73 Years Ago and Still Hanging

For the past 75 years I have been writing short stories, poems, and a book on Hebrew poetry in translation. And during the six years until the present, I have published 1,1893 articles in the daily TIMES OF ISRAEL, some fiction, mostly non-fiction. Mainly experiences in my life, mostly what I call “random thoughts”.

They are bound in 24 volumes consisting of almost four thousand pages, and anticipating a time when I will cease from writing. What new adventure will be at my doorstep before I am carried off to my grave?

There is, however, one badge of honor which I very much still treasure. In 1947, one year before our independence from Great Britain, the Children’s Register of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael sponsored an essay contest on the subject of Palestine (Eretz Yisrael).

I was at that time fourteen years old and had been an active member in the Zionist youth movement, first in the General Zionists and later in the Herut party of Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin.

My parents encouraged me to enter the contest which required writing an original essay dealing with the Palestine problem, a very severe and often bloody problem in 1947.

I did not know where to begin nor how to begin. But as I sat at my desk and looked carefully at the map of mandated Palestine I tore out empty pages from from an old notebook, sharpened my pencil, and when my thoughts were completed I transferred the hand-written words onto a typewriter.

If I were asked today what I wrote in 1947 I could not remember. When sent to the Jerusalem office of the Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael, my essay was given the number of 12505, indicating that my essay was one of 12, 505 entries. And I was sure that I would not succeed in being a winner of the essay contest.

But on the 21st day of May 1947, I was honored to receive a beautiful colorful certificate which read, under my name, in Hebrew and in English “Baal Prass Madrega ‘B’ b’Tacharut Hachiburim al Nosai Eretz Yisrael” —Winner of the Second Prize in Essay Contest on Palestine”.

Signed by “Ha Lishka Ha Rashit Shel Ha Keren HaKayemeth LeYisrael b’Yerushalayim”. The main office in Jerusalem.

I don’t think that any of you could have realized the supreme joy of a 14 year old boy. I held the certificate close to my heart and from time to time bringing it to my lips to kiss it. I had never experienced such an honor.

Two days later, I noticed that the prized certificate was missing. Frightened and pained I asked my mother what had happened to it. She hugged me and told me not to worry. There would be a surprise when my father returned home from work.

And so there was. When he returned home, my father came into my bedroom holding a hammer and a few nails in one hand and my beautiful certificate in a beautiful frame which he had bought.

With only a few bangs, the nail found its way onto the wall just above my bed and my father handed me the framed certificate and gave me the honor of hanging it. My parents stood by and watched with pride.

Seventy-three years later, it still hangs on another wall in another home in a place where I can see it every day.

I don’t remember the title of my essay but I took then and still take now much pride in being a winner of the Second Prize in an essay contest which was sponsored at a time when Eretz Yisrael was not yet Medinat Yisrael… when the Land of Israel (Palestine) was not yet the State of Israel.

The honor of winning second prize 73 years ago brings a glow into my aged heart.

It is the treasure that I won in 1947 that still hangs on my wall and which I gaze upon with pride.

Now… I only wish that I could remember what I had written in my 1947 essay. Ah, the frailty of the human mind. Memories slip in and then out again !

I enjoy the slipping in. It’s the slipping out that I detest.

As I learned from university in France so many long ago and far-away days:

“plaisirs d’amour ne durent qu’un moment. Chagrins d’amour restent pour toute la vie”

The joys of love last for only a moment. The pains of love last forever.

In my life I have blessed the light and cursed the darkness while realizing that both are partners and one cannot exist without the other.

Eliezer Ben-Yehudah captured it in only two little Hebrew words: “ain braira”. No alternative.

He was a wise man. No wonder that every city, town and village in Israel have streets named for him.

Meanwhile, my next effort will be to re-locate the title of my 1947 essay on Palestine. The years are fading too quickly.

But the beautiful certificate is still hanging on the wall 73 years later !

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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