Daily, social media inundates us with memes and messages claiming that by the time we leave lockdown status our health status and physical bodies will be worse for wear. I constantly see pictures of what we will supposedly look like on the beach, on our couches, merely wearing a mask and gloves that fit our new bodies as no clothes in our wardrobes can cover our expanded forms.
As a dietician and holistic coach these images concern me as it depicts quite clearly what people are emotionally experiencing. In making light of the need to throw caution to the wind and give into all kinds of physical cravings and urges when it comes to food and drinks we are falling prey to potential chronic diseases that will last longer than the corona epidemic.
It is very frustrating to be trapped indoors and not be able to do regular exercise, either due to lack of motivation or due to lack of access. I am very grateful that I have my trusty treadmill and that we are now allowed to move a distance of 500m within proximity to our home. The problem is I still need to motivate myself to utilise these avenues. In the first week or two of lockdown I found myself more motivated. But as time goes on and the full weight (excuse the pun) of this experience takes its toll, it becomes harder to stay focused and really set goals that will keep one healthy both physically and mentally.
There is a clear relationship between sun exposure and the ability to produce hormones in the body that trigger feelings of well-being and emotional calm. Then there is the food component that either enhances or detracts from this balance that we so desperately need at this time.
I have always educated my clients on the effect that food plays in our physical and mental well-being. We literally are what we eat! When making food choices that are less processed and are preferably void of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates, our bodies respond with better energy levels and we produce higher levels of serotonin (the “happy” hormone) in the body. This follows a pattern of better thought processes and leads to our actions being less reactive and emotionally charged. The opposite is also true, by eating processed foods, high in sugars, salt and saturated fat we, in fact, produce less serotonin and as a result, our thoughts, emotions and moods jump on the roller coaster of being more irritable, reactive and causes further cravings of the foods that made us feel this way to start off with. It becomes a terrible cycle of cravings, low energy, anxiety, depression, irritability and frustration.
Our bodies, however, are amazing vehicles that have the ability to regenerate. Just a few days of staying off foods that cause rebound cravings and mood cycles allow for a calmer and more focused state of mind. We also start to feel our energy levels improve and sleep patterns are also enhanced.
So how does one get into this mindset? How do we pull ourselves up off our couches and find the motivation to make better choices? The old adage that life is not a sprint but a marathon that must be tackled one step, or a couple of hundred meters at a time fits perfectly. We cannot look too far ahead and compare our position today with our final goal. Expecting instant results is what trips us up every time and sets the stage for failure. There are very few people who can just put their minds to it and never lose focus. Does it take effort YES, is it always easy NO! But all it takes is one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time.
I have found that ensuring that I set a daily alarm and break the day down into sections of time helps immensely. Literally saying by a certain time such and such needs to be done clears the path for building a routine. Don’t wait for mealtime when you are hungry to start preparing food. It is moments of hunger like this that triggers impulse eating and before you know it you have made poor choices based on a body/ emotional response instead of a well thought out mind response.
Ask for help!
Today more than ever there is are an abundance of dieticians who are working online and who are medically trained to give individualised and realistic advice on meal planning and food preparation. Most people who say they never have the time to address this due to lives that are busy with work, lifts and travel are now in the best possible position to implement positive lifestyle changes that can be long lasting. It’s not always about being weighed and measured by a dietician. The relationship with a dietician goes far beyond this. One of the aspects of my work that I am most passionate about is working with a client to truly bring about positive lifestyle changes in all areas of their life not just when it comes to food choices.
Each and every one of us has the ability within the scope of our unique situation to take one step in the right direction. Don’t use the excuse that when this is over I will start (…fill in the blank…). Each day and moment that we have now is a gift (that’s why it is called the present). Believe in yourself enough to give yourself the gift of coming through this time a healthier more motivated person and your time behind closed doors would have been very well spent.
Justine Friedman (née Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.
Stuck at home this Independence Day because of Corona? Take a virtual journey of Israel’s Independent Trail. From Hebrew city to Hebrew state, the trail begins with the founding of Tel Aviv in 1909 and ends with the Establishment of Israel in 1948.
By David. E. Kaplan
Walks these days are mostly to the supermarket or pharmacy. While hardly fun, adventurous or cerebrally challenging they are essential. However, no less “essential” is to ensure the mind remains active even if our legs are taking ‘a back seat’!
Prior to Corona, Lay Of The Land toured Independence Trail that was inaugurated in 2018 in honour of Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Only one kilometre (0.6 miles) long, it is rich in 40 years of intense nation-building history. Opting to use a guide rather than the free Municipality of Tel Aviv’s Independence Trail App, our guide began:
“It was 40 years of wandering before the Biblical Hebrews entering the Promised Land of ancient Israel, today you will be exposed to those 40 tumultuous years of establishing modern Israel during the first half of the twentieth century.”
How better to begin this hike of 10 stops with a cup of coffee and where better to enjoy it than where the hike officially begins – The First Kiosk Of Tel Aviv at the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, one of the most central spots in Israel.
Kickoff at the Kiosk
The aroma of coffee was irresistible and adhering to the adage “When in Rome”, we all ordered “café hafuch” – Israel’s famous “upside down coffee”.
Frequently compared with a latte, it is creamier and is also made in reverse. If in a latte, the milk goes on top of the espresso, a café hafuch uses steamed milk on the bottom, and then a shot of espresso is carefully poured on top of the steamed milk and finally topped with milk froth as well as nutmeg or cocoa powder. The most iconic aspect is the “reverse” – so typically Israeli of hitting the right button but ‘Israeli style”.
“Today, as you can see,” said our guide, “Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard is lined with restaurants and cafés but when the street was first established in 1909, not all the residents were in favour of any commercial activity. While some were agreeable about setting up shops in the neighborhood, others were against, but a year later a small kiosk opened where we are today.”
Situated in the exact same spot where the original once stood and modeled after the eclectic architectural style of the time, the small kiosk is today called Espresso Bar.
Next, we walked on to the Nahum Gutman Fountain.
Fountain of Knowledge
Gutman’s mosaic fountain reflects the simplicity of the early days of the “First Hebrew City” as it was once the fashion to call Tel Aviv. Israel’s famed artist, who was also an accomplished illustrator, photographer, and writer “went to school here, played in these streets, absorbed its sights, sounds and smells and projected them in his colorful exuberant art,’ informed our guide. “He was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1978 and as you can see, the mosaics around the fountain tell the history of Jaffa – the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv was born.” In a kaleidoscope of color – the artist’s leitmotif – myths and stories from Jewish and Israeli history are emblazoned, from Jonah and the whale to Moses Montefiore and Theodore Herzl.
Our next stop was the personal home built in 1909 by Akiva Aryeh Weiss, whose name is literally cemented to the beginning of Tel Aviv.
Akiva Aryeh Weiss was one of the founders of the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood, which later evolved into Tel Aviv. As President of the then newly established Building Society, Weiss presided over the famous 1909 lottery in which 66 Jewish families drew numbers written on seashells to determine the allocation of lots in the about-to-be established city of Tel Aviv.
Now restored, the cornerstone of Weiss’ Tel Aviv house located at 2 Herzl Street was laid in 1909. Originally a single-story structure, the upper floor was added in the 1920s.
Our third stop was the visitor’s center with its history of Tel Aviv in the Shalom Meir Tower in Herzl Street. Although once the tallest building in Tel Aviv – and when built in
1965 was the tallest building in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania – far more historically significant is its prestigious predecessor – the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium. The country’s first Hebrew-speaking high school and originally known as HaGymnasia Ha’Ivrit (High School in Hebrew), the cornerstone laying for the school took place on July 28, 1909, the same year as the city’s founding. Designed by Joseph Barsky and inspired by descriptions of Solomon’s Temple, it was built by Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche, whose family founded Neve Tzedek (“Oasis of Justice”) in 1887 and were again among the founding settlers of Tel Aviv in 1909. These are the proud ancestors of Lay of the Land cofounder, Yair Chelouche who was too enjoying the tour and contributing to the history of the area.
“The school was a major Tel Aviv landmark until 1962 when the site was razed for the construction of the Shalom Meir Tower,” added Yair.
Some of the schools celebrated alumni include Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, the poet Nathan Alterman, the artist Nachum Gutman, the physicist Yuval Neeman, the present mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai and the journalist and chairman of the Yesh Atid party in the Knesset, Yair Lapid.
“Did Alterman write poetry about Tel Aviv?” asked a member of our group.
“Sure,’ replied our guide. “An immigrant from Warsaw, Alterman viewed Tel Aviv as the successor to the cities he had known in Europe. In contrast to the Hebrew poets who preceded him, who felt more connected to religion and biblical landscapes, Alterman was an urban poet who shaped an abstract theatrical world of music boxes, horse-drawn carriages and streetlights in Hebrew poetry.”
Looking up at the tall Shalom Tower, the guide told us a popular joke in Tel Aviv of the 1960s after the tower went up that encapsulates the trajectory of modern Israel.
“A Tel Aviv taxi picked up a New York tourist who was boasting about his city, how skyscrapers appear suddenly like wild mushrooms when suddenly the taxi turned into Hertzl street and the tourist, who was looking up at the tall Shalom Tower, bellowed:
“WOW! What building is that?”
To which the taxi driver replied:
“I don’t know; it wasn’t there yesterday!”
The imagery of Alterman’s Tel Aviv was a far cry from the city of today, but that vibrancy portrayed by the poet’s pen was all too evident as we proceeded along bustling Rothschild Boulevard to our next stop – the Great Synagogue.
The Great Synagogue on 110 Allenby Street, served as Tel Aviv’s spiritual and religious center long before Israel’s independence.
“People who attended services here included Tel Aviv’s first mayor Meir Dizengoff, prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett and Menachem Begin. It also hosted the inaugurations of Israel’s chief rabbis and the funerals of national icons such as the pioneer of modern Hebrew poetry Haim Nahman Bialik and the Zionist leader Haim Arlosorov, assassinated in 1933 while walking on the beach in Tel Aviv.”
We marveled at the building’s features, notably a huge dome, elaborate lighting fixtures, and magnificent stained-glass windows – replicas of synagogue windows that were destroyed in Europe during the Holocaust.
“Not widely known,” revealed our guide, “The Declaration of Independence was meant to be declared here on the 14 May 1948.”
“So why was it not?” I asked.
“Ben Gurion knew that the moment he made the announcement Israel would be under aerial attack and if the new State’s leadership were altogether under one so identifiable a roof as the Great Synagogue, it would make for an easy target for low-flying enemy planes. Instead, the Declaration took place around the corner at a much smaller building, which will be our last stop on the tour.”
Ben Gurion’s concern was “not unreasonable,” continued our guide. “Arab planes bombed Tel Aviv three times and one Egyptian pilot was taken prisoner when his plane was forced down nearby.”
Also “nearby” was our next stop: the Haganah Museum.
Located on Rothschild Boulevard, the Haganah Museum was once the home of Eliyahu Golomb the founder and first commander of the Haganah. A paramilitary organization, the Haganah was the forerunner of today’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and from1930 to 1945, this house was the Haganah’s secret headquarters.
Initially protecting the pioneers on kibbutzim (cooperative farming communities) from an attack in the 1920s and 1930s, the Haganah went on to facilitate the illegal entry of more than 100,000 Jews into Palestine after the British government’s 1939 ‘White Paper’ restricting immigration. “In this way,” explained the guide, “the Haganah paved the way in providing the essential manpower that proved so critical in the War of Independence.”
So tranquil is Golomb’s residential room and office on the ground floor today, it is hard to conceive that this was the nerve center of a war for the survival of the Jewish People in Palestine.
“It’s one thing to fight but without finance little can be achieved,” said the guide as he led us to our next stop – the historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank.
The Bank of Israel Visitor’s Center showcases the history of the Jewish State’s financial system. The historical headquarters of Israel’s national bank, the Centre’s exhibits reveal the country’s historical development of money with exhibits from ancient coins to banknotes, and coins issued from pre-State days to the present.
Particularly entertaining were the interactive activity stations that explain, by means of computer games, the functions of the Bank of Israel, the history of money, and the contribution of the central bank to the economy. No less fascinating were the short films on the essential role of the Bank of Israel in maintaining price stability, supporting economic growth, employment, and reducing social gaps in Israeli society. It is sure going to have “one job on its hand” in the immediate post-Corona era!
Back then, our next stop was the Tel Aviv Founders Monument.
The ‘Plot’ Thickens
The Founder’s Monument and Fountain is dedicated to the men and women who established Tel Aviv in the first half of the 19th century. Nestled into a green space on Rothschild Boulevard, it is a serene spot, dotted with benches, centered around a small pool and fountain, and located opposite the home of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, on 16 Rothschild Boulevard.
The historic lottery for the distribution of plots was held on April 11, 1909. As the families could not decide how to allocate the land, they held a lottery to ensure a fair division. Sixty-six grey seashells and sixty-six white seashells were gathered with the names of the participants written on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells. A white and grey shell formed a pair, assigning each family a plot.
It was on this very site that the founders’ monument was planned 40 years later and established in 1951, on Dizengoff’s birthday.
Designed by Aaron Priver, on one side is a sculpture divided into three sections. The bottom shows sand dunes and wild animals that roamed the area before the establishment of Tel Aviv. The middle section depicts the first homes, mostly one-story, and the top represents the Tel Aviv of 1949, with specific landmarks, and the Tel Aviv of the future as envisioned at the time.
On the other side of the monument is the list of the sixty-six founding families of the city of which includes the Chelouche family that founded the quaint neighboring district of Neve Tzedek over twenty years earlier. Pointing out his family’s name on the monument, Lay of the Land co-founder Yair Chelouche related how his great-great-grandfather Aharon Chelouche acquired the plot of land that became part of Chelouche family folklore. “There were no land surveyors. The seller and the buyer would meet on the land to agree on the size of the land and the price. To measure the plot from one end to the other, the buyer took a stone and threw it, and where it landed was the end of the plot.” Smiling, Yair continued, “Aharon must have had a very strong arm because the family ended up with a huge chunk of land.”
Two decades later, representatives of the Chelouche family would join other family members in 1909, this time not throwing stones but picking up shells with their plot numbers on it.
The genesis of Tel Aviv was brought “home” to us when passing 9 Rothschild Boulevard. “Stop,” bellowed Yair, and then revealed, “here was the house of my great-grandparents, the first house that my great-grandfather, Yosef Eliyahu Chelouche built for them when they left Neve Tzedek for the “new” city of Tel Aviv.”
And so began the saga of “the city that never sleeps” – Tel Aviv.
Our second last stop was at a statue. While most cities in Europe and the Americas are replete with leaders and warriors perched defiantly on horses, such artistic depictions are rare in Israel. So, it is with some curiosity that we looked upon the bronze statue opposite the Founders Monument of a man riding a tired-looking horse. The rider is not a general but a civil servant – Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. He may not have made his mark on a battlefield, but he left a far more enduring legacy.
For miles and miles in every direction from this small statue, the rich urban development that is Tel Aviv today, can be traced to the superlative efforts of Tel Aviv’s first mayor who encouraged its rapid expansion and conducted daily inspections, paying attention to details. How did this indefatigable mayor travel each day to inspect the progress of the projects throughout his growing city?
By horse of course!
No wonder both rider and horse look exhausted.
Created by the artist David Zondolovitz, the statue was unveiled in front of the mayor’s historic residence, our final and tenth stop and the most important of all.
What was the end of our trail, was the beginning of the modern State of Israel!
On May 14, 1948, the house on 16 Rothchild Boulevard – then serving as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – hosted the historic ceremony of the Declaration of Independence.
Our guide related the events and atmosphere of that day.
Crowds began to swell in the afternoon at cafés and balconies along the boulevard. People were waving little flags and singing and then at three o’clock, journalists from around the world started filing into the Tel Aviv Art Museum. They were joined by dignitaries to the rapturous applause of the crowd.
At exactly four o’clock, David Ben-Gurion started the ceremony by banging the gavel.
Outside and around the country, people were listening to the ceremony in the first broadcast of Israel Radio.
Ben-Gurion read the declaration, which opened with a historic prologue on the Jewish connection to the land and then it went on to assert that:
“We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, named the State of Israel.”
He was followed by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon who with a cracked voice, read the ancient prayer:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.”
The crowd shouted “Amen!”
Ben-Gurion signed the declaration, then the members of the People’s Council were invited one by one to come up to the stage and sign the declaration alphabetically. The ceremony ended with the singing of “Hatikva,” the national anthem.
As we finished the tour of Independence Hall, we came out and saw again the Espresso Bar formally The First Kiosk Of Tel Aviv where it had all begun.
The numbers are far too many to bear. Their names are etched in our national consciousness. We take succour in tales of their incredible bravery and courage, their daring and chutzpah, their duty and sacrifice. The young men and women who through 72 years of the modern state of Israel have paid the ultimate price in defense of their country and the many who have fallen simply because they were targeted for being Israeli.
Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Remembrance day and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day are upon us. At the founding of the modern state of Israel, it was decided to have these two national holidays together – a genius idea because we have a heightened sense of the sacrifice and the cost of many for us to have the flourishing, democratic State we call home.
As the sun sets and the flags lowers signaling the start of Yom Hazikaron, our thoughts will turn to those we have lost, and our hearts open a little wider to welcome in their bereaved families. The first siren will wail its mournful cry, which pierces the soul and calls the nation to attention.
This year, commemorations will be even more poignant. The threat posed by Covid-19 and new social distancing norms means that visits to military cemeteries which bereaved families and many citizens consider sacred; will be forbidden. There will be no unified ceremonies at the call of the second siren, there will be no heart wrenching poems and prayers.
This Yom Hazikaron, solidarity will take a different form, but it will be as strong as ever. We are at a time when we are acutely reminded of the fragility of life. As those sirens wail, so we will bow our heads and tears will fall. We take 24 hours to go back in time and remember the name of those felled in battle and those whose lives tragically ended. We will remember the names. Names like Yoni Netanyahu, Roi Klein and Michael Levin. Names like Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul and so many who fell in our defense.
We remember the names like Taylor Force, Dafna Meir and Hallel Ariel. They suffered stabbings, shootings, suicide bombings and other murderous acts. So many, too many. We will listen to the stories and we will remember them.
We will remember 23,816 soldiers and security forces personnel fallen since the birth of the modern state in 1948. This year, 42 more fallen were added to a list that nobody wants to be on. The IDF also recognizes 83 that were disabled who passed away and are regarded as fallen soldiers and 3,153 citizens who have died from terror attacks.
Behind every number, is a name – and a story. Behind every number are bereaved families, for whom every day is a bitter reminder. Yom Hazikaron is that one day where the whole nation wraps its arms around them. This year we will have to find a new way to do it.
And then in a matter of moments, everything changes.
And as the clock changes, so too, does the mood in Israel. We observe that annual changing of the guard as we move from the intensity of grief to that of gratitude and celebration, understanding full well what sacrifices so many made so we can live in freedom. This year it is even more poignant as the flyovers and fireworks have come to a halt. While the barbecues may be lit, there is a tinge of sadness in the atmosphere as the threat of Coronavirus and social distancing means that we will not gather in each other’s homes, on the beaches and in the forests. We will celebrate as one – from the safety of our balconies as individuals and families. As we toast to the State of Israel, there will be deeper, meaning to that salute to life – L’Chaim!
There will be a changing of the guard both in traditions and emotions, but distance and restrictions will in no way diminish the unity and pride of Israelis. This is our strength.
Without leaving airport terminals to avoid quarantine, Israeli volunteer organ courier travels the world saving lives
By David E. Kaplan
In every moment of darkness, it seems, there are countless moments of light. Time and again, individuals, communities and organizations have demonstrated that the direst situations tend to bring out the best in people. Literally illuminating this in the ‘Age of Corona’ is Omri Nahmias’ article in The Jerusalem Post (April 13) “The Israeli Who Never Leaves Ben-Gurion Airport”. Well, not quite – he does leave but mostly to other airports.
Of all the endless articles on Corona, Omri’s one resonated the most – I read it and then again three times!
While people the world over are rightly preoccupied with the health and wellbeing of themselves, a 47-year-old Israeli family man remains committed to the lives of people he does not even know. Mishel Zrian is a volunteer organ courier for awaiting recipients; whose lives are dependent on such organs arriving “on time”.
He has been volunteering for 20 years mostly transporting bone marrow to patients across the globe.
Corona now complicates the process and procedure.
When Mishel’s employer told him last month that he was about to be furloughed until the end of April because of countries’ policies of lockdown and isolation, Mishel thought about the lives at stake and decided to take his volunteering work to the next level and “do it full time.”
But with “full time” came immense complications, inconveniences and personal sacrifices like not seeing his wife and children.
Since that fateful decision, he has landed in Israel five times but never left his country’s airport in order to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine!
Explaining to local media, Mishel says he has an agreement with the Israel Airports Authority that he is permitted to stay at the airport lounge “until I need to get back to carry the next bone marrow delivery. Sometimes, I can land in Israel from New York at 5.00 p.m., and by 10.00pm be on a flight in the opposite direction.”
This type of selfless travel during a global life-threatening pandemic is proving to be hugely challenging but does not deter the intrepid volunteer.
Something to chew on
One of the many challenges is finding the time to eat – something most folks take for granted.
For this organ courier during Corona, “It’s hard to find an open restaurant when you are traveling,” he explains. “If I’m at the airport and I see an open place, I will eat chicken at ten in the morning. Why? Because I don’t know when the next time will be to eat.”
In the hotels, “the situation is odd as well,” he continues. “Rooms are not always clean because of different guidelines regarding staff work, and if you need a towel or shampoo, you need to go down to the reception and ask for it. I have been in hotels with no breakfast or even coffee.” It is not uncommon for Mishel, he says:
“for me to travel 24 hours without eating!”
But the main challenge, he said, is getting insurance cover.
“I couldn’t find anyone who would allow me to take out an insurance policy for the US,” he said. “I am worried about the possibility that I will get sick; so I do my best to practice social distancing while traveling.”
Bracha Zisser, founder and director of Ezer Mizion Bone MarrowDonor Registry and Collection Center, told the Post that before the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals around the world used to send a courier to pick up the bone marrow.
“But things got complicated in the past few weeks. It is hard to deliver the bone marrow and to allow couriers to enter the country. So we are now working with Royale – a courier company with whom Mishel is volunteering and with El Al – that are helping us with no cost, in full volunteering,” she said. “They understand that it is about saving lives.”
Zisser revealed that in March 2020, Ezer Mizion was able to deliver 26 bone marrow donations:
– 14 to EU countries
– 10 to the US
– 1 to Argentina
– 1 to Panama.
Mishel says that despite all the challenges, he is determined to keep traveling because he knows that his work saves lives.
“The hardest part is to land in Israel without seeing my family. I have a wife and two children. Fortunately, they are supporting me.”
Mishel Zrian hails from the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, which aptly translates from the Hebrew: “Opening of Hope”.
Mishel does his city proud by living up to its name.
For our Lay Of The Land readers all around the world who are not familiar, BJE March of the Living(Building Jewish Education) is a two week experience during which teens from all over the world travel together to Poland and to Israel to learn about the Jewish people’s past, present and future. Cancelled this year because of Coronavirus,
Monise Neuman, former director of BJE March of the Living sends the following personal message including information to access today about Yom HaShoah.
Monise Neuman’s Message
“I know that everyone is inundated with emails these days with either humor to lift our spirits from the Covid-19 plague or updates about the spread and impact of this virus.
I beg your indulgence, as important people in my life who have shared the very powerful March of the Living journey with me over the many years, and who have provided me with continued sustenance, as I share my personal reflections and turn my attention to another reality of Covid-19.
The inability, for the first time in more years than I can count, that I will not be standing on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Yom HaShoah and telling the souls who hover over this scarred and sacred land that I haven’t forgotten them. Freddy’s story, Peska’s story, Sigi’s story, Bob’s story, Dorothy and Allen’s stories and the words and teachings of Ronnie Mink (z”l) will remain entrenched in my very essence. They will not be shared with the participants of the eight adult and young adult delegations that I have had the pleasure of working with for the last nine months. It was my earnest desire that they, like all of us, would become part of the chain of remembrance and attempt to comprehend what Ronnie told us year-after-year that “the Holocaust did not take place in black and white, but in living colour.”
I am asked continuously why I do what I do – and the reasons are countless. While I firmly believe there are SIX MILLION REASONS underlying this passion – it is the understanding that this reality has to be understood as one person at a time. This was captured for me when I came across the picture and words below written by Gela Sekzstein, displayed at the Oneg Shabbat Exhibit at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, displaying documents that form the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, founded by Emanuel Ringelblum.
I am sharing this reflection with you with immense gratitude because your commitment to the march and your support of me and this endeavor has allowed me to do my part to ensure that Margolit Lichtensztejn and her mother Gela are not forgotten.
To say I am disappointed, like many of you, not to march on Yom HaShoah from Auschwitz to Birkenau is an understatement, but I am incredibly proud of the very difficult decision made by the leadership of the International March that the health and well-being of all concerned is paramount. While we cannot be together in person to commemorate, the MOL is sponsoring virtual programs.
The March of the Living Virtual Plaque Project will continue the tradition of placing messages on plaques on the train tracks of Auschwitz-Birkenau. I would love it if you could click on https://nevermeansnever.motl.org/ and leave a personal message in solidarity and unity.
Please note also that on Yom Hashoah, Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 4:00PM PDT, a 2020 Virtual March of the Living will be aired at 4:00PM PDT at motl.org/live, on Facebook at facebook.com/motlorg, as well as on Jewish Broadcasting Service at jbstv.org/watch-live. There will be a special address by the President of Israel and interviews with survivors, educators, MOTL alumni and leaders. If you miss it at this time, please note that the program will remain available for viewing after it has aired.
Thank you all for being part of my reality and for ensuring that we never forget Margolit, Gela, Freddy, Peska, Sigi, Bob, Dorothy, Allen and Ronnie.”
Monise Neumann – Currently serves as National Consultant for the International March of the Living. She has worked in Jewish Education for the past 40 years. Prior to this position, she was the Head Consultant for the Builders of Jewish Education in Los Angeles – overseeing the teen department which included running the BJE Teen March of the Living overseeing the participation of over 220 teens, survivors and staff. Originally from South Africa, Monise is married with two children and recently became a grandmother.
I am queuing for soup at the World WIZO HQ canteen in Tel Aviv. It’s lunchtime. I am hungry. The lady in front of me ladles rich vegetable broth into her bowl. I do not need to pray that there will be enough vegetables left in the soup to sustain me. No, I don’t need to think about that at all. Yet I do. Even now, five years later.
Five years ago, and I had read everything I could in preparation for my trip to Poland; the heart-wrenching observations of Ellie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Mary Berg, and others who bore witness.
I had revisited the battered old suitcase in our storeroom, containing the evidence of my late father-in-law’s internment in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald, including the rough and stained, striped shirt of the uniform that he was wearing when American soldiers liberated him in 1945. It is tiny.
I read so much, I listened to the memoirs of the Holocaust-surviving members of my husband’s family and had, on more than one occasion, visited Yad Vashem. I thought I was ready for this trip.
On Sunday, 12th April, I flew from Tel Aviv to Warsaw and joined British friends in the March of the Living (UK) group. We were 250 participants from the UK of all walks of life, Jews, non-Jews, students, professionals, youth leaders, laypersons, and first and second-generation Holocaust survivors. We were split over five buses, each with its own group leader, Holocaust survivor, and educator. Each of us on our own personal journey to listen, to learn, to feel.
Yet the more I learned, the more I saw, the less I understood.
For the five days of the trip and from now until the end of my days, I ask, “Why?”
We went from Warsaw to Lublin to Krakow and saw the scant remnants of our once-proud, once-fine upstanding ancestors. In Poland, the history of Jewish life dated back over a millennium and formed a vital part of the cultural history. I was intrigued to learn that in the 1930s, over 120 different Jewish newspapers were printed daily or weekly in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew, serving a Jewish population of some three and a half million. Between the 1939 invasion of Poland and the end of World War II, 90% of Polish Jewry perished.
From the stripping of basic human rights to the desecration of the sacred symbols of the Jewish faith, from the segregation and discrimination came humiliation and degradation and the internment in ghettos. We learned of the cruelty and barbarism, the likes of which any human being cannot comprehend. And yet, European Jewry refused to give up hope. As hunger, random killings, overcrowding, disease, and desperation reigned in the ghettos, and Jewish life was defaced, there were those who, ever optimistic, dared to dream of better days ahead. The contents of their suitcases as they packed for their journey eastwards to Auschwitz paid testament to that fact.
But they never got to unpack!
In the museum of Auschwitz preserved for eternity are some of those same suitcases and their contents: brushes, combs, cosmetics, religious artefacts, dishes, pots and pans. In one of the displays, a lone rolling pin caught my eye. Did the lady who owned that rolling pin dare to imagine that one day she would bake delicious kuchen for her family as she always had?
We, who had risen fresh from our comfortable beds in four-star hotels, had eaten hearty breakfasts. We, who had packed ample layers against the elements in our backpacks, emerged from our air-conditioned luxury coaches and descended to the depths of hell wearing our comfortable walking shoes, safe in the knowledge that we had an exit strategy. At any time, we could turn our back on the abject terror we witnessed and find our way out. And we did – but it does not leave us.
We visited the death camp of Majdanek and Belzec, Auschwitz, and Auschwitz Birkenau, where European Jewry was viciously terrorized, incarcerated, incinerated, and eventually wiped out. At each place, we stood solemnly at the monuments of remembrance and recited a Kaddish, each of us, in our way, sanctifying the memory of those we never knew but loved anyway.
Sometimes, the gravity of what we witnessed got too much for us, and we would walk out to breathe fresh air. I put my hand on the cold, damp wall of the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau and heard the silent screams. I wept and then felt guilty for weeping – for I did not experience the hunger, the whip, the pain of burning flesh, the panic. I had no right to cry.
It was five years ago, the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and the end of the Second World War. The precious survivors amongst us were well into their eighties. They knew as we did that they are the final witnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust, and they have made it their life’s work to share their stories with the coming generation.
At the Belzec death camp, one of the survivors, in trembling voice, recited Kaddish for his late parents and little sister who were murdered before his very eyes. This was the same man who gave me my new preoccupation with the soup tureen. He had told us, over dinner back at the hotel, that in those dark days of abject hunger, it was a lucky man who got his broth from the bottom of the pan because that’s where the vegetables lurked.
For four days in April, our journey took us deeper into hell but on the fifth day, the scene at Auschwitz shifted inexplicably. This evil place took on a different, hopeful guise as some 12,000 plus participants of March of the Living (MOL) worldwide descended from their coaches on a perfect sunny day, wearing their MOL jackets and baseball caps and carrying Israeli flags. We marched as if an ocean of blue and white that surged slowly yet forcefully forward alongside the train tracks that had brought our ancestors to their certain death. We marched as one, against the past, towards the future, because we are living, and we can.
We walked solemnly.
As we entered Birkenau, the names of murdered children rang out through loudspeakers. We drank copious amounts of water as we retraced the steps of the thirsty and the starving and those doomed to die. We placed markers on the train tracks of those we had lost. I put down two markers, one to remember my husband’s lost family members and another for our 42,000 slain sisters from the 14 WIZO federations in Eastern Europe in whose memory we continue our work for the people of Israel. And how strange, that amongst the crowd of marchers I saw one of our WIZO Presidents, Estela Faskha from Panama, and we hugged. Each of us mirroring the emotions of the other.
The march concluded in a poignant ceremony. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, himself a child survivor of Buchenwald, addressed the crowd. Torches were lit in memory of the murdered, and in tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations, and to honor our precious survivors who lived to bear witness.
As they lit the last torch for the State of Israel where the Jewish people were reborn, and Dudu Fisher led the March of the Living Children’s Choir in a rousing rendition of Hatikvah, I once again found myself in floods of tears, but this time, I felt no guilt in crying. It was my right and obligation. It still is and always will be.
Today, 2020, there is no March of the Living this year. The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen and the end of World War II is marked only on the virtual stage of digital media as the Coronavirus pandemic denies us social gathering. Our survivors are older, more vulnerable, nearer to their natural end of life. They are less in number but forever alive in our collective memory.
And even though we cry our tears in the safe space of social distancing, we will not, dare not, cannot, ever forget!
Manchester-born Tricia Schwitzer immigrated to Israel in 2001 and currently serves on the World WIZO Executive as Chairperson of the Marketing & PR Division. She manages, writes and illustrates the World WIZO social media pages and co-edited the Centennial edition of the WIZO Review. She is married to Avi, the mother of Ric and Nic Glancy and she lives in Ramat Gan with two naughty black cats.
An ‘illuminating’ perspective of the Shoah from the ‘darkness’ of a collapsed mine
By David. E. Kaplan
Pedestrians stand solemnly in silence, while buses stop on busy streets and cars pull over with drivers standing at the side with their heads bowed. This collective conduct of the citizens of Israel is set off by a two-minute siren wailing across the country marking Holocaust Remembrance Day or known colloquially as Yom HaShoah (יום השואה). It is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
This year – 2020 – will be different as Corona transforms everything usual into the unusual.
The siren will still wail for two minutes but the streets will be mostly and ominously quite as most the citizens of the country will be home under some form of lockdown.
In cities and towns, people will stand on the balconies or poke their heads out of apartment windows for the two minutes as the siren wails and look down at the empty streets below.
The image of “looking down” made me think 10 years back to another perspective of the Holocaust, that of the inverse of “looking up”!
I always wondered what someone who had no knowledge of the Holocaust would feel following a visit to Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial in Jerusalem to the victims of the Holocaust. It was a thought that had intrigued me for many years, and an opportunity to answer this thought arose in 2011, when 24 of the 33 Chilean miners who had been rescued after spending 69 days trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine the year before arrived in Israel. Hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for a 8-day visit, including their families, I had been invited as editor of the Hilton Israel Magazine to spend the day with the miners as they toured Jerusalem, one of the sights being Yad Vashem.
One forgets, but as the Coronavirus dominates the news today, in 2010, what dominated the news – for at least 69 days – was the plight of the 33 miners trapped 700 metres below ground in the collapsed copper–goldSan José Mine located near Copiapó, in the Atacama Region, Chile.
Mesmerized in front of TVs, a global audience was drawn to this heart-rending and nail-biting unfolding drama who rooted for the rescue of these miners buried beneath in what was referred to at the time in the media as the “Deep Down Dark”. People of the world identified with the families of the miners as we all became “one family” hoping and praying for the success of the incredible rescue operation.
Thankfully this story of the 33 miners sealed inside the mountain by a “megablock” of collapsed stone, some 770,000 tons of it -“twice the weight of the Empire State building” – had a happy ending.
Over 1 billion viewers around the world watched the rescue unfold live on TV on Oct. 13, 2010 as all 33 of the miners were raised to the surface of the earth. Staring at that flat, smooth wall, Luis Urzua, the crew’s supervisor, thought at the time:
“It was like the stone they put over Jesus’s tomb.”
Continuing in the biblical parlance of Urzua, it was as if the miners had been unbelievably – “resurrected”.
In Israel’s invitation to the miners, which was extended to members of their families, the Israeli tourism minister, Stas Mesezhnikov, wrote:
“Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us all.”
FromSan José to Shoah
With my Spanish interpreter tagging besides me, I caught up with the miners as they exited the Hall of Names – a repository for the names of millions of Shoah victims. Close to four million eight hundred thousand of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices are commemorated here.
The miners came out looking emotionally drained.
They stood in groups, clustered together on the platform overlooking the forests and the city of Jerusalem – the capital of the state of the Jewish People.
I began to interview them – all revealing their unfamiliarity before their visit to Israel of both Jews and the Holocaust.
Some men are blessed with “nine lives” I thought interviewing 33- year-old Victor Zamora, a mechanic who only went into the mine on the day of the collapse to fix a vehicle. This same man had also been a victim and survived the Chilean earthquake seven months earlier. The 14th miner to be rescued he said, “Before coming to Israel, I knew nothing about the Jewish Holocaust. I’m still feeling claustrophobia, it’s a feeling that stays with you; hard to shake off but,” and then stopping to shake his head, he continued, “whatever I experienced, it hardly compares with what I’ve just seen here now [at Yad Vashem].”
Standing next to Zamora, was his former shift manager, the 54-year-old Luis Urzua, who had been the last miner to be rescued. His level-headedness was critical for the survival of his men and his gentle humour was all too evident when later describing the 69-day ordeal as:
“It’s been a bit of a long shift.”
And to my question of “How important was your faith in God?” he replied:
“We were 33 miners; God was miner number 34.”
However, it was this leader of the miners that revealed to me a perception of the Holocaust that resonated more than much of the academic writings I had come across.
“Having been so close to death with your fellow miners, how did you feel after having walked through Yad Vashem revealing how the Jews in Europe too faced death?”
This brave and resolute man answered wiping away tears:
“There is one big difference. While we may have shared with the Jews in the concentration camps that feeling of always being close to death, we at least enjoyed one luxury – HOPE. We knew there were people rooting for us, praying for us all over the world and working non-stop to save us. Now, having spent the last two hours walking through Yad Vashem, I know the Jews in the Holocaust had no hope. No-one was coming to rescue them. There lies the big difference – we at least had HOPE!”
Four letters but it incapsulates the DNA of the State of Israel. Jews today in the direst of circumstance can HOPE. From rescuing 49,000 Jews of Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet (1949-1950), Jewish passengers of a hijacked plane in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976, to rescuing thousands the Jews of Ethiopia in operations Moses and Solomon and now in 2020, to sending planes all over the world to bring back “HOME”, Israelis stranded because of the Coronavirus.
Today, Jews can not only HOPE, they can depend on the Jewish state to come to their rescue!
Not all heroes wear capes. During this time of crisis, most wear masks of a different kind – medical grade and protective gear to prevent a tiny but potentially lethal microbe from spreading. This particular hero, wears a smart navy blazer with his medals from his service during World War II polished and displayed proudly across his chest. His weapon is a walker to help him walk. And his superpower? This hero’s particular superpower is inspiring many from all around the world to support him on his noble mission – raising money for Britain’s NHS (National Health Services).
Meet Captain Tom Moore, a 99 year old World War II veteran who is walking to raise funds for the NHS. This extraordinary man, who turns 100 on April 30th, pledged to do 100 laps of his 25 metre long garden before his birthday at month’s end, which he has since completed. His goal? Raise one thousand pounds for the NHS.
His family thought this may be a goal too high and took to social media to support him but Captain Tom as he has been dubbed, with his captivating charm and noble intentions has raised a staggering £12 million at the time of writing this article – and the money continues to come in! Celebrities, businesspeople, ex-pat Brits and citizens all over the UK are contributing. At four million it was estimated that funds could contribute to 800 ventilators, 850 nurses and 10,000 beds – imagine what 12 million (and growing!) can do!
(*By the time that this article is published, the amount has already exceeded that sum by far and is still rising!)
Who is this ordinary man turned extraordinary superhero?
Tom Moore was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire. He was conscripted into the British Army when he was 20, along with – as he likes to put it – his role model, the Queen.
“She and I were in her father’s army together – she was a subaltern,” he says. Her majesty served as a mechanic during the war. Captain Tom loves the Queen. ‘She is fantastic and so strong and sensible, and her heart is in the right place,” he says. “I don’t think anybody anywhere has had a Queen like we’ve got. We’re very lucky.”
Moore joined the 145th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, was selected for officer training in 1940 and rose to the rank of Captain. He was posted to India where he fought in the Arakan Campaign of 1942-3, when the Allies pushed back against the Japanese in Burma. His late sister, Freda, was also conscripted and joined the ATS in Lincolnshire, plotting the German planes as they came over.
Today, Captain Moore is serving Queen and country in a different way.
A few years ago, Moore endured a battle with skin cancer. He also fell in his kitchen and broke his hip and gashed his head.
“I tangled up my own feet and fell over and hit my head on the dishwasher,” he says.
“It still has a little dent!” But thanks to the NHS, he soon bounced back into his smart navy blazer and slacks and he will always be grateful.
“They’re wonderful. Amazing. They’ve seen me through and cared for Pamela, my wife when she was ill. I just wanted to thank them.” Well he’s done that, many times over. Captain Moore’s heartwarming mission is not just dominating headlines in his native UK but also around the world. Even The Times of Israel has been following his extraordinary fundraising journey. With all the Corona virus coverage, perhaps Moore is the perfect dose of good will.
Journalist Piers Morgan, who has interviewed Captain Moore, has called for him to be Knighted for his service to Queen and country and many agree. While there may not be a medal adequate enough to express gratitude, this gentleman deserves the highest honour in the land – a Knighthood.
Asked about how he feels about a possible Knighthood, he responded:
“It would be marvelous to have such an honour but I don’t expect anything like that. I think it would be absolutely enormous if I was knighted, to be Sir Thomas Moore, I have never heard of anything like that before. I think the Queen is marvelous and doing such a terrific job because all the time she’s been Queen, she has been the leader of the country – and I have the highest regard for her. I hope she continues as Queen for a very long time.”
When asked about his 100th birthday on April 30, Captain Moore said: “Well originally we were going to have a big party here with all my friends and relations and we were all imagining what it would be like.”
Captain Moore, you deserve a party – with everything your brave heart desires, you have earned it!
On April 5 2000, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth hearkened back to a bygone era when she delivered a magnificent speech in what many are calling the greatest of her 68-year reign. In this speech, she spoke about separation from family during the war years and quoted another icon of her generation, Dame Vera Lynn when she gave the rallying cry “We’ll Meet Again”. It reminded many of us of the spirit of that generation, the greatest generation. Today, it is a war veteran, resplendent in his medals , who shows us it is possible to keep calm and get going.
Captain Tom Moore, Sir, we salute you! You are the epitome of the Greatest Generation.