This year marks not only the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, but also of specific battles during the War of Independence.
One such early battle was that of Nabi Yusha, an Arab village in the Galilee near Safed, which is believed to be the burial place of Joshua, the successor of Moses, who, unlike Moses, was permitted to enter the Promised Land.
In the late 18th century, the al-Ghul family built a Muslim shrine on the site, and the surrounding area gradually evolved into a small Arab village. At the end of the First World War, the area was controlled by the French, and in 1920 a territorial agreement between France and Britain moved the border back to what was then Palestine.
The village came under full British control in 1924.
During the Arab revolt of 1936-39, the British built a police station in the village, and in 1948 began evacuating Arab villages in the Galilee.
In 1948 Nebi Yusha was home to 81 residents, most of whom fled in 1948 to refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. Their descendants now number in excess of 500 people.
The police station was taken over by Arab forces and became a strategic fortress which is now used by the Border Police.
Following two failed attacks on Nebi Yusha by the Hagana prior to the end of the British Mandate, Yigal Allon, who was the commanding officer of the Palmah’s Yiftah Brigade, was put in charge of what has become known as Operation Yiftah.
The total number of Israelis who fell in the three battles there is 28.
The site was renamed Metzudat Ko’ah, which in Hebrew means Fortress of Strength. The numerical value of the Hebrew word “ko’ah” is 28, signifying that the renaming of the fortress was also in memory of the 28 fallen soldiers, 15 of whom were born in pre-state Israel.
In January 2014, the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites opened the Reut Museum at the Ko’ah Fortress in memory of these 28 soldiers and the success of Operation Yiftah. The society was founded in 1986 by, among others, the late Yehuda Dekel, whose son Boaz built the museum with the help of industrialist Stef Wertheimer, members of Kibbutz Dafna and former Palmahniks.
Yehuda Dekel, as a 19-year-old Palmahnik, had helped to dig the mass grave for the 28 fallen soldiers.
Among those present at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the battle were veterans of the Palmah along with former chief of staff Benny Gantz and, of course, Boaz Dekel. The ceremony was held next to the mass grave at the foot of the citadel.
Gantz said that he had grown up on the legacy of the battle.
Items on display in the Reut Museum include the first draft of Haim Gouri’s famous poem “Hareut” (The Camaraderie) which was set to music by Sasha Argov and has become an Israeli classic that is always played on Remembrance Day. It was one of the favorite songs of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and was played at all IDF reunion events that he attended.
■ IT HAS been mentioned previously in this column, but until the matter is rectified, it will continue to be mentioned from time to time.
In a country that prides itself on cutting- edge technology, it is inexcusable that there is not a national Internet calendar, so that organizations and institutions planning important functions will not clash with one another at least time-wise, if they cannot avoid having their events on the same date.
Case in point is the Israel Democracy Institute’s launch of a Democracy Pavilion on Monday, April 9, which coincides with the Holocaust Memorial event of the Israel office of the American Jewish Committee.
Both organizations are headquartered in Jerusalem, but the IDI is having its event in Tel Aviv, presumably because Tel Aviv is a co-sponsor of the Democracy Pavilion and because the Declaration of Independence was signed in Tel Aviv.
A virtual Declaration of Independence will be signed at the IDI event, and even though David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, was the first to sign the original, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been invited to emulate him. Instead, the first signature on the virtual declaration will be that of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Other participants in the event are to include Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, IDI president and former MK Yohanan Plesner, IDI chairman of the board Amir Elstein and Sean Taub of Taub Philanthropies.
The pavilion will have an ongoing audio visual presentation of the history of Israel’s democracy, which visitors can view free of charge.
At the AJC event, three ambassadors will discuss some of what was done in their respective countries to save Jews. There will also be presentations by Holocaust survivors and second-generation survivors. The three ambassadors are Olivier Belle of Belgium, Edminas Bagdonas of Lithuania and Magnus Hellgren of Sweden. Some of their colleagues will also be present.
■ THE AMERICAN Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, a multidisciplinary association dedicated to advancing the safe and effective use of ultrasound in medicine through professional and public education, research, development of guidelines, and accreditation, has conferred an honorary fellowship on Hadassah-Hebrew University’s Dr. Simcha Yagel and has given him a life achievement award. The ceremony took place in New York toward the end of March.
Yagel is the head of the division of obstetrics and gynecology of Hadassah-University Medical Centers and the head of the Ultrasound Unit within the department.
He established this unit and has directed it from its inception in 1994. As a young resident, Yagel joined the Hadassah Mount Scopus department of obstetrics and gynecology in 1981, following his service in the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a physician. Other than his postdoctoral fellowships at the universities of California, San Francisco, Western Ontario and Toronto, he has devoted his entire career to Hadassah. He has been a full professor since 1999.
Many high achievers in different fields credit their teachers with a large measure of their success. Yagel’s pupils do likewise.
Yagel is a teacher at heart, and has advised many students on their MD, MPH and PhD theses. In his ultrasound unit, he teaches ultrasound examination techniques and invasive procedures. He instructs students, sonographers, and residents not only in his department but also residents from other hospitals. He also teaches advanced ultrasound techniques in the School of Ultrasound of the Israel Society for Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (of which he is a past president) and at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.
In 2009, Yagel founded the Israel Society for Placenta Research with his basic research colleagues and served as its first president until 2014. The society works to provide a forum for Israeli physicians and scientists to present their work and learn from one another, to advance this fascinating field.
He has published more than 300 basic and clinical research articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, including Science,ֲ The Lancet,ֲ Nature Medicine,ֲ The New England Journal of Medicine,ֲ Blood,ֲ Circulation,ֲ Journal of Clinical Investigation,ֲ Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology,ֲ American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,ֲ Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine,ֲ Prenatal Diagnosis and PLOS One. Other medical organizations in different parts of the world have adopted his approach to ultrasound, obstetrics and gynecology.
In addition to the many articles he has published, Yagel has written five books and eight chapters of a sixth. He is frequently invited to lecture abroad.
He also helps to raise money in grant funding for research, and so far can be credited with raising $3 million.
■ AT PASSOVER and Rosh Hashana, there seems to be greater awareness of Holocaust survivors living alone than at any other time of the year.
Four-hundred and fifty lone Holocaust survivors from all over the country congregated at the Avigdor banquet halls in Tel Aviv on Seder night and were given red-carpet treatment. Chef Erez Komorowsky made a special effort to produce a gourmet Passover meal, and waiters and waitresses included celebrities from Israel’s modeling and entertainment industries, among them husband-and-wife team Yehuda Levi and Shlomit Malka, Yarden Harel, Maya Dagan, Uri Pfeffer and others. Master of ceremonies for the occasion was Alex Ansky, and guests were serenaded by Rita and her daughter Meshi Kleinstein, and were provoked into laughter by stand-up comedian Adir Miller. There were other entertainers as well.
The event was organized by NGO Instant Help for Holocaust Survivors, which not only invited all the participants but brought them to the hall and transported them home afterward. Festive meals were sent to housebound survivors who were unable to attend. With all the backtracking, corruption and violence taking place in Israel, it’s comforting to know that there are still a lot of good, warmhearted people who look out for the welfare of their fellow human beings.