We’re marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel with a year-long celebration! Keep an eye out for “Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70” branding at your synagogue, at events around town, and online. In this My Israel Story series, we’re asking Memphians to tell their personal Israel stories. Do you have a story to tell?
July 31, 1990 – Tisha B’Av
We were visiting Israel for the first time, staying in Efrat. Six of us crowded into a tiny Fiat and set out from Efrat on Derech Hebron to daven (pray) at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. En route we stopped at Alon Shvut to admire the Lone Tree, a 700 year old oak tree guarding the entrance to Alon Shvut. There is a moving inscription on a plaque that reminds visitors of the major attacks by Arabs against the Jewish settlements of the Etzion Bloc. The first attack occurred at the Yeshiva in Hebron in 1929 where Memphian David Shainberg, and others, were brutally slaughtered, followed by an attack in 1936 pressuring the British to limit Jewish immigration from Nazi -occupied Europe. Tragically during the 1948 War for Independence Jordanian troops broke the resistance of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion and murdered the last 100 men who had already surrendered.
On a nearby hill, a school for girls stands. The site had been a prison under British and Jordanian rule, recaptured by the IDF in 1967. By 1990, Gush Etzion was prospering, and the old prison had been rebuilt as a school for girls.
We left the tree and reached Hebron in time for Mincha. While on our return trip, a soft ball-sized granite rock suddenly shattered a small glass window in the car, smashing the skull of our host’s 7 year old son.
Chaos erupted. The child began to bleed profusely. I frantically sought something that would stanch the bleeding and grabbed a roll of paper towels to press against the wound.
Simultaneously my husband screamed, “We need to get to a hospital,” as our host leapt from the car grabbing an Uzi stashed under the front seat. He fired into the air, and all cars suddenly disappeared. We reached an IDF post, honked for help and the child was gently carried inside. A brief examination confirmed the seriousness of the injury, and the soldiers summoned an ambulance and military escort to Hadassah Ein Kerem. The rest of us were also given a military escort back to Efrat. Watching the news that night, our attack was featured. Also included was news of Saddam Hussein’s impending invasion of Kuwait and his threat against Israel. The invasion followed the next day.
The injured child underwent 7 hours of neurosurgery to repair the damage inflicted by the “stone”. As the child recuperated, he shared the room with a young Arab boy who was being treated for injuries resulting from being caught in the crossfire of IDF soldiers, shooting rubber bullets, and Palestinians bombarding those soldiers with rocks.
This experience strengthened my love and commitment to Israel, making me understand that I too, am a part of the history of Israel.
Our hosts for that summer in 1990 were Rivka and Shmuel Cohen, former Shleichim (emissaries) to Memphis. Their son, Eviatar had a full recovery and is now the owner of a fine wine shop and unique wine bar, Corki’s, in Jerusalem. He employs a talented and charming chef, former Memphian Gabby Harkavy, whose family made Aliya (moved to Israel), and whose father, Alan, is now an Israeli tour guide.
My son, Gershom Kutliroff and family reside in Alon Shvut, where his daughter attended the girls’ high school overlooking the Lone Oak Tree and his oldest son attended Yeshiva Har Etzion in Alon Shvut.
Each time I visit the Lone Oak I am reminded that this tree has survived the turbulence of Israeli history for more than 7 centuries – what more inspiring symbol of Israel is there?