THESE NOTES ARE UNOFFICIAL AND UNEDITED. THEY DO NOT INCLUDE RAV GOLDWICHT'S SPEECH. ANY AND ALL MISTAKES ARE MINE.
Introduction: To start off, thank you for coming tonight. We’re going to have the presidents of the Student Council and the YU Israel Club carry the flags to begin our evening. Begin.
They called up 7 people who attend YU who formerly served in the IDF to light 7 candles to commemorate the 7 wars they have fought.
Alan Kleinerman: This year Yom Hazikaron carries more potent feelings- all bear witness- soldiers engaged in Lebanon- call upon Elyasaf Schwartz to recited Keil Malei to commemorate all those who lost their lives fighting.
Liz Shelton, Stern Student Council President: It gives me great pleasure to introduce our first speaker, Colonel Elam Kott- served 25 years, first Lebanon war, first and second Intifadas- established Israel ____ (maybe 'Connects')- foreign and logistic services to foreign press services- chosen by -----Agency and Vice President of the Jewish Education Fund – home in Petach Tikvah, resides in United States.
Elam Kott: Shalom and good evening. Today is a special day in Israel- it’s a very Israeli day- it’s very moving day. For me ___ seventh generation in Israel, also a very special day- a day when ___ in Israel, year after year, every year, I used to go to the army, to the cemetery- meet my friends, my army friends, those who I share with them some of my very critical and unique moments- there in the cemetery. I’m going from one grave to the other, giving hugs to the families, looking with sadness on the new graves, the new names and the new families who joined the family in sorrow since last year.
Since I came to my mission in the States 3 years ago, unfortunately not there as I used to be- very difficult for me- as a guy who served twenty-five years in army- these years symbolize whole meaning of being Israeli- joy, freedom, care for each other, a great friendship. For all my years in the army, I choose to tell you one small story from my part in the first Lebanon War.
It all started when one day it was the beginning of June 1982. I believe most of you were not even born yet. This was the day that I took my wife Nurit and we were on our way for a vacation- three days of vacation in city of Israel in Eilat. We were waiting for that for a long, long time. At that time I was a commander of the company, captain, twenty-six years old- served for a long time in Lebanon, for a long time we were doing a mission over the border- getting into Israeli settlements, were killing civilians.
So we put all the peklach on my car and we went down- 200 miles from Petach Tikva (center of Israel) so midst of the road, while we are driving we were talking and listening to music- but I don’t know why, something inside me, seventh sense told me not far from Eilat to change the channel of the radio and to listen to the news- and what I heard was that the Israeli ambassador to England, Shlomo Dov, Z”L was shot and injured. I look at Nurit and she said, “Oh no, not again.” She means that last time when we planned our vacation a year ago- we were almost going out to the car and there was a terror attack- no cell phone at that time, but the phone rang, and I answered it and then I went back to my base.
So she said- let’s go to Eilat, hotel, I’ll call my commander- called him and asked him is there anything new I need to know? He said, no, but do me a favor- don’t get so far from the hotel. We ate a good dinner and went to dance at the nightclub- then the DJ announced, is there a guest by the name of Mr. Kott? I raised my hand and said yes. “Well, you have an urgent phonecall.” It was my commander- in a very cool voice he said, “My friend, you need to get back to the base-“I said “What’s going on?” He said “I can’t tell you- but give a goodbye kiss to your wife because you’re not going to see her for a couple of weeks.” So I took Nurit home, took some stuff, took my rifle, gave her a kiss and headed north. 1:45 PM I was at the base- asked what’s going on.
Well, we’re getting inside- government approved big operation in Lebanon- said tomorrow __ AM is when we’re going in. So I sat with my soldiers- not much time- but sometimes the relationship is very, very close when you’re a commander- I talked with them, tried to explain to everyone what everyone should do, what his job is- check that everyone has the right ammunition. To be a commander in Israel – saw a couple of guys and girls in the army here, you know what it is like- when you [as commander] are in your twenties- you are everything for the soldier- you’re the father, mother, teacher, Rabbi, mentor-you are everything- you have a big responsibility for them and for their parents- huge responsibility- huge commitment. You took them from home healthy and it’s your responsibility to bring them back home healthy and of course, alive.
Rest of the hours- looking at maps and even took a nap for 1 hour. At five AM, I got all the soldiers and talked to them about our mission- talk about National issue- why we are doing this. I told them, “Please turn around- what do you see? You see the Galil- people in Israel, people in the settlement- for those, you are going to fight” and I believe soldiers who hear these words get a lot of strength to go to war. My company – part of the 91st division to provide intelligence information on the enemy for the other forces- so need to be somewhere in the front of the division- move along the shore through the city of Tzor and all the way to the city of Sidon to capture the whole area and to claim it from terrorists.
Jump into ABC- told the driver to move, and he moved- behind us all the soldiers in their ABCs. The adrenaline was very high, I was very sharp in my orders- something I remember, I forgot- forgot to call Nurit so I told a soldier to please tell my wife everything is okay and I’ll be in touch.
At the beginning, everything was smooth- beginning of June, 20 degree Celcius, silent, not like a journey- cross the first Lebanon villages some civilians raise hands and say welcome- some kids were smiling at us. After 10 miles from city of Tzor massive RPG missiles and snipers were shooting on us. As we say in the army, the ceremony has just begun. One of the ABC got hit by a missile- some soldiers were wounded- told doctor and paramedic to move quickly and start taking care of them- paramedic and doctor in Israeli army are really, really something special- they gave morphine to one, put bandages to others. The rest of the company started to shoot and attack ahead- attack like panthers, lions- exactly how we exercised it months and weeks ago.
Imagine- snipers and terrorists shooting at you from unseen places, most of them from buildings and someone can say “Well, it’s very easy- send a missile to one of the buildings” and I agree but maybe in this building are women, children, babies- can’t do that, sorry- we can’t. So we fight, attack, run and we did. After forty minutes battle in this place is over- all my soldiers were there. Asked my doctor to take 3 serious wounded back to hospital.
For most of my soldiers, was the first time they were under real fire (for me, it was 2nd or 3rd time- I was a very young officer in Litanya (Netanya?) operation in 1978- joined just after Yom Kippur War- was very proud of them. Really they did a great, great job. Also now we feel like we have a blood-connection; something a stranger won’t understand unless he was with you in the army- call it “Achi” my brother.
People say after you experience it once, the rest is easier- after the first one, the second one is the same as the first one. The same feeling, the same care for your soldier, the same fear, the same pride when you complete your mission. That’s how I felt- everything is like the first time. I can tell you that everything in life is like the first time. Last time- I’m doing a lot of skydiving- hundreds of them and everytime I jump from 14,000 feet I can tell you that this is the first time. The same is in the battle in the field.
After we captured the city of Tzor- division rushing north- few more fights- on 6th day we complete our mission not far from International Airport of Beirut- one dead soldier, 6 wounded. Then ____ Jamaal was elected president of Lebanon; he was murdered. Three weeks after, if I remember correctly, me and my company were inside Beirut for another couple of months- one very nice anecdote I can tell you- when my grandfather was sent to do some research in Beirut somewhere in the nineteen forty before the world war. And my mother went, of course, with him. So when I was in Beirut I remembered him and said to Mom, where is the name of the neighborhood? So I took a picture of that neighborhood- sent my mother a picture of her place when she was a child in Beirut.
Allow me to jump 24 years to 2nd Lebanon War. We can talk hours about success of Israeli army- we had and we have the best, brave soldiers- soldiers will do anything to break any spirit of any enemy who wants to break us. Twenty two thousand three hundred and five are not statistics. Each of them has a face. Each of them has a name. All of them had ambitions. All of them had dreams. The family’s life will never be the same. Believe me, I know that- I went to visit them- every year- at the beginning they knew me as Elam, their Commander. Then I had my first child, second child, then I celebrate 40s and then 45. And they left with their memories- for them, Gadi and Amos and Neil are still in their twenties- beautiful, brave, young but looking on us from heaven.
So because of the horrible price we paid- we must in every single day make it a better day. Make every day, not to miss any opportunity for better Israel, better life. That’s the fallen legacy. That’s pray that next year we will stand here and the number of the fallen will not increase even in one. The 2nd Lebanon war did not end- because the kidnapped soldiers are still in Lebanon. Just before I came here I spoke to Karnit Goldwasser about how she feels in Yom Ha’atzamut, I mean Yom Hazikaron. She said, “You know, it’s funny- I’m in the middle- I have no sign of life- I can’t do Yom Hazikaron or be a part of Yom Ha’atzmaut.” Let’s pray that very soon- very soon- at least we’ll have a sign of life.
I believe that at this moment Yom Hazikaron ends and this is the moment we do the transition to Yom Haatzmaut. I was asked more than once how it is possible to celebrate Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut right after one another- one saddest day, one happiest. The answer lies in the question- Israel would not have been established without this heavy toll. Even today we need to keep Israel strong- each of you, in every way- donate a thousand dollars, celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut- anything you can do, do, to strengthen Israel.
Thank you very much for letting me share my feelings with you. Oseh Shalom b’mromav hu ya’aseh eilenu…Happy Independence Day.
Rachel Goldstein (Stern Israel Club President): As we now transition from sadness of Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haaztzmaut, must keep in mind those who gave their lives so Israel would exist. Also need to keep in mind our three chayalim who were kidnapped last summer (lists them.) Who are unfotunatley in our enemies hands this Yom Ha’atzamut. In our devar torah, R’ Nachum Leibtag comments on proximity of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut- “even though doesn’t seem fair to either day, independence gives us strength to cope with Yom Hazikaron at the same time terrible price shows us how to channel our thoughts.
[Now we see a short movie on Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron to mark this transition.]
The six-day war was barely two-days old, Egyptian army disintegrating…Israeli advance showed no sign of letting up. By Friday June 9th, Egyptians had been driven back across Suez Canal- Israel captured West Bank and Suez Canal after 2 days of fighting. By Saturday June 10th, Israelis had taken Golan Heights- they hit concealed artillery positions- extraordinary story of Eli Cohen, Isaeli’s most famous spy. Agent 008 was known in Syria as Khalam…
He was given free hand in access everywhere- he had all the detailed plans. He was able to pose for this photograph- all the while gathering valuable information- then caught sending coded transmission from house in Damascus- he was tortured and executed. What did he achieve?
He made a strong suggestion to Syrians- plant trees by every artillery site so as to protect our boys from the sun, nothing too good for our boys in the field- and Israelis watched these trees grow up seeing where ever artillery placement was.
Now call upon the SOY President Josh Vogel to raise the flag of Israel.
Josh Vogel: The Jewish State is at the center of our hearts. Tonight the Torah of Yeshiva University and the Torah of Israeli join together. R’ Goldwicht, with his bright, insightful divrei Torah and his cheerful smile- confident that R’ Goldwicht will take us around the world, back here and back again with his annual Yom Ha’atzmaut derasha. Enjoy.
[Now, for the very simple reason that Rav Goldwicht spoke in Hebrew, I don't type Hebrew and therefore had to attempt to translate his thoughts into English and write them down, I'm not going to include his speech here. It wouldn't be at all accurate and would in fact do him an injustice.]