some oil and a menorah. Did you hide them?”
His fellow prisoners thought he had lost his mind. Nobody hid any oil or even a menorah.

On the first night of Chanukah, the men in Reb Shmelke’s barrack watched as he lit the first little light and recited the blessing. There were smiles and tears, as they silently watched the tiny flame fighting its eternal battle against the surrounding darkness. The spark of hope that was kindled in their broken hearts was rekindled for eight nights. 

Four very long months later, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allied Forces. 
Religious Jews in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp,
after the war
Reb Shmelke returned to a city in Hungary called “Tchabe”, where he ministered to other Holocaust survivors. 
The “Tchabe Rov” eventually moved to London where he helped set up a Torah center for young scholars. In 1950 he came home to Israel, where he lived until he passed away in 1990 at the age of 90.
Reb Shmelke

While touring the USA, Reb Shmelke went to visit the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, in Brooklyn.

"I hear that you had the great honor of lighting Chanukah candles in Bergen-Belsen," the Satmar Rebbe said.
"How does the Rebbe know that?"
“I too was in Bergen-Belsen,” he told him. “By bribing camp officials, I managed to put together a package of oil, cups, and wicks, which I then buried in a field. I was never able to use them because I was rescued from that camp, four days before Chanukah.  But you know, I always believed that it would be found by someone who would know exactly what to do with it."
Quote from David Ben-Gurion 

Adapted from online articles:

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Afikim bus # 485 - from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem

From Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem by Afikim # 485

The first stop is at the same place where departing passengers were dropped off, on level 2; take exit 23. 

It is possible that the bus waiting at the stop has a ‘no service’ sign - then the driver is having a break.

About 10 minutes before the full hour the passengers are allowed to put their suitcases in the luggage compartment and board the bus. You can buy your ticket from the driver for NIS 16 p.p. Exactly on the full hour the bus will depart from the bus stop, and will not wait for late comers!

First stop: Terminal 1; when there are no passengers to board the bus, the driver continues to the next stop: Airport Authority. The next stops are announced in Hebrew only.
Next stop: Shoresh Junction - alighting only
Next stop: Ein Hemed junction - alighting only

left: Shoresh stop; center: Ein Hemed stop; right: 13 minutes until the next stop

Next stop: Jerusalem - Binyanei HaUma, Shazar - for CBS passengers, light rail connection.

NOTE WORTHY FACT: Not many bus drivers speak English. If you don’t understand Hebrew and are not sure where to get off the bus, ask another passenger.
NOTE WORTHY FACT: City center passengers have to alight here. Be forewarned about a long and heavy ‘shlep’ to the CBS and/or Light Rail station. Passengers have to go down the ramp, through the tunnel under the main road, go up again on the other side of the road and then then walk a distance to CBS or Light Rail.
NOTE WORTHY FACT: From 3 p.m. until the early evening hours the light rail is usually packed with people, which will make it a very uncomfortable experience when you have several pieces of luggage. Advice: take a taxi from the Binyanei bus stop.

Next stop: Supreme Court building/ Rehov Zussman - alighting only
Next stop: Knesset building/ Rehov Kaplan - alighting only
Next stop: Israel Museum - alighting only
Next stop: Science Museum - alighting only
Final stop: Sderot ha Muzeonim.

The first stop is around the corner, on Derech Ruppin, opposite the Prime Minister’s Offices.