Today is the 17th day in the Jewish Month of Iyar. It is the 32nd Day of the Omer. It is also the day that, 35 years ago, the Jewish people lost one of its shining lights. Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Chaim Glatt (known to me as Howie) and five other boys. It is a day that has broken my heart every year for the last 35 years.
Who is Zvi “Howie” Glatt to me?
Howie was my first Madrich/Counselor in Bnei Akiva. Our Kings Highway/Young Israel of Ocean Parkway snif/branch met each week and was led by Tuvia Gross. Howie was my Madrich. I must have started attending in 4th grade. My dad would walk me the mile to the Bnei Akiva meeting because he was the president of the Synagogue and he arranged for Bnei Akiva to meet there. Howie was about 4 years older than me. Maybe 3-5 boys and 5 girls showed up to our branch every week. Howie taught me about Israel. He taught me to love Israel and Bnei Akiva and the Bnei Akiva ideals of Torah V‘Avoda. He was also a friend and my family was friendly with his family. In or around 1975, after one year of high school, Howie made Aliya. He went to attend a Yeshiva High School in Israel. We were all so proud and we missed him when he left. I wanted to go to BTA like Zvi/Howie did. I wanted to move to Israel like Zvi/Howie did. I wanted to go to Israel and see my friend Zvi/Howie again.
Zvi/Howie was killed by terrorists in Hebron on May 2, 1980.
Hebron – Some Background and History.
Prior to August 1929, for over 2000 years, there had always been a Jewish Community in Hebron. Hebron is, at the very least, the second holiest site to the Jewish people. There, Abraham purchased a plot of land at the city gates (to record the transaction) to bury his wife. There, the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism were buried in the Mearat Hamachpela also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. There, within the double caves — where the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried — is reportedly the entrance to the Garden of Eden. It was in Hebron that King David ruled for 7 years.
In August of 1929, the Jewish community in Hebron was attacked by Arabs. 67 Jews were killed in Hebron at that time in a brutally violent pogrom. After the pogrom and Massacre in 1929, the British cleansed Hebron of Jews. Jews would not return to live in Hebron until 1979.
The Birth of the Modern Day Jewish Community in Hebron.
In May 1979, a group of approximately 10 women and 40 children, led by Rebbetzen Miriam Levinger, snuck into the old Hadassah Hospital in Hebron; The Beit Hadassah. The goal was the reestablishment of the Jewish Community of Hebron. When the government found out that the women and children had snuck in and taken control of the Beit Hadassah, it did everything in its power to discourage them from staying. Utilities were cut off and the women and children who took up residence there lived there under deplorable conditions. The boys learning in Kiryat Arba and others would pray at the Mearat Hamachpela on Friday nights and they would then dance in the streets to the Beit Hadassah to give strength and encouragement to the women and children who were there.
On Friday night, May 2, 1980, my friend and former Madrich in Bnei Akiva, Zvi “Howie” Glatt was in Kiryat Arba and together with others, he danced from the Mearat Hamachpela to the Beit Hadassah to make Kiddush for and give strength to these courageous women and children living under deplorable conditions. Suddenly, shots rang out, bullets flew and grenades exploded. Zvi “Howie” Glatt, Gershon Klein, Ya’akov Zimmerman, Hanan Krauthammer, Eli HaZe’ev, and Shmuel Mermelstein were killed. There were approximately 20 injured. Zvi/Howie was 20 years old, he would have been 21 that June. All of the boys killed that night ranged between 18 and 21 years of age. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the Jewish Community of Hebron was re-born.
What I remember most about Howie was his smile, his Jewish pride and his love of Israel. As his chanich/student, he educated me and helped me develop a love of Israel as well.
When I go to Israel, I almost always go to visit the City of Hebron and the Jewish Community of Hebron. I go to be where Howie was when he died and to pray for him (I can’t go to his grave as I am a Kohen). I go to visit the people of Hebron and to give them strength and to remember what the six boys of Hebron died for. I know Howie is long gone, but every time I go to Hebron, I still look for him. Silly, right? I know! Yet, I look for his face in the crowds. I wonder if he stood where I stand. I look for his spirit. I look at the people. I look at the thriving but small Jewish community in the second holiest city in Israel and I cry and I smile. I cry because Howie is gone and I cry because his dream of a fully re-settled land of Israel has not yet come true. I smile because I see that Howie’s spirit and determination continues to live in the Jewish Community of Hebron. I still miss him.
Last year in January 2014, I was visiting my daughter Emma in Israel. I took her and my surrogate daughter Noa, to Hebron. Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum recounted the story of the origins of the Jewish community as we passed the Beit Hadassah and, of course, I cried for Howie, and I looked for him yet again.
Only a few days after visiting Hebron, I went on a trip with the One Israel Fund for Tu B’shvat. We visited the settlement of Itamar when I met the Zimmermans. Their farm was devastated by the severe snowfall last winter. As we arrived at the farm, my good friend and most excellent Tour Guide, Eve Harow, told me to stay close to her; she had a surprise for me. I was not prepared. I met Rachel Zimmerman first. When Rachel started to tell her story I understood why Eve told me to be prepared. “I am from Canada….I was a Peace Now activist in Hebron in 1980…” she began. She recounted how Rebbetzen Levinger grabbed her one day and started to show her how the “Arab” houses surrounding the Beit Hadassah area were not really Arab homes but homes stolen from the Jews after 1929. She told how Rebbetzin Levinger showed her the places where the Arabs removed the Mezuzahs from the Jewish homes when the homes were stolen. Rachel told us how she spent Shabbat with Rebbetzen Levinger and how she met her future husband that Shabbat, Alon Zimmerman, and she told us meeting Alon’s best friend, Zvi Glatt, who two weeks later died in Alon’s arms. What did I just hear? Oh my god! I approached Rachel and we spoke some more privately. Thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses because I was crying like a baby. Some unknown force had brought me here to meet these people who had a connection, a Kesher to Howie. Next I met Alon Zimmerman. When I told him where I was from and how I knew Zvi Glatt, tears formed in his eyes and in mine. We talked for a few minutes about Zvi and he told me that it was incumbent upon me to help fulfill Zvi’s dream of a return to the land of Israel – to the homeland of our people. He told me that in this way, we keep Zvi’s spirit alive. Indeed! I can’t thank Eve Harow enough for bringing me to the Zimmerman farm and for helping me find Zvi, through Alon.
I went looking for my friend Zvi “Howie” Glatt and I think I finally found him. He is alive and well in Itamar with Rachel and Alon. He resides in the spirit of every Oleh Chadash — every person making Aliya to live in Israel. His spirit is alive and well inside my daughter Dana Lynn who made Aliya and who is serving in the IDF. He is alive and well in the spirit of every lone soldier. He is alive and well in the spirit of every person who visits Hebron. He is alive and well in the spirit of every Jewish resident of Hebron. He is alive and well so long as we remember him and the sacrifice he made so that we have the land of Israel. Alon was right, I know that. The way to keep Zvi alive and to remember him properly is to move and rebuild the land of Israel. I don’t have an immediate plan to move to Israel. Right now its a long term plan, but its a plan. Today, on this 35th Yurtzheit for my friend, my mentor, my teacher — Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Moshe Glatt is alive and well inside of me. May his memory be blessed, and may his neshoma have an Aliya and may we never forget.