Friday, January 17, 2014

Two Very Different People

"CONTINUE the rebellion", she told the young.
TWO very different Israelis died this month. From David Cameron to former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we heard nothing but praise for Ariel Sharon. The Unit 101 commander who destroyed homes at Qibya in 1953, killing 69 villagers, mainly women and children; the Defence Minister who misled his own government into sanctioning all out war in Lebanon in 1982; the man who unleashed the Sabra and Chatila massacres, and the cynical right wing politician whose march on the Temple Mount provoked the Second Intifada to wreck peace talks, were forgotten.

We were asked to remember Sharon as a man of peace, condemned only by the Kahanists and Gaza settlers whom he moved so he could concentrate on settling the West Bank. Well our memories are not so conveniantly whitewashed.

A very different Israeli died the day before Sharon made his long overdue departure. I'm ashamed to admit I'd never heard of Chavka Folman-Raban until someone mentioned her in the JSG group on Facebook. I don't suppose she'll get much of a mention from the Establishment now. But Chavka was a heroine whose story should be told.

Born in Kielce, Poland, in 1924, she found herself in the Warsaw ghetto with her family after Poland was occupied. Employed for a time as slave labour on farms,   Chavka, a member of the youth movement Dror, soon found other work. With her fair hair and blue eyes she could pass as a Polish "Aryan", and became a courier for the Jewish Fighting Organisation, passing messages between the Warsaw ghetto and Cracow, and smuggling weapons in to the ghetto fighters, While on a mission to Cracow she was captured, and endured the rest of the war in Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. 

In Israel, Chavka became a founder of kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot (the Ghetto Fighters) in western Galilee. Last year on the anniversary of the ghetto revolt she addressed a gathering there: 

  " On April 19 1943, seventy years ago, the first rebellion in occupied Europe broke out–the Jewish rebellion. I wasn’t part of it. As a courier, I had been arrested during resistance operations in Cracow and had been brought to Auschwitz a number of months earlier.  All of my nearest, most beloved comrades fought from the rooftops, in the fires, from the bunkers. Most of them perished. I hurts me that I can no longer remember all their names. We memorialize only a few. But in my heart I am not parted from them, from the forgotten.

Leave in your hearts and memories a place for them, younger generations. For the beautiful and bold, so young, who fell in the last battle. I wish for the thousands of you before me, lives enriched with love, beauty, laughter, and meaning.

Continue the rebellion. A different rebellion of the here and now against evil, even the evil befalling our own and only beloved country. Rebel against racism and violence and hatred of those who are different. Against inequality, economic gaps, poverty, greed and corruption.   Rebel against the Occupation. No–it is forbidden for us to rule over another people, to oppress another [people]. The most important thing is to achieve peace and an end to the cycle of blood[letting]. My generation dreamed of peace. I so want to achieve it. You have the power to help. All my hopes are with you. If only [you could]...."

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