June 5: I was aboard the 'Dakar'

I was only 13 at the time. It was Hanukka. My family received a phone call that an Israeli submarine called Dakar was being refurbished at a dry dock on the Holy Loch Naval Base.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I was aboard the 'Dakar' Sir, - I was probably among the last civilian witnesses to have been on board the Dakar before it disappeared that fateful January 1968 ("The mystery of the 'Dakar,'" Ben Norman, May 28). I was only 13 at the time. It was Hanukka. My family and other members of Glasgow Bnei Akiva received a phone call from emissary Matanya Unna that an Israeli submarine called Dakar was being refurbished at a dry dock on the Holy Loch Naval Base. It would be a great opportunity and adventure to visit the submarine and entertain the homesick crew for Hanukka. Getting on board was a nightmare. There was no gangplank! Nor were there any safety barriers whatsoever. We had to leap from the dock onto the slippery outside deck - it had been raining that night - and avoid falling into the icy waters below. Once on board, my uncle unsuccessfully, maybe slightly humorously, tried to shield my eyes from the Playboy photos prominently displayed in the room we assumed was the captain's. After lighting the Hanukka candles, a few songs and brief conversation, we were given the grand tour. With cables and wires lying around everywhere, the submarine was clearly not in any condition to sail. First, we were shown the periscope. At the command "Up periscope!" there was a flash and a bang. Then complete darkness and commotion. The periscope had cut through a live electrical cable. Next we were shown the sleeping quarters, then the torpedo bays. In that short time, the lights went out maybe two or three more times. We bid the crew farewell, not knowing of course that this would be their last voyage. We were shocked but somehow not totally surprised to read about the submarine's disappearance three weeks later. May the souls of that ill-fated crew all rest in peace. LESLIE SMITH Kfar Sava Forgotten Jews Sir, - A double thank-you for Zvi Gabay's very readable review of Iraq's Last Jews ("Babylonian heritage," Books, May 28) and for publishing it on Shavuot, anniversary of the vicious pogrom (Farhud) suffered by the Jews of Baghdad in 1941. It was indeed the beginning of the end of a diaspora which, during its 2,600 years, held center-stage in Jewish life for about a millennium. How tragic that this has been forgotten as well as the dramatic Operation Ezra and Nehemia that air-lifted the bulk of that community to Israel. The books by the two leaders of that operation, former Knesset speakers Shlomo Hillel and Mordechai Ben-Porath, should be part of the school curriculum. They make fascinating reading where "truth is stranger than fiction." Young people would enjoy this new and valuable addition. Sadly, it is not only the Jews of Iraq that are forgotten, but the Jews of all the Arab countries, who were the victims of Islamic hatred and brutality. They were exiled, leaving behind vast communal and private property. The majority immigrated to Israel; today they and their progeny comprise almost half of the population of the Jewish state. On the one hand, we have allowed an important historic event - the virtual dissolution of the Jewish people's most ancient diaspora - to fade away and be almost forgotten. On the other, as your reviewer noted, "unlike the Palestinians, the Jews of Iraq did not wage a war... nor did the Jews in other Arab countries." Yet we have remained silent as the Arabs continue to use their refugees as political pawns, propped up for over 60 years by billions from international coffers (not from their oil-rich brethren). I have lectured and written on the subject for over 30 years. However, as long as this scandal is not challenged on a national level by our diplomats and politicians, the efforts of individuals are lost. The so-called "right of return" of the Arab refugees should be removed from the agenda! MALKA HILLEL SHULEWITZ Jerusalem The writer is editor of 'The Forgotten Millions - The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands' Necessary, yes Sir, - I was disappointed to read that financial planning adviser Mindy Ajzner seems to view bat mitzva and brita (simhat bat) celebrations as unnecessary expenses("A real plus," Gloria Deutsch, May 28). In a recent "Ask the Rabbi" column, Rabbi Shlomo Brody quoted modern rabbinical decisors who hold that in an age where female accomplishments are valued, bat mitzva celebrations are important and necessary to encourage continued religious observance. In the same vein, joyful new parents often feel a religious need to celebrate the arrival of a daughter. Rather than suggest that these important, though recently established celebrations be eliminated, why not recommend that parents of both sexes avoid extravagant parties and focus instead on meaningful celebrations for their children? YAPHA SCHOCHET Jerusalem Odd ideas Sir, - In her review of Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America (Books, May 28), Tamar Caspi wrote: "According to Orthodox leadership, children of Jewish mothers are not considered Jewish if the father did not also identify as Jewish." Where did she get this cockamamie idea? Orthodox Judaism states that the children of a Jewish woman are Jewish, period. She might also explain what it means to "identify as Jewish," a Reform concept. A father, or anyone else, is either Jewish or not, irrespective of how he identifies himself. AHARON GOLDBERG Hatzor Haglilit