MEMORIES OF A SIX DAY WAR VOLUNTEER

May 30, 2017

VolunteersOn the 20th May 1967 I was at Wembley Stadium cheering on my beloved Spurs as they defeated Chelsea in the F.A. Cup Final.   Had anyone told me on that day, that just a couple of weeks later I would be in Israel working on a kibbutz close to the Golan Heights, I would have thought them crazy.

Two days later however, all the euphoria of that victory was dissipated when Egypt committed what was a clear act of war by closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.  Tension had been rising during the previous week as Egypt mobilized its troops and then moved into Sinai demanding that the U.N. peacekeepers be removed.  The blockade however, ratcheted up the tension considerably higher.

I was twenty-three when the crisis broke.  I was articled to a partner in a West End accountancy practice, and was due to take my finals in December of that year.  I was also very active in the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY) and chairman of its Ilford group.

As the crisis heightened, FZY was called in to help with fund raising activities.  Every evening we would go from one shul to another helping to collect donations.  Sunday mornings we were out knocking on doors collecting more gifts.  No house with a mezzuzah on the door was safe from our attentions, nor did I ever leave a house without having received a donation.

There was an incredible atmosphere around at the time, for unlike today, as war became inevitable, the entire country was 100% behind Israel.  I had a “Support Israel” bumper sticker on my car and I remember to this day a garage attendant saying to me whilst he filled up my car, that he hoped we would really show those ***** a thing or two; that was how it was at that time.

On Monday morning 5th June war broke out.  As soon as I got to the office I asked my principal if I could go to the Zionist Federation offices in Lower Regent Street, to do whatever I could to help.  Luckily, my principal was Jewish, so he gladly gave his consent.   For those of you who may remember it, Rex House was an always chaotic place, but during that week, the chaos reached new heights.

The first thing I saw on my arrival was that outside, seemingly every Jewish cab driver in London was waiting ready to deliver messages, packages and people free of charge wherever they were needed.  Inside was bedlam.  Volunteers wanting to go to Israel and take over the jobs of the men and women now serving in the army, filled every bit of space in the building as they waited to be processed.

Fundraising was more urgent than ever and elsewhere blood donor centres were being set up.  All the while communiqués were coming in from Tel Aviv with war news.  I remember hearing the breaking news that the IDF had destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground in the first few hours of the war.  BBC newsreaders initially did not believe it, but gradually it became quite clear that it really was true.  Then on the Wednesday came the news that the Old City of Jerusalem had been taken and there was not a dry eye in the whole of Rex House.  That was day also that the blockade was broken.

Later that day, together with about fifty fellow FZYniks I joined the ranks of the volunteers.  Once again I had to look to my principal’s goodwill and once again he came through for me.  The war ended on the Saturday and on the following Tuesday our FZY party was on an El Al plane to Tel Aviv. By the Friday, just ten days after it had been recaptured we were in Jerusalem, praying at the Western Wall.  I remember phoning home that evening  – no easy thing in those days – and the emotional call I had with my parents.

We were sent to Kibbutz HaGoshrim, a non – religious settlement in the north of Israel, some five miles beyond Kyriat Shemona in that spit of land between Lebanon and the Golan Heights.  We were fortunate in that the Kibbutz, as well as being an agricultural settlement also ran a guest house so we had decent accommodation and, joy of joys a swimming pool.  Our work routine was soon established.  Wake up was at 4:30am.  A quick wash, a mug of tea with some stale bread and then on to a tractor to work in the fields, picking fruit or cotton or building new paths around the Kibbutz.  At 8:00 it was back on the tractor to return to the dining hall for a proper breakfast followed by another stint of work until 11:30 when we would finish for the day and crash out round the pool.

The work was hard and not without its dangers. The fruit picking mostly involved placing rickety ladders against the acres and acres of apple trees and then reaching into the furthest branches of the tree to collect the fruit. None of us escaped from what became known as “flying ladders” as we tumbled to the ground, though thankfully no-one suffered anything more serious than a few bruises – and hurt pride.

Early one morning a group of us were in the cotton fields when we suddenly heard massive explosions from the nearby Golan Heights.  For one horrible moment, we thought fighting had broken out again but it turned out only to be the IDF destroying captured Syrian munitions, but it was a reminder that we were in a war zone.

Afternoons were filled with various leisure activities.  Courses in Ivrit were arranged as were soccer matches against volunteers from neighbouring kibbutzim.  I am still carrying the scars from one ferocious encounter with South Africans volunteers from Kibbutz Dan just up the road.  For the brave, the icy waters of the lake at nearby Horshat Tal was a refreshing alternative to the kibbutz pool.

Another example of the good fortune that befell our group is that amongst us were a few who were employed at Marks and Spencer’s head office in Baker Street and every couple of weeks they would each receive a large box of St. Michael foodstuffs which of course they shared around and provided a welcome break from the rather unimaginative kibbutz diet.

The kibbutz set aside one hut for us to use as our own communal meeting place.  Our group included people of all degrees of religious observance but we all agreed it would be nice to have a Friday evening service.  On that first Friday night, we gathered in our hut and began the service.  Suddenly, I was aware that we were being joined by some of the Kibbutzniks who were peering through the windows or standing by the open door, visibly moved by the sight of Shabbat candles and the sound of Sabbath songs that they probably had neither seen nor heard in years.

Another memory of that time is the music.  Within days of it ending, an LP was produced of songs of the Six Day War and it was constantly being played around the kibbutz.  One song in particular came to define that period, Naomi Shemer’s Yerushalayim shel Zahav.  Morning, noon and night, it seemed you could never go more than five minutes without hearing that haunting refrain.  The strange thing is, no matter how many times you heard it, it never seemed too much; even today, if my I-Pod is on shuffle, and that song comes up, I have to stop what I am doing and the memories come flooding back.

Because the war itself was mercifully short, before long the men and women who had been called up began returning home.  Whilst there was still plenty for us to do, the government decided that we should see as much of Israel as possible.

We were taken in an army jeep on to the Golan Heights.  There we saw captured Syrian tanks and the gun emplacements overlooking HaGoshrim.  We saw at once that they could probably have done enormous harm just by hurling rocks down on the kibbutz from that dominant position.

Then we went on a long trip to the south.  We stopped at Ein Gedi and bathed in the Dead Sea and then in the morning, before dawn, climbed the snake path to the summit of Masada where we witnessed the most glorious sunrise breaking over the fabled ruins.  From there we were taken through Beer Sheva and via the Negev to Eilat which was just a small village at that time. Other trips took us to the Galilee and of course in our free time we all explored Jerusalem and Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Suddenly it was October and it was time to return home after what were the most amazing three months of my life.  The nervous tension in the days before the war; the very real concern that Israel could be annihilated; the unbelievable excitement and relief as we learned of the recapture of the Old City and Israel’s subsequent victory. The tremendous camaraderie of like-minded young people working on the kibbutz, delighted at being able to do our bit for the country that we all cared about so deeply.

There is one other memory.  On a bus returning  to the kibbutz from Haifa where I had been visiting a cousin, I spoke to a young Israeli.  I will never forget his words.

“Surely now, after this massive defeat the Arabs will have to accept us. They have to, don’t they?”

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This Proves the hypocrisy of the BDS Movement

May 21, 2013

This Proves the hypocrisy of the BDS Movement.


The Left Loves to Hate

April 13, 2013

I am sure there are many people out there who are genuinely surprised at the level of hatred that has been on display in this country since news of the death of Baroness Thatcher was announced on Monday.

They should not be, for this hatred has been on display for a number of years if you know where to look for it.

I first became aware of it when I was elected as a Conservative councillor in 1982. Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister for three years by then and we won control of our council, (Hillingdon) in a landslide. I was prepared for the labour opposition to be disappointed, and I was prepared for strong, reasoned arguments against some of our policies. I was not prepared however for the naked hostility and bitterness which was so openly and frequently on display. Their loathing and contempt for us was not as politicians but as people, and it took some getting used to. As a football fan, I am not unfamiliar with hostility from opposing fans, but this was far worse than anything I had seen at a football ground. Of course, such an attitude became totally counterproductive, because even when they had something reasonable to say, it would be delivered, clothed in such vitriol, as to make it impossible to be taken seriously.

Another area in which the Left’s propensity to hate is on regular display is in the politics of the Middle east and in particular Israel. The Left do not just dislike Israel. They do not just disagree with that country’s government. They hate it. They do not want Israel to change its policies. They want it to disappear. To further their agenda they re-write history, they either ignore or distort the truth, they tell outright lies and use pejorative terms such as “apartheid state” or “racist state” believing that if you repeat all this nonsense often enough it becomes the accepted truth; and thanks to the help of their comrades in sections of the media, (take a bow Guardian and BBC), they are not wrong.

I make this reference to Israel because these same tactics have been on display again this week with regards to Margaret Thatcher, once more aided and abetted by their media friends. Thus, if you listen to the haters, you would believe that she was single-handedly responsible for the closure of all the mines in the country. In fact she closed 22. Harold Wilson closed 93 – now there is a fact you do not hear very often. They say that she was responsible for the end of manufacturing in the UK. The role of the unions in the closures of course is overlooked as is the fact that nobody was buying British cars for instance, because they were so awfully made.

Now they are trying to lay the blame for banking crisis at her door. All she did was open up the City of London to global competition thereby laying the foundation for the growth and prosperity that followed from that action. It was Gordon Brown who took governance of the City from the Bank of England and established the FSA that failed so dismally in its duties. Once again however, that fact is conveniently overlooked.

What troubles me most about the events of the past week is the way that so many young people who were not even born when Margaret Thatcher was in office have cheerfully joined in the with the anti Thatcher hate fest. From what has been seen on our television screens, many of them are not from the deprived communities in the North that might feel they are justified in their dislike of the Lady, but are from comfortable middle class homes. Where have they learned the politics of hate? Who has not taught them that are two sides to every argument. And who has failed to teach them where irrational, visceral hatred can lead?

By dominating vast sections of the media and the education establishment, the haters on the left are ensuring that their vile policies will be with us for a long time to come. That should be a cause of great concern to all of us who care about the future of our country.


Worrying Times

February 23, 2013

If you are Jewish it is hard to comprehend all that has occurred in the past few days.

First of all there was the report that Israel’s deputy ambassador had to be evacuated from Essex University, unable to give the lecture he was supposed to give because of disruption from students. There was all the usual talk from the PSC and SWP students about “war crimes” and Israel being an “apartheid state.” It is neither surprising nor unprecedented for the extreme left to stifle the voices of those with whom they disagree; nor is it surprising that this should have happened at Essex, a university with a long history of extreme left politics. None the less, this is one more in a long list of examples of the extreme hostility that those who dare to support Israel face on our campuses.

If that wasn’t enough for one night, we then had the case of George Galloway who walked out of a debate at Christ Church, Oxford on the subject “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”. On learning that his opponent was an Israeli, he simply marched out of the door saying that he does not recognise Israel and does not debate with Israelis.

What a way for a Member of the British Parliament to behave.

And whilst all that was happening over here, across the channel in a pub in Lyon, a group of Spurs supporters, in France to see their team play in a Europa League cup match, were attacked by a bunch of Neo Nazis. The reason? Tottenham Hotspur has a large number of Jewish supporters and therefore is known as a “Jewish” club.

Any one of these incidents should give rise for concern. That all three should occur within a matter of hours is to me very worrying. It is reported in the Jewish Chronicle this week that French Jews are fleeing to London in large numbers to escape growing anti-Semitism in that country. Given what is happening here in the UK one wonders if they are not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Remember too, only a couple of weeks ago there was David Ward MP making deeply offensive anti-Semitic comments and the equally offensive Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times.

Jews in France are caught in a vice. On one side is a far right movement much more prominent there than here. On the other side is a large North African population that in some areas the authorities can barely control.

Here, in spite of a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, thanks to the superb work of the Community Security Trust (CST) who monitor all such incidents and work very closely with the authorities, Jews still consider themselves relatively safe. However, this is no time for complacency.

I have no doubt that as long as the demonization of Israel continues, so will the rise in anti-Semitism. I have said before, I have no problem when people criticize actions taken by the government of Israel in a manner they would use to criticise actions taken by their own or any other government. Unfortunately, that is not what we are seeing. The incidents at two universities this week are just the latest examples of an irrational, bitter hatred for, and obsession with Israel alone that so far as I am aware is unprecedented in history. And as long as that continues, Jews cannot feel totally safe anywhere. Less than seventy years after the horrors of the second World war, that is a shocking state of affairs.


The Nonsensical Mansion Tax

February 17, 2013

A friend of mine who sadly passed away a few years ago proudly boasted that he never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I am reminded of this today as I see the Labour Party’s latest piece of populism. I am referring of course to the proposed mansion tax.

The stated purpose of this latest wheeze is to fund a re-introduction of the 10% tax rate. It is to be introduced on homes worth £2 million or more. It is a very silly idea and I will tell you why.

First of all, it is a basic principle of taxation that it should be fair. One of the reasons that the recent child benefit changes have been so unpopular is the obvious lack of fairness in a system where a family with one member earning £90,000 loses out whilst another family with two members each earning £45,000 does not.

The proposed mansion tax is equally unfair because one family can be living in a single property now worth £2 million and will have to pay the tax, whilst another family which has built up a portfolio of say four £500,000 properties will not.

What makes it even worse is the fact that it will not even come close to achieving its stated purpose.

At the level suggested it is estimated by the Treasury that the tax will bring in £2 billion. To bring back the 10p tax rate, again according to Treasury estimates, will cost £7 billion. You do not have to be a brilliant mathematician to see that leaves a £5 billion shortfall about which there has been a suspicious silence. No doubt at some stage, in a replay of their scorched earth policies when Gordon Brown was in charge, the Milliband/Balls duo will seek yet more ways to tax the wealth creators and to mortgage our children’s future with still more borrowing. Forget the inconvenient and incontrovertible truth that higher tax rates destroy the economy and actually produce less revenue for the exchequer. That will not stop Labour who never, ever learn the lessons of history.


The Inevitability of David Ward

January 26, 2013

The deeply distasteful comments made on his blog by Liberal MP David Ward are the inevitable consequence of the never-ending anti Israel narrative promoted by significant sections of the UK Media.

And not just the media. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement singles out Israel, the Jewish state alone as the one evil country in the world worthy of its attention.

Hate preachers regularly visit our universities meaning Jewish students frequently have to endure a climate of antiSemitism. So bad has this situation become that last year at Edinburgh University, Daniel Taub the Israeli ambassador was shouted down and prevented from speaking amid cries of “From the river(Jordan) to the sea, Palestine will be free” and describing the ambassador as “a propagandist for an apartheid state.” Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. Other pro-Israel speakers have had talks interrupted or cancelled, always with cries describing Israel as a racist and/or apartheid state.

Such casual misuse of language, particularly when it is repeated often enough, soon adds legitimacy to the lie, as the Nazis themselves well knew.

It matters not that across the Middle east, muslims kill each other almost on a daily basis. More than 60,000 have been killed in Syria in the last few months alone – more than have died in the entire Israel/Palestine conflict since 1948 – and the world barely bats an eyelid. But, should a single Palestinian die when Israel takes action to defend itself, then the world condemns, and Israel stands accused of using disproportionate force and countless other crimes.

It is hardly surprising therefore that in this frenzy of anti Israel hatred, anti-Semitism should flourish. Not that I believe there is any distinction between the two. Of course it is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli government policy and I often do so myself. But what is happening today goes way beyond that. No sane person would deny that there are far, far worse regimes around than Israel, regimes with histories of violence and human rights abuse that greatly exceed what is alleged to happen in Israel. Yet these regimes receive but a fraction of the criticism that Israel does. There are no BDS movements for them. Their representatives can visit our universities without fear of protest and their artists can perform in our theatres without interruption. There is no attempt to delegitimize these states or calls for them to be abolished. Only Israel is singled out for this treatment. So why the distinction? It can only be because Israel is the Jewish State.

And because of this poisonous atmosphere where Israel is concerned, newspapers feel free to publish tasteless cartoons that would not have been out-of-place in Der Sturmer; Otherwise respectable middle class English people feel free to disrupt concerts or theatre performances whenever Israelis come here to perform. References to the “Jewish Lobby” one of the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes, are common place. And MPs like David Ward, conscious of his large Muslim constituency see nothing wrong in equating the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz with Israeli actions taken to defend itself against enemies who deny its right to exist. To say such moral equivalence is vile is to understate the case by a mile.

But make no mistake. Ward’s comments are nothing new. The only reason they have attracted such wide attention is because of the timing, coinciding as they do, with Holocaust Memorial Day. Otherwise, in the current climate, they probably would have passed un-noticed or indeed would have attracted silent nods of agreement from those who subscribe to the distorted view of Israel so prevalent today.


No To A One State Solution

September 23, 2012

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes has called for a one state solution to the Israel – Palestine conflict. I suppose one should not be surprised at such a wooly piece of thinking from him, but let us be clear what he actually means; the abolition of the State of Israel; nothing less, for that is the inevitable consequence of that particular “solution.”

This is why it finds favour with those on the left. It is the ultimate aim of the delegitimizers, the boycotters and their fellow travellers.

When left leaning politicians and commentators like Hughes look at the Middle East today they look at it through the distorting prism of current “liberal” orthodoxy. That means that they view only the bits of the puzzle they want to. Thus they see and readily condemn the Israeli reprisals against terrorists in Gaza but not the hundreds of rocket that those same terrorists have launched against the towns and villages of southern Israel. They choose to ignore the fact that thousands of Israeli children are forced to spend a large part of their lives in air raid shelters to avoid the daily rocket barrage.

They see the separation barrier but forget about the bombed buses and restaurants and the random shootings that claimed hundreds of Israeli lives in the early years of this century which was the reason the barrier was erected in the first place. Of course it would be preferable if the barrier was not there, but the fact remains it has worked and an untold number of lives have been saved because of it. Perhaps it is the fact that it is Jewish lives that have been saved that renders that little detail irrelevant to those on the left.

It is not only their view of the current situation that is so warped. They also display a disturbingly selective memory where the region’s history is concerned. As Palestinians deliberately try to destroy all evidence of Jerusalem’s Jewish history, the delegitimizers happily ignore the four millenia of continuous Jewish history in the Holy Land.

So, when he calls for a one state solution, Hughes is putting the blame for the impasse on Israel Alone. Never mind that during the British Mandate whilst the Jews accepted the 1937 Peel Commission recommendation for a two state solution, the Arabs rejected it outright. Never mind that they again rejected it in 1947 after the UN voted for partition and then launched a deadly attack on the newly formed Jewish State when it declared independence.

I was in Israel as a volunteer in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War. Almost without exception the opinion I heard from every Israeli I spoke to was the same. “Now at last they will have to talk with us and make peace with us.” Alas, just three months later came the infamous Khartoum Declaration. “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” Since then there have been negotiations of course but basically the Arab position is as intransigent today as it was then.

At Camp David in 2000, Israel offered huge concessions to the Palestinians, but Arafat would not budge. As Abba Eban said at the time, “Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” As a consequence, perhaps the best chance for a lasting peace was lost.

To achieve a lasting peace requires two interlocutors willing to achieve an agreement and prepared to make the concessions necessary. In 1937, in 1947 and again in 2000 Israel showed that commitment. Sadly, whenever called upon to rise to the challenge, the Palestinians have not.

So when Hughes calls upon the British Jewish Community to put pressure on the Israeli Government, this member of the community will have no part of it. That is not to say I always agree with everything the government does; I do not. But I am able to put its actions in context. I can understand what living in a country surrounded by an intransigent enemy sworn to wipe it out can do to that country’s psyche.

Of course the Palestinians would welcome a one state solution. They know, that were it to happen, they would succeed in their oft-repeated aim of driving the Jews into the sea. Look at the placards at any anti-Israel demonstration and you will see several proclaiming “Palestine from the river(Jordan) to the sea.” That always has been their aim and I fear it still is.

Is Simon Hughes not aware that he is inviting a second Jewish Holocaust? When hatred of Jews is taught every day in Palestinian schools does he imagine that Arab and Jew would leave peacefully side by side in such a State? Is he unaware that all over the Arab world, internecine warfare is a fact of daily life. If the Arabs can kill each other so easily, and they do as we all know, can he not see the probability of a Jewish bloodbath if his idea came to fruition? Or maybe he just does not care.

Consider what is happening in the Muslim world right now with the protests at a silly film shown on You-Tube. As Islamists tighten their grip over all Muslim countries, does Mr. Hughes expect those hard liners to tolerate, liberal, democratic, freedom loving Israelis in their midst?

Women have full equal rights in Israel. Homosexuality is not a crime in Israel. Freedom of expression is a right in Israel. None of this is so in any Arab or Muslim country.

So a single state solution cannot be the answer. What Simon Hughes and his ilk need to understand is that as long as they continue to view the Middle East through their distorted prism, there is no reason for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel.

If a lasting peace in the region is really his objective he should start by being even-handed and ensuring that the Palestinians understand fully that the Wests commitment to Israel’s survival within secure borders is non negotiable.