The proud and important volunteers of 1967 - Opinion

I was one of those who came during the Six Day War period. I was working in Brussels at that time and after returning to England to close my flat in London, I joined a group leaving for Israel.

By MICHAEL BAR-ON
June 5, 2019 21:59
2 minute read.
Jerusalem Old City 1967

Soldiers patrol inside the Old City in 1967. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)

In May 1967, Israel was under threat from all directions and young Jews from the world over began to volunteer to come to Israel to help in any way they could. 

I was one of those who came during the Six Day War period. I was working in Brussels at that time and after returning to England to close my flat in London, I joined a group leaving for Israel.
 
On arrival at “Lod Airport” (now Ben-Gurion), we were herded into a reception center of the Jewish Agency. Nobody knew that we were coming, but at least we were provided with accommodation and food.
While waiting in the reception center, a taxi pulled up and someone shouted, “Anyone for Jerusalem? One place only.” 


I gathered my belongings and dashed out into the taxi. That was the last that I ever saw of the group from Brussels.


I was taken to Ulpan Etzion in Baka, where again nobody knew who we were. The whole country was recovering from the effects of the Six Day War. This meant that no one had organized what to do with the volunteers.


I arrived on the June 30, but the next ulpan was due to start on the July 15. This meant that we had to be moved before that date. I was moved to Talpiot to another reception center of the Jewish Agency, which took on responsibility for the volunteers.


A group of volunteers was sent to Bet Holim Ziv – which was opposite the Bikur Holim Hospital – now a part of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center. The place had not been used as a hospital for years and was very dilapidated. A group of volunteers were given the very distasteful job of cleaning out the rooms and the toilets.


We had no one to tell us what to do or where to go. The official from the Jewish Agency promised us that we would have a madrich (guide), but it took several days until he arrived. We were told that we would be given the job of cleaning out the Hebrew University which had been isolated for 19 years with only a police patrol every two weeks. We were bused there every day and left to our own devices.


We were given materials to clean up the university and discovered notices that had been put up in 1948 and remained untouched. Experiments in the Hadassah Hospital were found also untouched. The grave of Menachem Ussishkin was found in a cave. One of the police patrols, during a very boring period on Mount Scopus, had painted Mickey Mouse and Disney characters in one of the rooms, but to his disgust, the powers that be repainted the room white.


I witnessed the last police patrol from Israeli Jerusalem to Mount Scopus.


Our madrich arrived at the Ziv Hospital and began some sort of organization.


A group was formed that went into the Sinai, but I stayed in Jerusalem. One of the volunteers from Australia, a ginger-headed guy, was killed when one of the Sinai volunteers played with an Egyptian tank and hit him accidentally with its cannon. Toward the end of August 1967, the Jewish Agency decided to send the Sinai volunteers home.


I was sent to Bet Giora in Kiryat Yovel, which was then a reception center for new olim. This was the beginning of 50 years in Israel for me, with all the ups and downs, the wars and the people who lost their lives defending the state.


I am now a proud grandfather to 11 grandchildren – my contribution to the future of the state.


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