“Myself I have sworn”, says the Lord,
“because you have done this thing… I will bless you…
I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven”
“If you don’t believe in Miracles, it is not practical to exist in Israel.”
~ David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister
History begins in the garden and ends in the city. In the beginning, the garden was Eden, and then the fall. In the end, the city is Jerusalem, and then eternity. G-d has declared the end from the beginning. Jerusalem, you are the eternal city, a city of destiny. You are not one of the cities of men.
The cities of men, whose glory flashes brilliantly on the plains of history. But, history is a fickle and presumptuous guest. In a moment’s time, it scurries from the plains to the horizon, disappearing into the night. How the cities of men once boasted that the stars were arrayed just so, as permanent celestial ushers, guiding humanity to the halls and boulevards of these great metropolises.
But, Jerusalem, you knew their folly. You brooded. And you endured the indignities of the cursed and the grandeur of the blessed. History is your witness.
You have suffered thieves and charlatans; and you have been glorified by voices so true history cannot contain them, for they reverberate in the foundations of the world.
You have been defiled by idolatry and abominable sacrifices; and you have been sanctified by the Ark of the Covenant and the Passover lamb.
You have trembled as stallions and chariots thundered through your streets; and you have been bemused by the wonder of donkeys carrying Kings. And what glorious Kings: David and Solomon. Kings, and Kings of Kings.
Rejoice, Jerusalem. You are the eternal address of “I AM.” He has returned his “firstborn” to your embrace. It will not be as in the days of old. Now, they will be with you always. You will see things. You have seen things. But you have never seen the end. Heaven is your witness.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, your sorrows shall pass into the night. Search your memories. At the appointed time, transcendent voices who whispered in your chambers, and your upper chambers, will have universal resound. The great oceans, having been released from the thrall of the moon, will shimmer in exaltation. The Lion of Judah and His celestial armies will stride down the glory roads of heaven and enter through your Eastern Gate. His are not the armies of the night, but the armies of the eternal day. History ends in the city.
But before the end, there were men. And women. There was me. There was her. There was him. There was a boy. There were secrets. Some were shared. Some were not. Some were revealed; even grandly revealed to discerning hearts. I know not how. The boy may know. I am not sure. And so it begins.
It was different then. I was on my way to becoming “David’s Mighty Warrior.” The future was at hand. But, the tellers of tales would have to wait. I was a warrior who had survived the sword, and a physicist who, like Galileo, believed that “mathematics is the language with which G-d has written the universe.” But a grateful nation had to be grateful in small, hushed ceremonies. Her medals were furtively awarded, and then secreted away in the locked offices of my superiors. Perhaps my death would bring remembrance. I hoped for much more.
“Ancient hatreds” had come to Jerusalem. And on the third day, it was united again. None of us had been confident of that. Many of us were not even confident of our survival as a state. And if the state could not survive, would the nation?
The odds were long in the run-up to the ‘67 war. There were two and a half million of us in those days. Less than half of the six million who perished in the Holocaust. Another Holocaust seemed to be in the offing.
The total strength of our forces, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was 275,000 troops. We faced a combined Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian army of 460,000 soldiers. The Arabs also had a qualitative edge. They had four times the amount of combat aircraft, and double the number of tanks.
“And there is nothing new under the sun.” Over three thousand years ago, by the Lord’s beneficence, the children of Israel were bequeathed the land of Canaan. Moses was commanded to send spies to the land of Canaan, and so he did. Moses ordered his spies to see what the land was like, whether the people were few or many, strong or weak.
Moses’ spies had bad news for him. He was told that “the people who dwell in the land were strong; the cities were fortified and very large; and that the men were of great stature.”
Three thousand years later, our intelligence services, and the intelligence services of the Americans and Europeans, delivered equally bleak assessments. They told us we were staring at a rout. Gravesites were being prepared at our nation’s cemeteries and national parks. Our fear had overwhelmed the miracle that was the State of Israel. Were our people bereft of the spirit of Caleb and Joshua? Our faith had been vindicated by miracle after miracle. Now it was our faithlessness that left us gripped by dread.
So faithless were our ancestors that Moses himself had to intercede for us to convince the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that we should not be disinherited.
Faithful men did emerge in the days before the ‘67 war. One of those faithful men harkened us back to the days of Exodus. Rabbi Menachem Schneerson summoned all Jewish men to remember that G-d brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. It would be as it was in the days of old.
“It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.”
“It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
And so it was that all Jewish men, warriors and civilians alike, were to wear “tefillin” as a sign and remembrance of our Exodus from Egypt. Each tefillin, a small black box with straps, contained scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. We attached one to our head, and one to our arm.
Our spirits were lifted. Our fears were not dashed, but they were at least held at bay. The nation paused to reconsider itself. Should we fixate on the miracle of 1948, or the horrors of the “final solution?” It was different this time. We were armed, as in the days of Joshua and David. But would we face our Goliath with the faith of David? G-d said of David that he was “a man after His own heart.” So… we would fight for our survival, and hope that G-d would uncover enough “true” hearts among us. We had been in the wilderness, and worse, far too long.
My wife, Shoshana was not completely consoled. She was faithful to G-d, and fearful for her husband.
We had very little to fear in the years leading up to the ‘67 war. At least Shoshana thought so. As far as the world knew, I was a physics professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Hebrew University was the fulfillment of a dream of the Zionist movement: a Jewish university in the Land of Israel. The university’s first Board of Governors included Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. I often told Shoshana that had I been interviewed by Sigmund Freud, I might have found myself teaching at a Bedouin high school in the Negev desert. A man with secrets could unravel quickly in the midst of a withering interrogation by Dr. Freud.
It was a dream come true, and a blessing from G-d. The dream began to take shape when I became a graduate student at Princeton University. Decades earlier, Einstein taught at Princeton. After I received the news of my appointment as professor to Hebrew University, I began to ponder the thrill of devoting my life to completing Einstein’s unfinished work on a unified field theory. As I would discover, the unified field theory only recorded the faint echoes of what beat at the heart of the universe. The prophet Joel was right: It is old men who dream dreams; young men see visions.
I met Shoshana when I returned from Princeton. She was a vision of beauty and grace.
My brother Aaron was eager to celebrate my return to Israel. It so happened that I received confirmation of my post at Hebrew University during the week of Passover. That year, Passover ended on Friday at sundown, which marked the beginning of Shabbat, the celebration of the Sabbath. I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv; it was nightfall on Saturday. Aaron insisted that we attend a Mimouna festival. The ride with Aaron gave me an hour to sleep before our entry into Jerusalem.
Before I dozed off, I remember Aaron mentioning that we were going to the home of a Rabbi who taught at Yeshiva University… and something about his daughter.
From the backseat of Aaron’s car, through the lens of my sleep-induced memories, I was reliving our days together in the Israel Defense Forces. Although the same age, Aaron and I grew up as brothers.
My mother and father had escaped Germany on October 4, 1938. Their timing was good. The day after, October 5, 1938, all Jewish passports were invalidated. Shortly thereafter, my parents landed in London. But that was not the end of their journey. Early in 1939, they emigrated to the land of Israel. Later in 1939, I was born in Tel Aviv.
Those years among the Zionist pioneers were undoubtedly filled with joy and dread. Arab opposition to the Zionist project became more extreme and violent, especially in the years leading up to the creation of Israel. As the outcome of the war in Europe became clear, there was, however, a palpable feeling of anticipation among the Jewish community in Tel Aviv.
By the time we had celebrated the last day of Hanukkah on December 7, 1945, the joy among our family and friends seemed so buoyant, their voices ricocheted out of our apartment and down the nearby streets. The forced smiles of yesteryear gave way to the broader and broader smiles of a prospective Jewish homeland. It was a good time to be a six year old.
In January of the following year, it was not such a good time to be a six year old. The news was grim. My father, who had become world renowned in cancer research, was on his way to an international cancer symposium, which was to be held in Jerusalem. My mother had accompanied him. Their car was viciously attacked. Both my beloved parents died.
They died before the end came for a deranged and soulless enterprise known as the Thousand Year Reich. It was occultist to its core. And, as I came to understand, its provenance, who lived even at the beginning, was not done.
I was spared because my parents had asked our dear friends, the Weiss family, if I could stay with them until the conference was over. By that time, their son Aaron and I were inseparable. After my parents’ death, the Weiss’s adopted me, and Aaron and I grew up as brothers. Out of respect for my mother and father, the Weiss’s insisted that I retain the family name.
I am Isaac Singer, and I have had the “gift” of two sets of loving parents. It was a “gift” that Job would understand: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
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