Jew of the Week: Meir Har-Zion

Israel’s Real-Life Rambo

Meir Har-Zion (1934-2014) was born in the new town of Herzliya in 1934. His mother’s side hailed from Sephardic-Turkish heritage, while his father’s side came from Romania and Russia. He spent his early years on a number of different kibbutzim and moshavim. He loved hiking and exploring the Holy Land, together with his younger sister, and the two youths were once arrested by Syrian authorities when they wandered a little too far. It happened again in 1951, and it took negotiations mediated by the UN to secure their release. Two years later, Har-Zion was a co-founder of Unit 101, Israel’s first special forces commando team. While sometimes brutal, the operations of Unit 101 were essential in securing Israel’s borders and maintaining its defenses in the early years. They also made it clear that the new IDF is a force to be reckoned with, and that Israel would respond forcefully if provoked. In 1954, Har-Zion joined the 890th Paratroopers, led by Ariel Sharon. The following year, Har-Zion’s beloved sister and her boyfriend were abducted by Bedouin Arabs, tortured, and murdered. Despite being ordered to restrain himself, Har-Zion vowed revenge. He took three fellow soldiers and infiltrated the Bedouin town, capturing six men, killing five of them, and sending the sixth back to relay what happened. Har-Zion was heavily condemned for his actions, and temporarily imprisoned. Still, David Ben-Gurion described the act as “the kind of ritual revenge the Bedouins understood perfectly.” In one 1956 paratrooper mission, Har-Zion was nearly killed by being shot in the throat and arm. He survived, though forced to retire due to his injuries. He was awarded the Medal of Courage. During the Six-Day War, Har-Zion was called up again and, despite having just one arm, participated in the liberation of Jerusalem. He played a key role, hunting down a Jordanian sniper that was holding up the Israeli advance, and killing him with a grenade. In the Yom Kippur War, Har-Zion volunteered again to battle for the country’s survival, and fought deep in Syrian territory, even managing to save the lives of several soldiers. Har-Zion lived out the rest of his life on a farm that he named after his sister. He married, had four children, and wrote memoirs and political commentary. Moshe Dayan described Har-Zion as “the best soldier ever to emerge in the IDF”.

Words of the Week

It is manifestly right that the Jews should have a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?
– Winston Churchill

Jew of the Week: Amar’e Stoudemire

Things You Didn’t Know About the Basketball Legend

Amar’e Stoudemire (Courtesy: JNF)

Amar’e Stoudemire (b. 1982) was born near Orlando, Florida. He started playing basketball in high school, though he only managed to play two full seasons because his struggling family had to move six times. Despite this, his incredible talents were clear and he was named Florida’s Mr. Basketball. Ranked as the number one prospect in 2002, Stoudemire skipped college to go straight to the NBA, getting drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. In his rookie season, he set a points record and won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award—the first player straight out of high school to do so. After coming very close to the championship many times in Phoenix, Stoudemire tried his luck with the New York Knicks. There he set a franchise record with nine straight games where he scored over 30 points, then led the team to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Unfortunately, Stoudemire suffered many injuries, including to his knees, his spinal discs, and even retinal damage to his eye. He retired from the NBA in 2016 after 14 seasons, 6 All-Star appearances, and 15,994 points. Having always known his mother was part of the Black Hebrew Israelites, Stoudemire decided to fulfil an old dream and move to Israel to explore his heritage more closely. Meanwhile, he signed with Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to an Israeli Basketball championship. After two seasons, Stoudemire retired and soon began the Orthodox conversion process. He completed his conversion last summer, taking on the Jewish name Yehoshafat. At the same time, he returned for one more season with Maccabi Tel Aviv and led them to the 2020 Israeli Basketball championship, also winning the League MVP award. Last October, he was hired by the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach. He recently made news when the Nets gave him Shabbat off, so he does not appear on the court from Friday to Saturday evening. Stoudemire has been praised both for his extensive volunteer and philanthropic work, as well as his devotion to Torah and Judaism. Over the course of his career, Stoudemire has also appeared in a number of TV shows and films, had a Nike shoe line and his own clothing line, published a series of children’s books, owns a record label, and a kosher winery called Stoudemire Cellars. He also started an educational program where Black and Jewish youth can learn and play basketball together. Stoudemire continues to learn Torah regularly and serves as an inspirational figure to thousands both on and off the court.

Words of the Week

I was always intrigued with the prophets, I was always intrigued by how these guys carried themselves. How they lived their life, how they were so on point with everything, from a righteous standpoint. And so my mindset was like, ‘How do I get to that level?’ It’s a heavy lift, it’s not easy, I’m not sure it’s possible. And so that is what somewhat gave me my love to continue my search, continue to try to clean myself up, clean my character, understand how to carry myself, how to speak properly, how to not use profanity, how to not say certain words, not speak lashon hara.
– Amar’e Stoudemire

Jew of the Week: Moshe Dayan

The Military Genius Who Made Warand Peace 

Moshe Dayan (1915-1981) was born on the first kibbutz, Degania Alef, to Jewish-Ukrainian parents. He was named after Moshe Barsky, a kibbutznik from Degania who was murdered in an Arab attack. At just 14 years of age, Dayan joined the Haganah defense force. In 1936, he began training with a British military unit headed by his hero, Major General Wingate. During World War II, Dayan was part of a unit that ran covert operations in Nazi-allied Vichy French territory and participated in the Allied invasion of Syria and Lebanon. In one battle, a sniper bullet missed his head, but the resulting shrapnel destroyed his left eye. His eye muscles were ruined, too, so he could not be fitted with a glass eye, and henceforth wore his characteristic black patch. During Israel’s Independence War, Dayan commanded the Jordan Valley units, and was able to stop the Syrian advance. He also led the takeover of towns like Ramle and Lod, and was part of the negotiating team that brought the war to an end. In 1949, Dayan took charge of the Southern Command and worked to secure Israel’s borders. This meant a policy of strong retaliation for Arab attacks, at times brutal. While it brought him a lot of condemnation, Dayan insisted that it was “the only method that proved effective”. In 1953, Ben-Gurion appointed Dayan the new Chief of Staff, and the latter went on to implement Ben-Gurion’s “three-year defence programme” to reorganize the IDF. Among his accomplishments was founding a military academy for high-ranking officers and establishing new intelligence units. In 1955, Dayan and Shimon Peres signed a series of deals with France to strengthen the IDF, leading to the purchase of over 100 jets, 260 tanks, and 300 trucks. In 1956, Dayan led Israel’s operation in the Sinai (jointly with France and England) and proved his military genius. The French later awarded Dayan with a Legion of Honour. After retiring from the IDF, Dayan joined Ben-Gurion’s government as Minister of Agriculture. During the Six-Day War, he took the military reins again as defense minister and oversaw the liberation of Jerusalem. He remained defense minister until the Yom Kippur War, after which he resigned due to what is generally considered to be his greatest failure. He subsequently fell into a deep depression. In 1977, Dayan returned to government as foreign minister and, no longer the hawk he once was, played a key role in the peace treaty with Egypt. Dayan spoke Arabic fluently, and lamented that more Israelis didn’t. He wrote four books and was also an amateur archaeologist, amassing a large collection of antiques which are now at the Israel Museum. In 1981, he founded a new political party, Telem, but passed away shortly after from a heart attack and complications of cancer. The New York Times eulogized him as “a general who made war, a diplomat who made peace.”

Words of the Week

We cannot save each water pipe from explosion or each tree from being uprooted. We cannot prevent the murder of workers in orange groves or of families in their beds. But we can put a very high price on their blood, a price so high that it will no longer be worthwhile for the Arabs, the Arab armies, for the Arab states to pay it.
– Moshe Dayan