Magazine article Newsweek International

A Place to Take a Stand

Magazine article Newsweek International

A Place to Take a Stand

Article excerpt

JERUSALEM, MAY 14, 1948: Dov Levin lost his family in the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. He was guarding the Mount Scopus campus of Jerusalem's Hebrew University when Israel was born--and the Arabs invaded.

I myself didn't hear the [declaration of independence] on the radio because I was on duty. I saw many people kissing and jumping, and some of the youngsters started to dance.

But my excitement wasn't very long-lived. For us, victory seemed very, very distant because Jerusalem was surrounded. From [Jerusalem's] Old City I heard a Jewish girl's voice on the radio saying, "We are going to surrender! Please tell us how to surrender!" It made me ill to hear such words. How can it be that our forces are surrendering? When a girl is saying those words it's even more impressive. Then I heard the voice of a male: "You will have to wait, we will give you instructions." For me, it was very disgusting.

I forgot that in a war, you cannot win all the battles. But here we were in Palestine--Israel--where every man should be a hero. When the ship first brought me here, I wondered: "Am I really alive? And out of the 250,000 Jews in Lithuania, I am one of the few who survived? Why me?" Some of the sabras [native-born Israelis] who met me said, "You're a good man. You were a partisan [in the Lithuanian resistance]. But how could all the others go [to the concentration camps]? If something happens here, we will not give up."

And here I was seeing the same behavior. People here persuaded me to believe that here they are another people--yet here they were also surrendering. So it was a day of mixed feelings for me.

Then we heard that all the Arab armies are marching toward Palestine. So I made up my mind that it would be very hard times, that it would not be so easy. I had seen what [weapons] we had. In such a small strategic place--Mount Scopus, which was one of the highest places in the entire Jerusalem area--we had only about 40 rifles and homemade tommy guns. …

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