Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Spirit of Entebbe (II)

In his awe-inspiring memoirs "Fear no Evil," Ukrainian-born Israeli politician Natan Sharansky impressively describes his personal connection to the events at Entebbe on July 4, 1976:

"(...) on July 4, 1976, our wedding anniversary coincided with a great event in modern Jewish history. A few days earlier, an Air France plane had been hijacked by a group of Arab and German terrorists. The plane landed in Uganda, where the Jewish passengers were removed and held under guard. All of us were greatly disturbed as we listened to news reports on the BBC and Voice of America. It was terribly frustrating, but there was nothing we could do.
On July 3 I read an article in the newspaper about riots in the Sudan. That night I dreamed that Israel used the Sudan riots to establish a beachhead, and that a column of Israeli tanks was on its way to the Entebbe airport in Uganda. In the middle of the battle I woke up. I turned on an English-language broadcast on Voice of America. I remember thinking that my English must be worse than I realized because they were talking about an "unprecedented rescue operation, a spectacular raid at Entebbe." What was going on here? Were they reporting my dream? No, it was to good to be true. (...)

That evening Avital [Sharansky's wife, living in Israel] called (...). "Did you hear what happened?" she exclaimed. By then we all knew. Avital held out the phone so that I could hear Israelis celebrating in the streets. We both felt as if this event were a personal present in honor of our anniversary. "If the hostages can come here," she said, "I'm sure you will, too. If such miracles are possible, what's there to be afraid of?" (...)

For the Jews of the Soviet Union the Entebbe hijacking was enormously significant. Earlier in the week we had felt so much fear, frustration and humiliation, and the added outrage that the Soviet Union was in fact supporting the hijackers. The press had been full of hatred toward Israel, and the rescue itself was described as a "military operation by Israeli pirates against peaceful Uganda." The newspapers maintained that innocent people were killed and the passengers were seized against their will and taken to Israel.

I was so eager to learn what had really happened that I asked several foreign correspondents to save the articles from the Western press. When Robert Toth brought me the account in the Herald Tribune, with a photograph of Yonatan Netanyahu, the young Israeli officer killed during the rescue, I felt an immediate connection with him. His kind and modest smile looked out from the photograph, and I cut out the picture and put it on my wall. I was determined to find out everything I could about Entebbe and this young hero. (page 87 - 89)
When Sharansky was arrested in March 1977 and convicted to 13 years of forced labor on charges of treason and spying for the United States, Yoni Netanyahu and the heroic rescue operation at Entebbe remained an inspiration and a source of hope and strength for him through all the years in prison:
The sound of a plane would always remind me of Yoni and his friends, who flew thousands of kilometers to the aid of their people. Each time I heard it hope and faith would well up in me with a new vitality, and I would think: Avital is with me, Israel is with me. Why should I be afraid? (page 260)
In 1986, Sharansky was exchanged for a Soviet spy at the Glienicker Brücke in Berlin. He immediately emigrated to Israel where he went on to become a cabinet member in the Israeli government. His current book "The Case for Democracy" has become a guideline for US President George W. Bush in his quest to democratize the Middle East and rid the world of islamist terror.

In the case of Natan Sharansky, the Spirit of Entebbe has won. Big time.


Blogger Franklin D. Rosenfeld said...

Yerushalayim shel zahav...

3:26 PM  

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