by Eduardo “Lalo” Fainsod, Year Course Participant
The name Shlomo Glenzer stuck with me all throughout our guided hike along Highway 1, the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In 1934, Shlomo made Aliyah from Poland, a decision that likely saved his life from the Nazis, but he fell in battle during the War of Independence in 1948 at just 20 years old. Ascending our last incline of the day, we stopped just off the road at a kibbutz cemetary dedicated to Israeli soldiers who lost their lives during the War of Independence, many of whom were Survivors who had made Aliyah from Europe after the Holocaust.
It was very moving to see these graves with the names of dozens of young men and women who gave their lives defending the newly established State of Israel. We continued on our path in the beautiful forest of the Judaean Hills – hills that would not have been in Israel were it not for these same soldiers. We joked, sang and played word games during the hike, but I do not think anyone kept their minds off these names that we saw in the cemetary.
Earlier in the day, Rabbi Rob explained that this part of the highway was strategically important for Israel because it was the only way to bring supplies to Jerusalem, which was under siege. The IDF sent convoys of trucks with supplies to Jerusalem along this route, which winds up a valley towards Jerusalem. However, the road was impassable as it was routinely strafed by Arab forces in the villages surrounding the road, who opened fire on the Jewish convoys and killed many brave drivers and guards. Once more I thought of Shlomo Genzler.
We visited a battle site along the highway called Castel. In April of 1948 the Palmach’s Harel Brigade, led by Yitzhak Rabin, attacked Castel hoping to open the road and reduce the danger to Jewish convoys.
It was impressive to walk through the Arab trenches that Yitzhak Rabin and the Harel brigade overtook during the battle. We had a beautiful 360-degree view of the highway and surrounding trees and hills. Far off in the East was Jerusalem with its beautiful Chord Bridge plainly visible. In between was a mix of Arab and Jewish villages, some of which are built over former villages that were destroyed in the war. Now, more than 65 years later, the area looks remarkable; a picturesque location for a family picnic. It is hard to imagine the Israel that Shlomo Genzler came to, built, fought for, and died for without the light-rail crossing over the bridge, without the Jewish villages, without the construction below expanding Highway 1 from four to six lanes, and without many of the forests planted since.
I have been in Israel many times before, mostly on educational trips. I have visited most of the tourist sites in the country. I have climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, swam in the Galilee, snorkeled in the Red Sea, and played on the beaches of the Mediterranean. I have prayed at the Kotel, walked in the Baha’i gardens, and eaten hummus at all of the best places. However, this was the first siyur that we have done during Year Course that is completely new for me. I enjoyed the educational value of the trip and the beautiful hikes that we did. A nice view will make anything better.
Still, 20-year-old Shlomo Glenzer, who made aliyah in 1934 from Poland and died in battle in 1948, will not be a name I forget for a long time.