Kfar Maccabiah, April 30, 2014
Yom Ha'Atzma'ut: Israel's 66th Independence Day:
Maccabi Youth defending the State of Israel
Medinat Israel was founded through the valiant efforts and love of 600,000 Jews who fought for its independence and gave of their best to achieve the blessing of a life as a Nation for the Jewish People everywhere.
In the War of Independence or Liberation, more than 6,000 Jews died in defense of the nascent Jewish State - a huge proportion: over 1% of the total population. 39 operations or campaigns in 4 different phasesmade possible the viability of a small State for the Jewish People decimated only a few years earlier by the Holocaust. While the Declaration of Independence was formally promulgated on 14 May 1948, 5 Iyar 5708, the war actually began with attacks by the Arabs of Palestine against the Jewish Yishuv ("the pre-State" of Israel) on 29 November 1947, when the United Nations recognized the historical right of the Jewish People to their ancestral land, the Land of Israel. The war ended only on 20 July 1949 with an armistice, still the only agreement we have with some of our neighbors in the region. The War lasted almost two years, and needed all the forces of our reborn nation for its triumph.
Maccabi members participated actively in both the establishment of the State and its defense, in the ranks of our Youth Movement Maccabi Tzair, in Maccabi sport groups and disciplines, and after the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), as soldiers. Many of our finest fell protecting our ancient Homeland. Each and every one did so conscious of Maccabi's commitment to Zionism and to establishment of the independent Jewish State. Their names and their stories are honored by the State, and cherished by their families, both by their natural families, and by the big Maccabi Family.
In our Pierre Gildesgame Museum in Kfar Maccabiah, which displays much of the Maccabi Legacy and our history as a Jewish-Zionist Movement there is a very beautiful object that honors Maccabi leaders and members who lost their lives in the War of Liberation. It is "The Cup of the 10", a Trophy in memory of the ten members of Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Department who fell in the War of Independence:
Arieh Gissin; Natan Pantz; Shimshon Rossi; Abraham Gelbert; Chaim Goldstein; Shlomo Citrine; Yosef Israeli; Arieh Sharoni (Blumenthal); Meir Mendelsohn, and Baruch Feuer
, May their Memories be Blessed. The trophy was donated by the families of the fallen to a football tournament between Maccabi teams in Israel, as a way of keeping alive these Maccabi athletes' heroic stories and their sporting achievements.
The biographies of these 10 heroes deserve mention and study. Each is a unique and personal face of the dedication and love that made possible for a Third Jewish State arisen from the ashes of the Holocaust. In their honor, and representing the Maccabi spirit, here is the story behind one name inscribed on the Cup of the 10: Arieh Gissin.
Arieh was born on 5 March 1926 in Rishon LeTzion, grandson of one of the founders of the first Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. He was a young man of many talents: mechanic, carpenter, musician in the Rishon LeTzion Maccabi Orchestra, Jewish Policeman, and an exceptional athlete. From age 14 he joined the ranks of the Haganah, the army of the Yishuv, and our Maccabi Tzair Youth Movement, showing great leadership skills and gaining admiration everywhere. In sports, he was a true champion in tennis, table-tennis and one of the best football players with the Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Maccabi Tel Aviv teams, and selected for the "Maccabi Eretz Israel" national team to represent the future State in international competitions in Cyprus.
When Israel's War of Liberation / Independence broke out, Arieh could have been excused on medical grounds of serious illness from participation in the war. However, Arieh enlisted immediately: he could bear the illness much more easily than the feeling of abandoning his friends on the battlefield. Without revealing his condition to anyone, Arieh enlisted in the Givati unit of the newborn IDF. With his mates, Arieh was sent south to fight Egyptian and Libyan forces which had invaded the newly declared State. With his action and that of his unit, the Israeli forces conquered Tzrifin (Sarafand), successfully ejecting the aggressors. Arieh and his companions had to free the road to the Negev from Egyptian occupation, but the first ceasefire was declared.
The Egyptians violated the ceasefire, and attacked Israeli forces on the night of 7-8 July 1948. The Israeli plan to free the Negev was then delayed, but on the night of 8-9 July IDF forces fought the Egyptians and freed the northeastern Negev. The Egyptians did not leave the area: they attacked incessantly, over and over again, the post Arieh and his companions held. Israeli forces eventually prevailed, but at a high price, including Arieh's death in battle on 10 July. He was buried in Be'er Tuvia, a rural area between Rishon LeTzion and the northern Negev. And his family, in memory of the legendary liberator and soldier, brought to Maccabi World Union the beautiful "Cup of 10" and offered it for perpetual exhibition in our Museum. The Cup honors us; and with it we honor the heroic Zionist action of Maccabi members and leaders who fought for the Freedom of our Nation.
Real, historical episodes of heroism; a testimony to Maccabi values, conviction and responsibility, deep love for the Land of Israel and dedication to our mission of building the Jewish State on the soil of Eretz Yisrael; a chronicle of courageous Maccabi Youth who dreamed of a better future for our People, and who actually made it happen through their pioneering actions.
On this 66th Yom HaAtzma'ut, may we all be blessed in the joy of witnessing the further growth and flourishing of our small but great State, in peace, recognition and acceptance by the Nations of the Earth,
of our dream of a united Jewish People returned to Eretz Tzion vi'Yirushalayim, the Land of Zion and of Jerusalem, Eternal Capital of our People.
May God bless the State of Israel, which marks the beginning of our national Renaissance, the rebirth of our pride and our Future as a People.
Chag Ha'Atzma'ut Sameach!
Chazak ve' ematz!
RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union