The Greats and the Holies

The baritone and bass tones of their voices rose through the cool night air and entered our bedroom. The trisim – the shutters – were open so it was easy hear them as my sister and I lay in bed. Unable to sleep or resist the urge to see who was at the party, we scrambled to the windows – binoculars in hand – and peered down into the backyard of the villa that was directly behind our apartment building.

These gatherings happened fairly regularly. I easily recognized a few of them, like Moshe Dayan with his black eyepatch, but as a mere ten-year-old I couldn’t fully appreciate who these men were. They were important, yet seemingly down to earth; wearing shorts and sandals, chain smoking, drinking, laughing, and talking. Meir Amit (who had a brilliant military career and was head of the Mossad from 1963 to 1969) was the homeowner and host. More importantly to me, he was the landlord of the apartment in which my family lived from 1972 to 1974. His frequent guests included the likes of Moshe Dayan, Yitchak Rabin, and Shimon Peres…and I literally had a birdseye view of their comraderie.

Israel was a very different place in the early ’70s than it is today. And so were these men. It only was decades later that I’d learn of the magnitude of who they – and the others who surrounded them – were. I came to understand their passionate desire to build a strong State of Israel; to enable all Jews to live safely and in peace in their own land. Even more so, who would have imagined that I’d have the privilege of working with Meir’s grandson to further the cause from a perch in Atlanta.

joint_photo_of_senior_idf_staff_with_prime_minister_and_minister_of_defense_david_ben-gurion__defense_ministry_officials_on_1_may_1961

JOINT PHOTO OF SENIOR IDF STAFF WITH PM DAVID BEN GURION (C) & DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIALS on MAY 1, 1961

Seated from right to left: Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Levi Eshkol, David Ben Gurion, Zvi Zur, Asher Ben Natan; First row standing from right to left: Yochai Ben Nun, Haim Ben David, Joseph Nachmias, Yitzhak Rabin, Haim Leskov, Yaakov Dori, Mordecai Maklef, Meir Amit, Ezer Weisman; Back row standing from right to left: Uzi Narkis, Shlomo Goren – Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Unknown, Aharon Doron, David “Dado” Elazar, Zvi Zamir, Avraham Yafe, Ben James Gal, Shaike Gavish, Unknown.

 

With the passing of Shimon Peres this week, I feel tremendously sad and empty that the last of “the greats” is gone. He had a vision. He built a nation. He had dreams and hopes. It’s unclear who will carry his torch forward. But I feel comforted in knowing that he and Meir Amit are together again, with their friends, watching from above. They all deserve to rest in peace.

*     *     *

Rosh Hashanah is next week. A new year. A fresh start. A renewed chance to right wrongs and confess the unspoken. A time to come clean and look ahead. An occasion to be better and do things differently. An acceptance of what we cannot change and a determination to effect what we can. A recognition of how little time we each have to make a difference and an opportunity to determine the legacy we each will leave the generations that follow us.

May we all work together to have a Shana Tova U’mituka. 

(Thank you for the photos, Itai!)