Today, the right to live as Jews in our Jewish homeland is under attack, again. This time by cowards; “men,” unable or unwilling to stand tall and fight for their beliefs, they use children as human shields to protect themselves or abduct Jewish children: Eyal, Gilad,Naftali. They rejoice over their manliness with dance and song and eat bon-bons as if they had done something courageous. Officers and gentlemen are not in their vocabulary. They are nothing more than shameless bullies and like all bullies, they run when confronted.
The Jewish people have a history of courage under fire. There is a special place in Israel, in the land of milk and honey, called Yad Mordechai. Originally called Mitzpe Yam, it was renamed in 1943 in honour of 22 year old Modechai Anielewicz hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising for whom a memorial was made. It carries within its space the memories from the time of David to the poignant history of the Warsaw Ghetto, into the 1948 Israel War of Independence. Six miles from the southern beach town of Ashkelon and near the Eretz crossing with Gaza, this kibbutz is still thriving, producing olive oil and honey. Yad Mordecai supplies 50% of all the honey consumed in Israel. Miraculous and mocking.
Sweetness pours from a place once covered in blood. God truly works in wondrous ways.
Mordechai Anielewicz was born in 1919, in Wyszkow, near Warsaw, into a working class Jewish family. In January 1940, Anielewicz became a professional underground activist. In the summer of 1942, when the first action by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto was taken to remove the Jews, Anielewicz returned to Warsaw, entered the Ghetto to discover that only 60,000 Jews from the original 350,000 remained and there was but a small “Jews Fighter Organization.” He began preparations to save his people.
January 18, 1943, when the Nazis began the second deportation, the resistance, led by Mordechai, was enough to stop the immediate action. And for the next three months Anielewicz commanded the underground. At first the Nazis suffered many losses. Although the resistance failed to stop the deportation, they became heroes. They had stymied the Nazis.
On May 8, Anielewicz was killed at the headquarters bunker known as Mila Street 18. Little did he know that he would become the role model for the many young men and women who would fight to defend the newly declared State of Israel.
Mordechai’s last letter written from the Ghetto on April 23,1943, is a testament to the pride he had for his people.
“I feel that great things are happening and what we dared do is of great, enormous importance. The dream of my life has risen to become fact. Self-defense in the ghetto will have been a reality. Jewish armed resistance and revenge are facts. I have been a witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men in battle.”
The sculpture of Mordechai, by Nathan Rapoport, was completed in 1951. Rapoport, born in 1911 in Warsaw, Poland, is well-known for his monuments to the daring of the Jewish people. The statue of Anielewicz is without question a symbol of heroism and was chosen well for this kibbutz as his exploits, his bravery, his love of his people, reminded the Jews of the times before, of the great soldiers of the past, and his example brought courage to the kibbutz as history has proven. Ironically, Rapoport’s sculpture, “Ghetto Heroes Monument,” commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was unveiled in Warsaw April 1948, just one month before the attack against Yad Mordechai took place.
The memorial to Mordechai Anielewicz is made from bronze with concrete and stone. The statue, facing north, is embraced by a grove of trees on a hill in the center of the kibbutz. Rapoport connects the heroism of the brave Jews who fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto with the kibbutzniks who fought valiantly in the War of Independence by dressing Mordechai like a member of the kibbutz and placing him in front of the water tower which was damaged in the 1948 war.
The small group of Jews at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai were well aware of Mordechai and his heroism when the Arab nations attacked the nascent Jewish country in May 1948. This kibbutz was a strategic point controlling the road from Gaza to Tel-Aviv. Kibbutz members dug communications trenches, sandbagged firing positions including a pillbox, and mined the perimeter fence.
Yad Mordechai stood strong for five miraculous days giving time for others to get in position to defend Tel Aviv and save the state.
The story of the Jewish people is a story of courage, based on right, not might. We will overcome. We are “witness to the magnificent, heroic fighting of Jewish men in battle.”
We are Am Yisrael.