Linda Pardes Friedburg
Russian-speaking American Israeli Community-building Mom

Parshat Bo: ‘Operation Wedding’ or ‘Jenin, Jenin’?

Poster - Operation Wedding documentary, Israel-Latvia 2016

Just before God sends the last three plagues, he tells Moshe the ultimate reason for the miracles he is performing in Egypt:

“So that you will fill the ears of your children and grandchildren with the wonders I wrought in Egypt…and you will know that I am God.” (Shmot 10:2)

Our own God-consciousness, and the proud collective Jewish memory of our children and grandchildren are the true goals of our pyro-technic redemption from Egypt, and the reason for the celebration of Pesach by future Jewish generations, elaborated in great detail in this Parasha.

Even before we left Egypt, somehow God knew that we would be in a battle for our children’s hearts.  Today, while we may try to limit their time on social media, the competition for their attention is fierce.

I was therefore so grateful to participate in the Zoom screening of “Operation Wedding” with my 12-year old daughter Mekimi and her class last week.

The movie recounts the beginnings of a modern, no less moving Exodus, brought about by young Jews who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Clal. The attempted hijacking of an empty plane by Soviet Jews from Leningrad in 1970, to call attention to the refusal of Soviet authorities to let Jews emigrate to Israel, essentially kick-started the whole Soviet Jewry movement.

Mekimi was clearly affected by this film and the Zoom discussion afterwards, with Director Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov and her mother Sylva Zalmanson, who participated with her husband and brothers in this dangerous Operation, in the guise of a family wedding.

Mekimi excitedly told her siblings how Sylva had stood up before the courtroom full of KGB, after hearing their final sentences – death for her husband, and 10 years for her in the Gulag – and declared in Hebrew, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither away! Im eshkachech Yerushalaim, tishkach yemini! Next year in Jerusalem!”

She told her class that her father was from Belarus, and I added that my later involvement in this struggle had strengthened my own Jewish identity as a teenager and my motivation to make Aliyah.  Anat emphasized to them how such Jewish solidarity and demonstrations by Jews around the world, as shown in the movie, had given hope to her parents and helped free hundreds of thousands of Jews from behind the Iron Curtain.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Anat, Sylva, and the former American Soviet Jewry activists who made available this film and discussion to 50 Israeli schools, in honor of 50 years since the attempted hijacking.  They helped ingrain this epic period of Jewish history and our family history in Mekimi’s personal consciousness.

The same day as this inspiring experience, I read that the screening of the movie “Jenin, Jenin” had finally been banned inside Israel. After an 18-year legal battle, the soldiers of Operation Protective Edge who filed the lawsuit achieved some justice against the film’s many gross distortions and fabricated acts of IDF violence and immorality.

We can only fight darkness by adding light, and hence, one more Mekimi anecdote:

I recently found a folded piece of paper on the floor – another one of Mekimi’s Zoom assignments:  to write a letter to someone who had helped the Jewish People. She had chosen the late Major Ro’i Klein.

“Where did you get the courage to jump on the grenade to save your soldiers,” she asked him, “even though you knew you’d be killed?

I learned many things from you,” she added, “bravery, a big heart, and sacrifice for others.
With love, Mekimi”

We can’t destroy the negative influences in our world, but we can try to expose our children to the many powerful stories of mutual responsibility,  kindness, and courage of amazing Jewish men and women throughout history.

And pray that these are the stories that enter their hearts, and that they share one day with their children.

Shabbat shalom!

About the Author
Linda Pardes Friedburg made Aliyah from New Jersey in 1990. She is Founding Director of Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli National Jewish Leadership Initiative for Young Russian-Speaking Israelis, is grateful for her six kids and one Belarussian husband, and still feels the need to pinch herself every time she drives up the hill to Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion, their home since 1994. OLIM FOR TZAHAL
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