The Mighty Power of the Sixth of Iyar
by Shlomo Zwickler
7 Iyar 5764/ April 28, 2004
There was a great deal of "hulabuloo" made this year about Tuesday being Yom Haatzmaut - Independence Day - here in Israel. In reality, it should have been yesterday, the 5th of Iyar, the date on which, in 1948, the Jews of the Land of Israel declared their sovereignty over parts of Eretz Yisrael for the first time in nearly two-thousand years. But we celebrated this year on the 6th of Iyar in an effort to avoid unnecessary violations of Shabbat in preparing for the Memorial Day ceremony, which was to be held on Saturday night, twenty-four hours before the 5th of Iyar. So this year, we had Memorial Day on the 5th, remembering the valor of our soldiers who fortified our independence and the sacrifice of the victims of Moslem terror, just before the great celebration, this year on the 6th of Iyar, of the 56th year since the rebirth of Israel within its historical borders.
Purists need not worry, though. For if one looks back into the annals of Jewish history, you will find that in actuality, the British Mandate in Eretz Yisrael actually ended on May 15th, 1948 - which was the 6th of Iyar that year. Even back then, the Jewish people managed a collective respect for the sanctity of its traditions and the "governing council" led by David Ben-Gurion actually declared Jewish independence a day early - on Friday, the 5th of Iyar - so as to avoid desecration of the Sabbath from the ensuing festivities. Hence, we see that the ikar ha-nes (majority of the miracle) was on the 6th of Iyar and not on the 5th, as we celebrate every year.
It seems that in the 56-year-young history of our Third Jewish Commonwealth, this year - 5764 - was the first time that we encountered the need to push forward Memorial and Independence Days by 24 hours. Perhaps the special spark of the 6th of Iyar, explained above, is what brought about one of the most promising signs that the Nation is not as weak, as its leaders seem to suggest of late.
The morning of Independence Day, my wife and I packed the kids into our minivan, along with our portable mangal (barbecue for those who are Hebraically challenged), and set out from our home in Kochav Hashachar, just north of the Judean Hills, on what we expected to be our two-and-a-half hour journey to make a statement in Gush Katif.
We spent eleven hours in our car.
There was simply nowhere to move in Gush Katif, on the roads to Gush Katif or on the sides of the roads leading to Gush Katif. It was the "traffic jam of the century" in southern Israel. Cars and buses were bumper-to-bumper all the way out to Ashkelon and at times even back to Latrun on the way to Jerusalem. The "official" police tally was that 70,000 people made it into Gush Katif and that "thousands of cars and buses" were turned back.
Not being too familiar with the roads down there, I called one of the Beit Orot hesder yeshiva boys who did his military service in the area to try and figure out some back way that would be open. I thought I was so brilliant by choosing to go all the way around to Kiryat Gat, but then Yoni (from Beit Orot) told me that the two busloads of families and hesder boys who we sent from our Har Hazeitim location one hour before the Zwicklers were now right behind me. Great going, big shot.
So we sat in the car and saw what Yitziat Mitrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) must have looked like - only this time it was a knisa (going-into) and not a yetzia. When the buses and cars just had nowhere to move due to the maxed-out volume on the road, people just started getting out of their buses and cars, right there in the middle of the street. You had yeshiva boys marching through by foot, families doing their mangal thing off on the embankments, teenagers singing and dancing. I saw pregnant women pushing baby strollers trying to walk the ten miles from where we were situated, just to get into Gush Katif. There was an elderly woman with a cane determined to make the trek.
The most startling aspect of the experience for me had to have been the appearance of a not-insignificant number of men without kippot and women without head-coverings. After all, as drummed into our psyches by the oh-so-reputable Israeli and international media, I only expected "settlers" at this event ("settlers" having become a euphemism for any religious Jew physically present in the 50-mile proximity of a Jewish town across the "Green Line", even if they live in Ramat Gan). But there they were - "regular", "normal", Israelis. Maybe the dumb-founded media should clue into some recent polls showing that some 80% of the Jews in the Land of Israel classify themselves as "traditional" and perhaps this will unravel the secret of the "settlers."
But its not the secret of the "settlers" - it is the spark of the Jew that is so baffling. The Jew, pardon me, the Israeli (for all Jews are Israelis, or ought to be) has inside him not just the traditions of his forefathers, but the long history of his People and his Birthright. It should not be confusing that difficulties bring out the best in Am Yisrael. Our Torah tells us "Ka'asher ye'anu oto, kein yirbei v'kein yifrotz." ("The more they are afflicted, the more they multiply and grow," referring to the Jews enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.)
We are under pressure. There seems to be a new Arik Sharon, who "does not know Joseph." Some say he's the same Arik Sharon who hasn't changed one-bit, that he's always been a political opportunist who simply "played" the "settler card" when it was good for him. Either way, it makes no difference. As with all the great Jewish leaders of the recent past, even the leaders of the Likud, when you detour from the path of Calev and Yehoshua (Caleb and Joshua - the only two of the twelve biblical spies who spoke the truth about the Land of Israel), then Eretz Yisrael finds its way to spit you aside in return.
There was a special feeling in the air on the traffic-jammed road to Gush Katif yesterday: an aura of hope, of strength and belief in the justness of our cause. And here's proof: my kids barely complained about sitting in the car for eleven hours (eleven hours!). Maybe we should call it the power of the "sixth sense", as this all happened on the 6th of Iyar. In reality, it was nothing more than just plain "Jewish sense" finally finding its way front and center.
We can beat this. We will beat this. Hashem will help us beat this - but only if we show Him just how badly we want it. In the words of a true Jewish leader, Calev ben Yefuneh: "Let us rise up and posses it, for we are well able to overcome it!" ("Aloh naaleh v'yarashnu otah, ki yachol nuchal lah!").
How mighty the power of the sixth of Iyar.
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