Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guest blog: A letter to bubbe (grandma) Gittel


A letter to Bubbe (Grandma) Gittel, May Her Soul Rest in Peace – M.H.S.R.I.P (The peace that was denied to her bodily remains)

Dear Bubbe

You certainly remember that when I was still a youngster, with my cousin Shalom (M.H.S.also R.I.P) we hiked to the village of Neve Yaakov, north of Jerusalem, to visit our cousins. Our hike took us across the Jewish cemetery in the Mount of Olives, and by chance (and what a chance!) we came to the gravestone of our grandfather Yaakov. When we came back and told you about it, you inquired whether there is an open grave beside. When we answered in the affirmative, you smiled and said, "Well these fellows from the Hevra Kaddisha (Burial Society) have kept their word". You then told us that this is your place and when your time will come, your dream to be buried on the Mount of Olives, facing Jerusalem, the Holy City, will be fulfilled.

You then told us that with our grandfather and six children, you left your home in Lithuania, towards the end of the 19th century, because of the pogroms, which spread all over the Russian Empire. First you went to Liverpool in England, where your three sisters, married to three brothers, were living. But after some time staying there, you decided that it is not a place for you to live. You took your six children and sailed to Eretz Isrooel (as you pronounced it). Grandpa stayed for a while as he was a rabbi, teaching Hebrew, and had to fulfill his term.

The reasons you gave us for your decision to leave England and emigrate to a forlorn place like Palestine under Turkish Government at that time were, as I remember the following:

  1. You did not like the wet-cold drizzly English climate.
  2. You came to the conclusion that the English do not differ much from the Lithuanians in their love for the Jews, and if they wiould have the opportunity they would launch a pogrom against the Jews, but would come up with an original English way to do it.
  3. You wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives, so when the Messiah will come on his white donkey and blow his horn and there will be resurrection of the dead,  there will be no need for grandpa's and your body to roll from the tomb in the land of exile to Jerusalem in order to rise up from the dead, but you will just get up and join the Messiah, watching how the temple comes down from heaven.


Well, Bubbe Gittel (M. Y. S. R. I. P) I have some news for you:

    1. The climate in England is changing as the globe becomes warmer. They claim that they grow grapes in Southern England and produce wine, which competes with French wine. Well, I guess that compared to English food and drunk with it, it may be the right wine, but I prefer to stay with Israeli wines, especially those from the Golan Heights.
    2. You were right about their love for the Jews. Indeed they demonstrate it once and again. Just lately, they seized the opportunity to demonstrate this love through the organizations of British academicians, which boycott Israeli academics in protest against the occupation of Palestinian land.

      (As you remember, in your time, they demonstrated their love to us during World War II when they avoided bombing the railways transporting Jews to the gas chambers and prevented ships carrying Jewish refugees from reaching our land. Later, during our War of Independence, British soldiers collaborated with the Arab gangs)

      Now, the boycott by the English academicians is claimed to be a gesture of demonstration of sympathy with the poor Palestinians, living under Israeli occupation. With all due honor to this humane gesture, did you hear of British professors boycotting Chinese academicians because the democratic Peoples' Republic of China occupied Tibet and erases Tibetan culture? Or did you hear them threatening to boycott Russia (another democratic republic) because of the occupation and destruction the Russian Army inflicts on the Moslem Inhabitants of Chechnya? and what about the occupation of Iraq by American and British forces?

    3. Now, I have some sad news about your grave. I would have come to your place to read this letter to you, but after the Six Day War, after we conquered the Mount of Olives (which is still under Israeli jurisdiction), I tried to find your grave and all the family's graves, but discovered that all the cemeteries of your "Kolel" (community), have been destroyed. During the Jordanian-Arab occupation of the mountain, after the War of Independence, a hotel was built on the cemetery of your "Kolel." I do not know what they did with the bones. I only know that they used the gravestones for pavements and new buildings.

So Bubbe Gittel, you were right about the love of the English for the Jews, which brings me to thank you for having the courage, to get up, about hundred and twenty years ago, and travel with six children over the seas to this wonderful land of Israel. Were it not for your strong 'Jewish Mother' character, I could now be a British Jewish professor who is afraid to stand up and tell his fellow non-Jewish professors what he thinks about their boycott.

Your grandson

Prof. Emeritus Arie S. Issar

Ben Gurion University of the Negev


P.S. As a geologist I have to disagree with the theory that when the Messiah comes and blows his horn, the Jews buried abroad will roll in subterranean caverns to reach the Mount of Olives to be resurrected.

Arie Issar is a leading authority on hydro-geology, and the author of several books. His latest book is "Climate Change - Environment and History of the Near East" by Arie S. Issar and Mattanyah Zohar. He lives in Jerusalem.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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