When I was a young teen-ager in 1947 I entered an essay contest under the auspices of the Keren Kayemet in Jerusalem. The assigned topic for considering all submitted essays was to be “Palestine” (Eretz Yisrael). I don’t recall what I wrote but to my surprise and my joy, even to this day in my old age, my essay was awarded second prize.
The Prize Certificate proudly framed remains hanging on a wall in my home. The Hebrew inscription reads:
Sefer HaYeled Shel HaKeren HaKayemet L’Yisrael: (Childrens’ Book of the Jewish National Fund In Palestine).
Baal Prass midarga Bet b’tacharut ha chiburim al nosai Eretz Yisrael: (Second Prize in Essay Contest on the Subject of Eretz Yisrael)
HaLishka HaRashit shel HaKeren HaKayemet L’Yisrael, Yerushalayim 21.5.1947 (Headquarters of the Jewish National Fund in Palestine, Jerusalem, May 21, 1947).
A few months later I wrote my very first letter to the editor of the Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post) and the editor, Gershon Agronsky (Agron) published it.
I was delirious with joy. I think my writing career began in that year, after Balfour Day and before the UN partition of Palestine was voted.
My parents were extremely proud of me and of my dedication and devotion to Zionism. While they were General Zionists , I found my niche in the Betar youth movement and was mesmerized by heroic tales of Josef Trumpeldor and the hymns of his legendary fame written by Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky.
In the late 1920’s, Jabotinsky was influenced by Italian youth movements, marches, uniforms, flags, and particularly by inspiring songs. The organized Jewish community in Palestine considered him a fascist who wanted to model Jewish youth in Eretz Yisrael as Mussolini had done in Italy. He was far from being a fascist and remains one of the greatest Zionist leaders of all times.
I had never seen Jabotinsky and had never heard his fiery speeches but our madrichim (leaders) shared with us at Betar meetings the words he had spoken and they were inspiring for a teen-ager who dreamed of an independent Jewish homeland to be reborn.
The concluding line of my Bar Mitzvah remarks in our synagogue was “livnot Yisrael al admat Yisrael”… to build Israel on the soil (land) of Israel.
Long years have passed. The “Palestine” memories are still cherished, and the dream of rebuilding the land of Israel is, as Herzl wrote “if you will it, it is no legend”.
But the mil, the grush and the piaster coins and the paper currency of the Anglo-Palestine Bank bring back memories. After independence in 1948 we had the paper Lira and coins called prutot and agorot, then the shekel and finally the NIS (New Israeli Shekel). What will come next? Maybe the Israeli dollar?
Mi yodaya? Oolai b’echad ha yomim. But who knows? Maybe one of these days.