Childhood journey from Boston, USA to Israel.
I was six years old when my family moved to Israel, our ancestral homeland but a place I had never seen before. I left the only home I knew to go to a new land, a new language and a totally different mindset. I was soon to be in the land of the survivors.
At the time I had no understanding of the significance or implications of this move.
One of my earliest memories of my new home was a family visit to the north, to the Golan. I recall the signs, "Warning, minefields ahead. Danger"
There were no minefields back in Boston where we had just come from.
Several incidents stand out in my mind as a new mindset set in.
I recall we had a leak, a plumbing problem and the plummer needed to dig up the area around the toilets, what he found surprised me: a hidden cache of weapons, head grenades, buried during the 1948 war, our War of Independence.
I soon understood that this homeland of ours was still at war, still under threat and surrounded by hostile enemies, numerous Arab states bent on our destruction.
"Danger! Minefields ahead". A child learns to become aware.
And then came Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. All my Israeli classmates were sad, but I had no idea why.
The other children explained to me that we are a hated people, despised by all the world and that only recently an evil European empire arose to destroy us. Much of the world participated in the war against the Jews and the rest stood by idly, doing nothing.
Welcome to Israel, welcome to a new reality. In Israel children grow up fast.
And I recall my first day at summer camp. The drive to Petah Tiqwa, looking out the window of the bus and seeing a bombed out home, the result of a recent terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.
The message sunk in.
And I recall my first war, October 1973, the Yom Kippur War when the Arab nations attacked us on our most holy day, the Day of Atonement. They attacked when our people were deep in prayer. I recall running across the fields trying to get to the bomb shelters in time. I recall my dear mother trying to climb over the ditch to get to safety.
I recall the air raids and the blackouts.
"In every generation arises an enemy who attempts to destroy us" (from the Passover service)
Our school bus driver was handicapped as a result of an injury sustained during the Six Day War when he served as a paratrooper. They designed a special vehicle for him.
Everyone serves in the military, everyone suffered a loss. Welcome to a new reality.
A nation fights, a nation mourns, a nation rebuilds and survives.
And out of this new reality came my new personality, and ultimately my career and life mission, my calling as a Krav Maga instructor.
We are a nation of survivors. We must survive. A new awareness penetrated my consciousness; survivor against all odds in a hostile world bent on our destruction.
In fact the evidence of this survival mindset was all around me. Across the street lived Bluma Hirschfield who as she raised her arms to pin up the laundry on the line her arms were exposed. I could see the numbers tattooed on her arms, a constant reminder of Auschwitz, a constant reminder that just a few years ago the world united in hatred against us.
Our nation was rebuilt by these survivors and there were all around me.
Bluma's son, Eitan, the Hebrew name means Strength, served proudly as a combat soldier and fought on the Egyptian front during the Yom Kippur War.
My classmate Itamar, just another boy in the class, but the other students told me his story. His father was born in Germany, had a normal life until the Nazi takeover. Unable to find a hiding place his father was deported to Poland, to the death camp of Auschwitz.
On the way to Auschwitz Itamar's grandfather took bold moves to save his son, Itamar's father. He found a lose board on the train and managed to ply it open. He then took his terrified young son and threw him out the from the opening, knowing that he would never see him again.
The young boy wandered the countryside of Poland and somehow managed to survive the war.
After the war the young man came to Israel, participated in the liberation of the country, married and had two sons. One of those sons was my classmate, Itamar. Just another boy in the class.
In Israel everyone has a story, a story of survival.
I grew up around survivors of Christian and Muslim lands, I grew up around heroes.
For this reason our soldiers, our police, our counter-terror experts, train so long and so hard, because on everyone's lips are the words, Never Again.
Security is the best in the world, no stone is left unturned because we know that all around us are enemies trying to hurt us.
And I recall the events that shaped my youth; The Lod airport massacre, the Munich Massacre, and the Ma'alot school trip massacre.
The Lod airport massacre - On May 30, 1972 three members of the Japanese Red Army, recruited by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a well known terrorist organization, attacked Israel's Lod Airport, killing 26 people and injuring 80. The event shook our nation.
Munich Massacre - Everyone said,.."Germany again!" During the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich, Germany a group of Arab terrorists took the Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed most of them. Again the nation was on edge as the hostage situation unfolded, again our nation of survivors had nightmare that "it is happening again", and again we were all traumatized.
Ma'alot School Massacre - In May 1974, 3 Arab terrorists attacked a group of students and teachers on their annual school trip. After a two day hostage situation that gripped the nation more than 28 people were murdered including 22 children. The event scarred and traumatized all of us.
The result- An attitude of vigilance and constant awareness.
The survival of my people, the slogan of "Never Again" became the central theme of my life. At the age of 15 I was already in the newspaper, photographed holding a placard saying "Let my people go", protesting outside the Soviet Bolshoi Ballet, demanding freedom for the Jews of the Soviet Union.
With the encouragement of a local rabbi I decided I must begin the study of martial arts and self-defense. Jews must not allow themselves to be victims. I began in the art of Karate. After studying several styles of Karate and Judo I discovered the Israeli art of Krav Maga. While the traditional arts gave me a solid foundation I always felt they lacked the practicality I needed for survival. I had seen our enemies and I knew what we were up against. Krav Maga would be part of the solution.
I found the toughest school in Jerusalem and devoted myself to hard core training. The emphasis was on street fighting, defense vs knife attacks and gun threats. We dealt with all kinds of weapons and all types of attacks.
After many years of training I was awarded the prestigious rank of 6th dan black belt.
As an instructor I have had the privilege of training US special forces, green berets and infantry units. I have trained the Vancouver Canadian police force, Canadian Path finder, Ukrainian presidential guards, Israeli police, elite Jerusalem security guards, German Navy commandos, Dutch security and police forces all over the world.