Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Wearing an IDF Uniform at Auschwitz

This time of year in the Israeli calendar is an emotional roller coaster. We proceed from Yom HaShoah (Holocaust and Heroes Memorial day) today to Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for the IDF) to Yom Ha’Azmaut (Independence Day) all within the space of a week. From agony to ecstasy, from death to life and from despair to hope! Yom HaShoah reminds us of the awful fate that met the Jews when we were not independent in our land and responsible for our own defense. It is no coincidence that Yom HaZikaron immediately precedes Yom Ha’Atzmaut, for without the former the latter would not be possible. The “hope of two thousand years to be a free people in our land” (Hatikvah) only became a reality when we Jews took matters into our own hands. It is not enough only to yearn, weep, hope and pray as the Jews did for so many centuries. One has to stand up and do what is right, to “walk the walk.”

IAF PLanes over Auchwitz
IAF Eagles flying over Auschwitz Birkenau.  (Photo (C) IDF)

I have been guiding Taglit-Birthright since its inception and never cease to be wowed by the experience. One of the many factors that make Birthright trips so memorable are the soldiers who are part of the “Mifgash” (meeting between the Diaspora participants and IDF soldiers).

An image from my many trips that remains engraved in my memory took place at Yad Vashem. On the first day we met the soldiers I noticed that one of the soldiers had an unusual badge on her uniform. She told our group that it was an “Aidim Bemadim” (“Witnesses in Uniform”) badge given to IDF soldiers who are sent to Poland to represent the State of Israel on the “March of the Living.” At Yad Vashem she recounted that despite the freezing cold in Poland, the soldiers took off their coats and marched proudly in their dress uniforms with their backs straight and their heads held high. There were freezing cold tears on every soldiers face. When I asked her what the tears were for, she responded that they were both tears of despair and sorrow for being seventy years too late to help and at the helplessness of the Jews without a State and an army, and tears of pride for now being so strong and having the ability to protect Jews in Israel and world-wide. The tears of each emotion mingled on the youngster’s faces.

IMG_9742
IDF Mifgash soldiers at Yad Vashem on a Birthright Tour. (Photo (c) T. Book, 2017)

It is heart-warming in these times to meet these special Jewish young people who come to give and not to take, and who represent all that is good about the miraculous times we live in. After almost two stateless millennia we are in charge of our own destiny and we do have good people to show us the way.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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