My father, at the age of 23, was one of 1,000 Americans who fought in Israel’s War of Independence. This time of year I become inordinately proud of him. I’m always proud of my father and love him dearly, but this time of year, specifically this day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, I glow with the pride of a daughter whose father helped create the State of Israel.
In 1948 my father, Arnold Sternberg, went to fight in his second war. He was a veteran of World War II and the U.S. Navy. I find his description of when he first saw Israel so inspiring that I wanted to share it:
I left New York in early February, 1948 on the American Export Lines ship Marine Carp. We headed for Haifa via Piraeus. The ship overnighted there and then went onto Beirut where nobody was allowed off the ship except the ship’s crew. I went down the ship’s crew gangway flashing my US Navy Reserve ID card and spent a pleasant day walking up the esplanade and exploring what was then a lovely city.
Our ship departed Beirut late that evening and after a leisurely cruise down the coast we arrived off Haifa in the Bay of Acre at dawn. It was the most exhilarating moment of my life. Standing on the rolling deck of the ship at sea, watching the sun come up over the top of Mount Carmel was simply incredible. All the Jews on board singing “Hatikvah” over and over again made me realize finally that my decision to go was absolutely right.
We got off the ship, went through customs and immigration where a British officer turned me over to a Jewish subordinate saying simply, “Isaac, I believe this is one of yours.” The next morning at 5:00 a.m. I found myself bouncing around in a nondescript pickup truck headed over the Carmel, down the backside to what turned out to be a Haddasah Children’s village called Meier Sheveyah. There I officially became a member of the Haganah.
This was the beginning of my father’s eleven-month sojourn in Israel. He served in Givati Brigade, fought at Latrun, Yad Mordechai, and around Kibbutz Huldah. He managed the port of Haifa, helping to deceive the British so heavy arms could be brought into port. He was a hero.
My dad is 86, still tough as nails, and still curses like the navy man he was. His love for Israel is unabated even though politically he cannot abide the current administration. My father is a Zionist who fought for what he believed in, and still remains a Zionist and an ardent supporter of Israel, though he is saddened by the current state of the Israeli government and many of its actions.
I’m inspired by my Dad to ask that we stop the name-calling and vitriol about who is or isn’t a believer in Israel. We all love Israel, we are all committed to her survival and we all celebrate her independence.