Celebrating with British tank thieves

My oldest brother, who was a prisoner of war in Jordan in the late 1940s, had unusual friends.

old tank 88 (photo credit: )
old tank 88
(photo credit: )
My oldest brother, Joe, who was a prisoner of war in Jordan from 1948 to 1949, had all sorts of unusual friends. We lived in Yad Eliahu in Tel Aviv in a small three-room flat. As Pessah approached in 1954, he told my parents he would like to invite three friends for the Seder. One was a young Canadian Jew named Martin who knew very little about Judaism. The other two were gentile deserters from the British Army who had stolen tanks in 1948 and brought them to the Hagana. One was named Paddy of Irish origin, and the other an Englishman named Harry. Neither could go back to the UK as they would be sentenced to long jail terms. We were an Orthodox family, and on Pessah did not usually invite gentiles for the Seder. We went and asked Rabbi Fischel Weinberger of Yad Eliahu what to do, because my grandmother who lived with us and spoke only Yiddish, had protested about them being present. The rabbi said it was a great mitzva to invite them, because they had helped the Hagana so much with much-needed tanks. The Seder started and we noticed that Martin, the Jew, felt totally lost as he could not read one word in Hebrew. On the other hand, the two non-Jews were having a wonderful time since they read and spoke Hebrew fluently. At one stage, my grandmother burst out laughing and said in Yiddish. "I am completely confused. I don't know who is a Yid (Jew) and who is a Goy (Gentile)." Many years later, I heard that Martin and Harry had been pardoned by the Queen and they returned to the UK.