Growing up in the North of England ensures that you are ‘music conscious.’ I associate events with songs. The Queen, recently, recalled hard times quoting the war-time song,’ We’ll Meet Again.’
In Leeds, we were envious of Liverpool. In my family even more so. My cousin, in a moment of blindsight, answered his friend, Brian Epstein with the shattering, ‘what does my night club need with those four yobs?’ The Beatles went to the Cavern instead of our Sonny’s Latin Quarter.
In Leeds, and in my family we had a feeling of ‘missing out,’ what came naturally to others came hard to us. Queue – ‘Let The Heart Aches Begin.’
As a Jewish family, we were not religious. There were two holidays we observed, one with the community and one with the family. They are Yom Kippur and Pesach.
As a family, we were one, especially at Pesach. We always aspired to be a particular part of the community. Leeds Jewry was more or less split into three broad groups. Professionals who were respected, Wide Boys who thought that anyone and anything was exploitable, and a small portion that went to jail. Professionals saught respect, and Wide Boys searched for suckers. The Benjamins and Warshowskis knew ‘respect’ two generations ago. Respect is an enshrined value; respect yourself and others. Wide Boys humiliated us all.
My last dad’s last words were, ‘Michael, look after the family.’ I respect his wishes. We do respect. Fortunately, in Israel, there is only one Pesach Seder night. The rest of the world celebrates two. Until last year I would celebrate with my nuclear family here- hop on a plane and celebrate with my brothers the next day. After all, Yom Kippur is community; Pesach is family.
All this in spite that my family had disappointed me. Here’s how:
Yom Kippur, 1973 brought on us the most awful of wars. Jews were dying, the powers that be had failed calamitously. We were worse than unprepared. Our stores were depleted, the needed reserves were missing, the logistics were a shambles. The writing on the wall was ignored, the warnings were dismissed. The country- the people, mobilised. And the man in the streets undid the abysmal consequences of an overconfident, self-satisfied and utterly failed leadership.
Boys died, mothers cried, and I experienced the battles through the eye of a syringe needle. I treated PTSD; I became one of the many walking wounded. Tired and broken, I asked for a ticket to furlough in Leeds. Mum said no.
The song of the war was, ‘It’s Yesterday Once More.’ The song sang of a past that had passed no matter how much we tried to live in it.
We all felt awful, but together we Israelis—I, now was a confirmed one- pulled together.
Out of the gloom and gloominess stepped one man. Motti Ashkenazi protested, he gave voice, and the impossible happened; within four years, Yesterday was no more. The corrupt, inept establishment was discarded. Enter one Menachem Begin. A mensch, a man who gave and commanded respect. A social revolution galvanised us all. There was a new start.
We came together as one. Immigrants and second and third-generation aristocrats were finally equal.
Incrementally a new Israeli, yet recognised trait emerged and eventually dominated.
We were to cursed to realise a crippling trait that we once knew. We realised the all-pervasive influence after another war fought on another Holiday. We fought the Corona on our family holiday, Pesach.
Like the Yom Kippur war, the Pesach war found our arsenals bare, our leadership unprepared, warnings ignored and an arrogant upper echelon at loss and bickering. Once again, the street mobilised, and once again, we led ourselves from despair to a glimmer of hope.
We celebrate the Pesach holiday with our family. No Jew can picture Seder Night without family. Jews do not sequester on Pesach; yet we did just that- we were at war with the Corona.
Then the realisation struck. For a long time, we had fostered the epoch of the Wide-Boys. The not standing in queues, not doing reserve-duty, avoiding taxes, the smirk that those who do are suckers. Self-respect and respecting others were dead. Shame was in, and civil responsibility and common decency were out. The trait was everywhere, especially in politics. Politicians lived and died by one ethic. ‘Make a promise and break the promise.’ Do not respect your word. Do not expect anyone else to. Whoever did not live by this was a sucker and useless. The biggest liars survived, controlled and were idolised; they had their Yom-Kippur moment. And we had ours.
As we isolated ourselves, as we fought to overcome the Corona, our leaders felt they had no need. They are not suckers- we are. Our leaders neither respected their words, nor did they respect us.
Yesterday Once More, once more. This is more than a Deja- Vue. There is another Motti Ashkenazi, another honest man has stood up to this decrepit, failing, flailing establishment and said no more- your day is over.
For those who see a sucker when they look at Benny Gantz, then look again. It is the spirit of Motti Ashkenazi it’s Yesterday Once More. Decency and honesty are part of us and will not be denied.
Benny Gantz, thank you for the glimmer of decency, honesty and bravery. You will prevail- yesterday no more.