As many of you know, although Robin and I made Aliyah, I still work for a US company and have to return to the US and spend 183 days a year here. Of course, that is a hardship for me and my family; however, all my career, I have spent a significant time traveling internationally. I have traveled to over 40 states and countries,, sometimes for months at a time. There was a year I spent almost 45 days in China; the maximum amount of time you are allowed to be in the country on a single visa.
And yet, this is not like other travels. I long to be in the land of Israel. Perhaps it is because my family is there, or perhaps it is where my heart and soul feel at peace. I have always been challenged to learn new languages, and yet I long to hear Hebrew whether I fully understand it or not.
So tonight I decided to give into my yearnings and watched “Cast a Giant Shadow.” Part of my desire was because I missed Israel. Part of the desire was to pay my respects to Kirk Douglas.
First, I must share a strick rule we have in my house. Before you are allowed to watch a movie, you have to read the book before watching the movie. Luckily, I read the book in High School! Anyone who has not read the book is really missing out on a classic.
“Cast a Gian Shadow” is the story of Colonel Micky Marcus. He was a Jewish West Point graduate who was recruited by the pre-state of Israel to help the fledgling nation create a modern army. He taught the Israelis how an army is run, from issuing orders to developing battle plans. According to the book and movie, he was also an integral part of breaking the siege of Jerusalem, but this may be more of a myth than reality. I simply do not know.
What I do know is that he died a tragic death. Mickey Marcus never learned Hebrew. While entering a camp, he was asked for the password in Hebrew. Not understanding he was unable to provide the correct answer. So a shomer shot him believing him to be an intruder.
As I was watching, my father walked in. I asked him if he recognized the movie or knew of the story. Since he did not, I attempted to tell him of the tragic tale of Mickey Marcus. I found it hard to tell him without choking up.
I am not an emotional person. I am if anything a pragmatist. I studied Engineering and have always been a person of fact, not feeling. And yet, I could not tell a simple story.
Perhaps it is longing for my family and the extended separation. But I believe it is more than that. I have a love of the land of Israel and the Jewish people that is deep and profound. I believe with all my heart that Jews should live in Israel. My Rabbi’s wife calls me an Aliyah snob.
I read all I can on Israel and Zionism; fiction or non-fiction, it does not matter. I try my best to absorb and understand this modern miracle. Although a practicing Jew, the concept of the Messiah has always been an abstract concept tome. And yet when I reread my Bar Mitzvah portion, Nitzavim-Vayelach, I can see the prophecy of the ingathering of Jews occurring right before my very eyes. When I see the rise in Antisemitism around the world, I see it as Hashem’s hand gently nudging Jews from all around the world to return home.
Shabbat in my house wherever we were was always a joyous occasion, but there is nothing that compares to when I have Shabbat in Jerusalem. Even the whole day leading up to Shabbat is a treat. From breakfast with one or more of my children on Ben Yehuda; next, a short walk to the shuk making a small detour on Rechov Beeri to stop in my favorite book store, Pomerantz, to see what has come in and have another talk with the owner’s son. Next onto the shuk, to stop at all my favorite haunts to shop for Shabbat. There is the chicken guy, the guy I purchase merguez, the Iraqi shuk for fruits and vegetables. I have a store for rice, beans and grains, another for dried fruit, another for freshly roasted coffee and of course the place where I purchase my wine. On the way out I make sure to pick Challah and rugalach at Marzipan. Half the fun to Shabbat is the preparation. From the shopping to the cooking to all my children, their spouses, and guests arriving for Shabbat Dinner.
This is but one of the many experiences I am denied when I am back in the US. But most of all, I am in the US and not my beloved Israel with my wife and family; not to mention Izzy my dog and Cookie my cat. So I read, I watch movies and yearn. I picked “Cast a Giant Shadow” because of Kirk Douglas. Kirk was born a Jew. He tried hard in his life to assimilate but in the end, he remembered he was a Jew. At the age of 103 Hashem acknowledged that Kirk had completed his mission in this world and took him to Olam Habah (the world to come).
I had met him once in Mrs. Adler’s, Steven Speilberg’s mother’s restaurant in Los Angeles. He was sitting a the table upfront reserved for VIPs. The business associates I took to the restaurant were so excited. I was more impressed that the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Lamb, was in the restaurant. But the fact I remember most about Kirk Douglas was his love of Israel. Around the corner from my cousin’s apartment, where Robin and I spent our first year in Jerusalem after making Aliyah, was a park that was donated by Kirk Douglas.
So I watch my movies, read my books, write of my longing and count the days until I can return. So as the movie ends, I put on Exodus, another book I read in High School. After that, I will retire to my bedroom, and finish reading A.B. Yehoshua’s, “The Lover.” Then I will go to sleep and dream of my return.
Perhaps this weekend I will rewatch “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”