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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Six Days in June, 1967

Here's my article which appears in the latest Voices Magazine, April, 2007.

Six Days in June, 1967

I guess this will reveal to you how old I am. That's the price of "fame," no privacy, no secrets.

I was a senior in high school, and Great Neck North was my alma mata. For those of us who remember the time, we remember well that from May, 1967, there was a terrible fear that Israel would be destroyed.

Israel and World Jewry had put its faith in the United Nations to protect Israel, and when Egypt's Nasser told the UN forces patrolling the Suez Canal area to leave, they just hightailed and left. All that was left for us was to pray. I'm sure that Great Neck Jewish community wasn't alone in having massive meetings to which "everyone," Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated attended. In Great Neck all of the rabbis sat together on the podium; I was one of the ushers.

I was relatively new to Zionism, having been introduced to it by another of the Great Neck Jewish "activist" kids maybe a year before. Zionism and Aliyah were not on the NCSY curriculum in those days. Due to his influence, I had joined Betar where I learned pure Zionism without the "socialist-kibbutz" adjectives. Previously, I had thought of Israel as a place one leaves, since I knew Israelis who lived in New York but had never heard of a New Yorker moving to Israel. At the same time I was a SSSJ activist, with the emphasis on Russian Jews leaving the USSR, but nobody seemed to ever reveal for where.

Great Neck is the kind of place, at least in the mid 1960's, which thinks and acts through its pocket, bank account and the like. Yes, that means that two of my strongest memories were of fund-raising during those stressful weeks.

The Great Neck Synagogue, which at the time was the only Orthodox Synagogue, sponsored a "clean-up" campaign. I don't remember the snappy slogan, but we, the members of the "Teen Club," the Great Neck Chapter of NCSY, offered to send kids to clean anything and everything for a donation which would be sent to Israel. I spent most of that day coordinating things, and if I'm not mistaken most people told the kids to wash their cars. One home I did go to was one of those enormous, stately mansions in Kensington, where we were asked to clean out the not-recently-used child-sized "dollhouse." People were very generous.

My other fund-raising venture was on Senior Class Beach Day. In those days one never missed school, on threat of dire punishments, and even something as ridiculous and frivolous as Senior Class Beach Day had to be attended. As a "newly religious," I did know that Jones Beach and a bathing suit weren't very proper, so I armed myself with a "pushka" and asked the hundreds fellow Jews in my class for donations.

Some kids politely put their ice cream money, or change after getting ice cream, into the "pushka," but others told me how their fathers had "just donated three ambulances to Israel, so I don't have any money for you!" Another one, a Jewish guy going out with a shiksa from the class, quickly emptied his pockets of change into the "pushka" and then "got it" from his girlfriend: "Why are you giving money to them?!"

During the war, we wanted to know what was going on, so my good friend (to this day) brought a transistor radio to school. Today, in the days of almost "microscopic" ipods and the like, it's probably hard for many to imagine, but a transistor radio was big, very big, like a large dictionary and just as comfortable if you're sitting on it. Yes, that's what we did to hide it from the teacher.

During most classes we wouldn't dare, but there was a substitute in "Accounting for Seniors." As we both recall, we were the only females in the class, both of us being daughters of CPA's… but that's another story. The "sub" couldn't control the class at all, and none of us had the patience to even attempt to be nice to her. She knew that my friend had brought in the radio and heard it, but she couldn't find it. I was sitting on it while it broadcast the news to the class. That was probably the only "funny thing" that happened to me during the war.

Did I have an inkling that I'd be living in some of the Biblical Land liberated in the Six Days War? Honestly, no. The concept of Aliyah was still "jelling" in my mind, and I still wasn't very familiar with Eretz Yisrael beyond the abstract. If I had been asked about Shiloh, I'd have been stumped. But Shiloh has been my home for almost twenty-six years already, and I have no plans on moving.

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