A Bus Ride and Jewish Destiny...
Today, I had an experience which had it happened to me anywhere else but in Israel, I believe would have pretty much ruined my day, but happening in Israel, it gave me one more reason to appreciate how fortunate I am to be living here.
It started off with a bus ride into Jerusalem, in the midst of which the skies opened up and began pouring rain. (It happens to be that in Israel, rain puts me in a good mood, as rain is such a precious commodity here, and it gives me the feeling that Hashem is listening to our prayers).
I got off at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, as I had a meeting outside of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of Latrun.
Unfortunately, as I got off the bus I realized that I had gotten off one stop too soon, and I was forced to begin walking alongside the highway, with the rain still coming down. At that moment I received a call from the person I was meeting, informing me that he was unable to make our meeting (which meant that I had schlepped out for nothing).
As I began the 15 minute or so walk to the bus stop back to Jerusalem the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun began to shine. The air felt clean, and as I looked around me, I took in the lush green hills, the cactus with their sabras, and I thought of how fortunate I was to just being able to walk through a different part of the Land of Israel.
The area of Latrun holds special significance to the Jewish People, among the events that occured in this area include:
1) The battle most identified with the Latrun area is the battle of Joshua ben Nun, which took place in the area of Beit Horon against the five Amorite kings in the 13th century BCE. Joshua, who made an alliance with the Givonites, came to protect them when the five kings sought to punish them for that pact. His famous cry, "Sun, stand still upon Giv'on; and moon, in the valley of Ayalon" (Joshua 10:12-13)
2) Among the battles of the Maccabees, the battle of Emaos is the most mentioned (Maccabees 1, 3\38 - 4\35) because of the importance of Judah the Maccabi's victory over the Seljuks in the year 167 BCE. It was during this battle that the military and leadership accomplishments of Judah the Maccabi reached their peak.
3) Latrun, situated on the road to Jerusalem and, thanks to its geographic location, a dominant stop along the caravan routes to and from Jerusalem, was considered an important and key goal for conquest. During the War of Independence, three separate operations were executed in order to capture Latrun from the hands of the Jordanian Arab Legion, and open the road to the besieged Jewish Jerusalem. "Operation Ben Nun I," "Operation Ben Nun II" and "Operation Yoram." Not one of these attempts resulted in the desired goal - the conquest of Latrun. However, valiant action took place leading to the opening of the famous Burma Road, which circumvented latrun, and broke the Arab siege.
Many of the Israeli conscripts had just survived the Holocaust and were new immigrants; most were poorly trained. The equipment was also very poor, and artillery support was lacking. The official combined number of casualties for both the battles was 139 (an extremely high figure for an assault conducted mainly by two battalions).
Latrun remained a mined enclave until our forces vanquished it during the Six Day War, in 1967. The road was reopened and the fort became a museum and a memorial site for Israel's armored forces.
As I walked alongside the raod, I was humbled by the knowledge that here I was, walking in the footsteps of generations of Jewish heroes who fought and died so that the Jewish people could live as proud Jews in a sovereign Jewish State in the Land of Israel.
To the Jewish heroes, all I can offer is my heartfelt gratitude and thanks. I can only hope that I can do my part, following in your footsteps, fighting for a strong and proud Israel and Jewish Nation, so that your sacrifices should not have been in vain.
All this from a bus ride on a rainy day in Israel.
Nothing else can compare to the feeling a Jew gets from walking in the Land of his forefathers and knowing he has finally come home and is another link in the glorious chain of the Jewish People and Jewish History and Destiny – nothing comes close.