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Great film about Shofar blowers

You will be happy you took a few minutes to watch this inspiring film about men who blew the shofar at the Western Wall from 1931-48 when it was illegal under the British Mandate to do so. Many were arrested and imprisoned in the Russian compound in Jerusalem. See one of the original shofars blown at the Wall on one of my walking tours of Tel Aviv. 

Tel Aviv Walking Tour: in the footsteps of Menachem Begin

One of my walking tours in Tel Aviv/Jaffa, we visit the Etzel Museum on the beach. The Museum is dedicated to the memory of the Etzel (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) fighters who fell in the battle for  Jaffa in the War of Independence.

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Menachem Begin — who later became Prime Minister of Israel — was the commander of the Etzel at the time. In his book, the Revolt, Begin explains the philosophy of  the Etzel which was to fight the British because the British Mandate government was refusing to allow Jews, including over 100,000 Holocaust survivors to enter Palestine in the 40s. “In our minds was the constant knowledge of what British policy was planning for us;  in our ears echoed the rattle of the death trains of Europe…When Descartes said, “I  think, therefore I am” he uttered a very profound  thought. But  there are times in the history of peoples when thought alone does not prove their existence. A people may “think” and yet it’s  sons, with their thoughts and in spite of them, may be  turned into a herd of slaves  – or into soap. There are times when everything in you cries out; your very self respect as a human being lies in your  resistance to evil. We fight, therefore we are!”

Begin’s tactics were different from David Ben Gurion’s approach who was more willing to work within British rule, and felt the actions of the Etzel were jeopardizing the image of Zionism and their leadership in the world. As a result, Ben Gurion undermined the Etzel by  having their members turned over to the British and even ordering firing on the boat the Altalena — with Begin and other men on board — that was bringing in urgently needed weapons to help the war effort in June 1948. Nevertheless, Begin consciously decided that the Etzel would never retaliate against Ben Gurion or the Hagana for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.  Begin attributes this decision to the fact that he was in hiding both from the British and the Jewish leadership for 8 years. “Life in the underground enforces seclusion and seclusion makes deep thinking possible…A deep cellar in certain circumstances becomes an elevated  watch tower.”

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In retrospect, we can see all the great leader’s of those days: Ben Gurion, Begin, Shamir, Golda Meir, Chaim Weizman, and many more were all part of God’s great symphony, each playing their part in establishing the State of Israel and of the Jews returning to the Land of Israel. But there’s much  to be learned from what happened in those days, and Begin’s wisdom and great character are particularly remarkable.

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Join me for a walking tour of Tel Aviv. I offer 4 meaningful and fun tours of Tel Aviv and 12 great tours of Jerusalem.

tourguideleah@gmail.com

© 2013, Lisa (Leah) Bowman

All Rights Reserved

From Aushwitz to the Western Wall

ImageA few weeks ago, our son Yoav returned from his class trip to Poland. All the parents were invited to greet the boys for a special ceremony at 4am. Perhaps due to the lack of sleep, or perhaps due to stress in arriving to the ceremony–there wasn’t any traffic at that time of  day, but  we encountered many difficult moments getting there including being detained by police due to car accident ahead of us–for a brief moment, I had the feeling that he, himself was saved from the Nazis in Poland. Looking around, I was so grateful and relieved to be standing with Yoav, his  friends,  and teachers at the Western Wall in the State of Israel. The boys were wearing Israeli  flags over their shoulders. I said to Yoav that it  was such a nice idea to bring all these flags to the Wall. But they

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hadn’t just brought  them to Jerusalem. They wore them all the way through their visits to death  camps in Poland. I  know that many groups do this, but the idea never fully registered until that moment.  There is something so powerful about that image  that I haven’t been able to let it go for weeks.I am so inspired by the flight of Israeli fighter planes that  flew over Aushwitz in 2003. Take a moment to watch them, and hear their words as they  fly over  the camp: “We the pilots of  the Israeli airforce flying in the skies above  the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder  their  silent  cries, salute their courage  and promise to be the shield  of the Jewish People and it’s nation Israel.” We must never forget  what happened. And we must never forget to be grateful for the protection the State of Israel offers Israelis  and Jews around the world.Image

© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com

 

Israeli fighter planes fly over Aushwitz 2003

Only 60 years later, Israeli Airforce flies over Aushwitz with the message:
“We the pilots of the Israeli airforce flying in the skies above the camp of horrors, arose from the ashes of the millions of victims and shoulder their silent cries, salute their courage and promise to be the shield of the Jewish People and it’s nation Israel.

© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com

Put Yourself into Someone Else’s Coat

Every night leading up to Jewish holidays, tour buses drop off dozens of Israelis and tourists from around the  country who have  come to Jerusalem for an inspirational holiday  tour leading up to prayers said late at night (slichot). It’s an awesome experience to walk through the alleyways of Jerusalem at night and recall some of the great people who have lived there such as Rabbi Shmuel Salant (the first Ashekanzi  Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem), Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook  (the first Chief Rabbi of the pre-State  of Israel), and Rabbi Aryeh Levin (known as the Tzaddik – saint – of Jerusalem for his care for the sick and those  imprisoned by the British Mandate).Image

Here’s one story about Rabbi Levin that  can inspire us as we enter a new year. Rabbi Aryeh lived in a neighborhood next  to Jewish market area call shuk Mahane Yehuda. There were many financially difficult years during the founding of the State, and the 50s and many people simply did not have basic necessities.  One day, a  father and  son came to consult Rabbi Aryeh. They were both holding onto a coat. The father explained. “We only have one coat for  the two  of us, and I  think I should have it. I am an old man and I’m sensitive to cold. I should  have  the coat.” The son said,  “It’s true, it’s  harder for  him to keep warm, but  my  father didn’t tell you that I’m the  one who goes out to work to support  both  of us and since I  am going outside, I need the coat.”  Rabbi Aryeh told them, “Come back tomorrow, but tomorrow, I want you to tell me why the other one should have  the  coat.”

The  following day, they returned and presented the other’s  perspective. The son said, “My  father should have the coat. He’s  suffers from the cold.” The father said,  “My son  should have the coat, he goes out and works hard to take care  of  us.”.  Just then, Rabbi  Aryeh stood up, went to  the closet, and pulled  out a coat. He gave  the coat to the father, and said, “This one is for you and give the other one  to your son.” The  father  thanked  Rabbi Aryeh and asked, “Was the coat there yesterday?  Why didn’t you give  us the coat yesterday? Why  did we have  to  come back?” Rabbi Aryeh explained, “The  coat has been in that closet for  10 years. I  never wear  it. But yesterday, when you said  that coat  was ‘mine’ and your son said the coat  was  ‘mine’, then I also  said to myself that I have a coat in the closet, but it’s mine. Today, when you said ‘the coat is his’ and he said ‘the coat is  his’  then I also  said to myself, ‘I have  a coat in the closet and it’s his.’”Image

Rabbi Aryeh lived from March  22, 1885 to March 28, 1969. A street  was  named after him in the Nachlaot neighborhood where his house can still be seen until today.

Join us for a walking tour in Jerusalem for more inspiring stories about Rabbi Levin and others.

© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com

 

Heroism at Chamber of the Holocaust

Tonight and tomorrow is Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day in Israel, which is commonly known as Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day). But, the full name of the day is significant.  The date was chosen in by a law passed in the Knesset in 1953 because it commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – the single largest uprising against the Nazis during the Holocaust – which intensified just before Passover 1943.

Today is a fitting day for a virtual visit to the Chamber of the Holocaust (Martef HaShoah) on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. Martef HaShoah was the first memorial established in Israel just after the founding of  the State in 1948. This place is dark and creepy as it should be. But it contains some very inspiring artifacts that symbolize some of the different types of heroism of the Jewish  people under Nazi domination. In addition to a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and several memorials to Rabbis such as the Piaseczno Rebbe who gave inspiring talks during the Holocaust which are recorded in the book Holy Fire (Aish Kodesh), this place has some amazing original pieces: miniature tefillin that could be worn without the Nazis noticing, a shofar sounded in Bergen Belsen, a prayer book written from memory, and a Chanukah menorah made from potato skins. Each item reminds us of some of the greatest heroism of the Jews in the Holocaust. In that period of total and utter oppression, any act of expressing Jewishness was an uprising of it’s own. Any act of bringing light into a period of complete darkness was a victory.

May we take this time to honor those uprisings which were not so famous, but were tremendously heroic.

© 2011, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com

 

Think about Eilat this Passover


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

coastal city of Eilat.In March 1949, a remarkable event took place right here in  Eilat. 

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.

Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com