Updated: Feb 20
My father graduated from the Gymnasium in Tel Aviv and hastened to enlist in the British army of Her Majesty. My father wanted to go out with his friends to fight the Nazi occupiers. He wanted to save Jews from the claws of the predator, and perhaps to run away from his mother's apron. His mother, on the other hand, did not wish for the eldest son, her beloved son Azariahu, to join the military and be transferred overseas. She needed him by her side.
Therefore his mother rushed to Shmuel, who was an influential official in the mandate government, and begged him to return her son. She is sick, he is sick, she explained.
All this did not really help. Shmuel was not impressed by the honorable lady's arguments, and my father reported to Serfand camp, in July 1942, immediately after graduation.
After training for several months in the British training camp in Wadi Sarar in Palestine, he was sent, as a compromise found by Shmuel, to the Western desert. This was Egypt. My father was in Egypt for 218 days out of three and a half years of service in the army.
At enlistment, he was given the official position of "clerk", far from the heroic battlefields. At the same time, his three closest friends sailed to Italy to fight. I think my father never forgave his mother, until the day she died, for preventing him from traveling to Europe.
He passed general training in Wadi Sarar. During the day he trained with his friends in the Hebrew Battalion. At night he wrote his notes in a notebook left over from his days at the gymnasium. I found the journal among yellowed newspaper clippings, in an old shoebox, in my mother's spare room.
The value of the notes is precisely in everything that my father did not write explicitly. This can be seen in the hints and clues he planted in the plots, which he then unfolded and embroidered in a notebook. This was in the head of a young man who had not yet turned 19.
Tonight we celebrate the beginning of the Hanukkah holiday, and we will light the first candle tonight. My father wrote this list on the eve of the first candle of Hanukkah, 25 in Kislev, 5/12/1942.
And this is how he opened his Hanukkah story:
"And here tonight, while the storm of battle is raging outside, inside the half-destroyed position, when before my eyes wounded and charred corpses unfold, I took out my small notebook only to write in you the date of this day, 25 Kislev, the first night of Hanukkah."
The storm of battle ... He had never seen neither a battle nor a ruined position ... just as the "dead bodies" were not there and the wounded were only in his imagination. My father wrote "a play", like the radio plays he wrote when he was 15 years old for "Kol-Yerushalim" [the Hebrew radio station under the British mandate].
He mixed the stories of Israeli heroism that he learned at school with the little that he heard at his mother's and father's house about the disturbances caused by the Ukrainians in Poland-Ukraine-Russia, between the Great War and World War II. The first news that reached Israel about the deportation, imprisonment and extermination of family members in Europe was burned into his growing up experience.
All this led him to express his feelings and thoughts while sitting by the lantern in the tent in the British camp, in Wadi Sarar. He did this in front of an empty notebook.
There are so many memories associated with this day, and how much pride and honor you have in the memory of what happened. And longing, longing for his home. To the infant Hanukkah candle whose flame trembles gracefully on the window sill.
"And here, on the battlefield, who if not us was given the opportunity to continue the chain of wonderful heroism whose first page was written on the 28th day of Kaslev, hundreds of years ago?
"My friend Tom, that thirty-year-old English boy, turned to me this morning. Michael, he said to me, what are you pondering all the time? The holiday is being celebrated at home, while you are here.
You are looking at me in awe, but this is a day of remembrance. Many centuries ago, in England, back when people still painted their faces with Kohl, there was already a well-built kingdom in my country.
"We had already written the last chapters of the book of books, the 'Bible', when one king came, who then as now, wanted everything, the whole world. Then our ancestors stood up. They girded their weapons, even though the weapons were few, and set out to defend my country."
"My ancestors were few, maybe one in 100, but they were united and they hated the enemy to death because their land was coming to be stolen. Because their religion was going to be destroyed under the sky. And the war was fierce. People fought elephants, arrows with metal shields, sticks with spears, but they prevailed. Voids were many, and blood was spilled like water. Earth is dirty with blood, but they won. And on this day, Tom my friend, the victors entered our benevolent capital, Purgatory, beyond the walls of the filth of Antioch, and the candles were lit.
"Are you stupid? Why did they light candles? Surely they didn't have enough time to repair the power plant, so they lit candles and a miracle happened! In the joy of victory, the light from the candles shines sevenfold brighter. And here it continues to this day. Every year when this day comes, this joy flows from generation to generation, and even here in this hellish environment around us, joy attacks. Tom, that's what I enlisted for, that's what we all enlisted for. In the spirit of the Maccabees we're determined to redeem what was lost to us a thousand years ago. Let's light a candle, and if we don't have a candle, let's burn a fuse of dynamite."
From generation to generation this joy flows and year after year on this day our hearts beat joyfully. Even in this hell that surrounds us, we are flooded with joy. Tom, that's what I enlisted for, that's what we all enlisted for"
My father ended the list he wrote on the eve of the first candle of Hanukkah 25 in Keslev 5722 with these lines:
"We crawled out of the dugout, advanced under the shower of fire and at a distance of 10 paces in front of the enemy's dugout we ignited two fuses of dynamite. In the most sacred way I lit one match and then two. Tom and I lit two fuses and began to crawl back. In the twilight, between the shells and the dust of the desert, we saw a pair of flashing lights in the twilight. Two fading fuses. We held our breath. Lo and behold, everything turned hazy. And the flash of an explosion dazzled us for a moment. Tom shook himself, brushed away a rag of dirt that had splattered on his face, and said to me enthusiastically: 'Michael, this is in honor of Kanucha and Victory.'
Signed at the end of his story:
"A. Rapoport 5/12/1942 soldier # 17432"
First candle of Hanukkah 25 in Kislev, 5722