Dad was worried.
I could see it in his face. Dad was normally a happy man, even when things weren’t going all that well. He had a smile that lit up his face, and even when he wasn’t grinning his eyes had a twinkle in them.
He even seemed to be happy when he was working.
But not today.
Today he was glued to the radio and the newspaper and his forehead was wrinkled with worry. I asked him what the matter was.
“Oh, nothing to worry about.”
Which was obviously not true. I kept pressing him to tell me what was going on.“Okay,” he said. “It’s about Israel.”
I knew a little about Israel, that it was the Jewish State, that it was one of the newest countries in the world, and that all Jews were welcome there. There were all kinds of campaigns at the synagogue to help support it.
My sister and I had a certificate that showed we’d raised enough money to plant a tree in Israel.
“What about Israel?” I asked.
“It’s fighting a war with Egypt.”
“And is Israel going to win?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
Which explained his worry. If there was any one thing that everyone I knew from our synagogue agreed on, it was the importance of Israel surviving.
Which was remarkable, because in my admittedly limited experience, getting Jews to agree on anything was almost impossible. But on Israel, there was no disagreement.
I started listening to the news with Dad, and I began to understand why he was scared. I didn’t understand the names of all the people or places the reporters talked about, but gradually I learned some of the background.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, had decided to take control of the Suez Canal, which had been owned by the British and the French.
Israel was worried that Nasser wouldn’t let Israel’s ships use the canal, which would cut off shipping to Israeli ports. Also, Palestinians had been attacking and killing Israelis from Egypt. So, Israel invaded, followed by the British and the French.
Part of what made Dad worried was that President Eisenhower was against the invasion.
Dad was really scared that the United States wasn’t going to support Israel this time. And he was upset that Russia was backing Nasser.
It only took a couple of days for Israel to get control of Gaza, where the attacks were coming from, plus the whole Sinai Peninsula. Then the United States made Israel give it all back. Dad said that meant that Israel would just keep being attacked by all its neighbors.
I didn’t understand why Israel was so important, anyway. If it’s always going to be attacked, why don’t we just invite all the Jews to come to America? We’re Jewish and we’re safe here, right?
Dad agreed that we were, but said that it’s really important for Jews to have their own country, after what had happened in World War II. I asked him what happened, but he told me I wasn’t old enough yet. I would learn about it when I was more grown up.
But the important thing was we had to have Israel, and we had to keep it safe.
That gave me an idea for a super way to keep Israel safe that was way better than fighting wars.