Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tears once again covered The Land

ON MONDAY in a far-off place, Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), a two-year-old boy named Moshe touched the entire world with his screams of “Mommy, Mommy”!
If you were not touched by his tearful wail, then your heart has turned to stone.
And then on Tuesday in Israel, tears once again covered The Land, as Moshe’s mother, Rivka Holtzberg, and father, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, were laid to rest in Mount of Olives cemetery.
In a memorial ceremony, Rivka’s father, Shimon Rosenberg, told the mourners that his daughter was five months pregnant at the time of her death.
She and her husband and others in Chabad House had been slaughtered by the hideous terrorists while Little Moshe had been rescued and as Israeli President, Shimon Peres, was quoted as saying, “We must explain to him why his mother was murdered. Anyone who has a child must ask this question. Those who have no pity for children will not pity mothers or fathers.”
While the story of a now motherless and fatherless child touched the hearts of many others, it had a major impact on mine, for I must admit that I’m still drawn to Israel time and time again, even though it’s been some years since I lived there.
Being based in Jerusalem as a Middle East bureau chief for a major news-gathering organization, it changed my life and now, years later, there’s a definite yearning to return to The Land. It also opened the doors to another ancient people – the Black Jews, known as the Falashas – whom I spent time with in Ethiopia.
They, too, have longed for eons to return to what they consider to be their Promised Land, Israel.
When I went searching the latest news concerning them, it was disconcerting to learn that in a Dec. 1, 2008 report from Addis Ababa, there are around 8,000 still waiting to travel to Israel in order to reunite with relatives.
I will never forget, however, my first meeting with these “forgotten” people:
CORBETT'S DIARY: Thursday, Nov. 15, 1990, ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: "As we drove through the weaving traffic, we reached the Asmera road, which seemed to be blocked off and Sherry Yano (with CPAR -- Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief) was told by one of the few traffic cops I'd seen in Addis, that the road was off-limits because of a celebration at the Israeli embassy.
"So parking the land cruiser, we started walking along the road, filled with people going to and fro with many children in their Sunday best, along with women with great umbrellas and long, white dresses, and finely-robed men.
"Everyone had a wide smile on their faces and there was an unexplainable glow.
"Even the youngsters were different."I kept my vidcam recording this scene, and while the kids were curious, they allowed us to be part of their celebration walk.
"On the side of the hill, guarded by what I knew to be an Israeli agent, the white-robed throng poured through the gates from the embassy, well hidden in the trees.
"Their lilting voices lifted into heaven.
"I felt a part of these radiant people.
"As we walked along, we inquired about where the leaders' compound was, and first a smiling man and then a young boy pointed the way.
"Just then a small car pulled up and two of Sherry Yano's friends yelled greetings.
"They, too, had a radiant look.
"One young woman, Jody, in a white wrap-a-round, and she, too, was bubbling about the celebration on the Israeli embassy grounds and how she had joined in dancing with thousands of Falashas.
"The small car now held all five of us as we turned down a narrow dirt road and stopped in front of a locked compound.
"Stepping through a narrow gate opening, I saw at least 100 men, women and children in their finest clothing, sitting alongside a neat bungalow, feasting on injerra and other typical Ethiopian food; chatting away, but I didn't feel out of place.”
Incidentally, Nov. 15, 1990 was significant, for it marked Sigd, the Ethiopian Jews’ day of prayer to return to their homeland, Israel, and the freeing of the Jews from Babylonian captivity. It’s a celebration unlike any other in Ethiopian or Jewish history.
On May 24-25, 1991, about 17,000 Falashas were airlifted from Addis to Israel under the code name, Operation Solomon. The first great airlift in 1983-84 had been dubbed Operation Moses.


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