Purim is here, and it’s almost Springtime. What a wonderful time for a “virtual visit” to Eilat at the Southern tip of Israel. The weather in Eilat in Spring is perfect, the sea is glittering, and the mountains such as Mt. Shlomo (named after King Solomon) are standing royally around the
Today, this a courtyard on the sea in a busy, modern Eilat with a statue of a group of Israeli soldiers. Back then, it was the location of a British Mandate outpost. But the British had left Israel on May 15, 1948. So when the Israelis arrived in March 49, it had been abandoned. There was no one, and nothing around as far as the eye could see; just sand, mountains, and the deep blue, Red Sea.
The soldiers were sent to mark a Jewish presence to ensure that the land promised to the Jews in the United Nations partition plan (back on November 29, 1947), would in fact be in Israeli hands when the armistice agreements were signed with Israel’s neighbors.
The desert terrain had been difficult. There were no clear maps of the area (except some arial photos taken by the British), and no modern roads. A plane flew over the soldiers jeeps, and on one occasion had to throw down a stone with a note attached telling them they were going the wrong way!
When the soldiers finally arrived at the Red Sea, they were exhilarated to have arrived. This was the final movement of troops in the War of Independence. They had reached their destination. The State of Israel had been born less than a year before, and this was the final stage of establishing the borders.
What should one do at such a moment?
Well, they wanted to fly the Israeli flag, but being a new country in the middle of a war, they didn’t have one with them, so they took some white cloth, a blue marker and the star of David from their first aid bag, and they made their own flag (Israel can be so modest). The flagpole was a bit rusty, so a group of soldiers held the pole while one climbed up to fly the flag. He said it was hard to climb up that pole, but 2000 years of Jewish hopes to return to the Land of Israel lifted him up to the top.
After raising the flag, the soldiers all jumped in the Red Sea to enjoy a swim. And they wrote a telegram: We are the first Jews since Moses to jump in the Red Sea.
© 2011, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.
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