Searching For Zvi “Howie” Glatt Z’L

By Joseph A. Grob

 

Today is the 17th day in the Jewish Month of Iyar.  It is the 32nd Day of the Omer.  It is also the day that, 35 years ago, the Jewish people lost one of its shining lights.  Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Chaim Glatt (known to me as Howie) and five other boys.  It is a day that has broken my heart every year for the last 35 years.

Who is Zvi “Howie” Glatt to me?

Howie was my first Madrich/Counselor in Bnei Akiva.  Our Kings Highway/Young Israel of Ocean Parkway snif/branch met each week and was led by Tuvia Gross.  Howie was my Madrich.  I must have started attending in 4th grade.  My dad would walk me the mile to the Bnei Akiva meeting because he was the president of the Synagogue and he arranged for Bnei Akiva to meet there.  Howie was about 4 years older than me.  Maybe 3-5 boys and 5 girls showed up to our branch every week.  Howie taught me about Israel.  He taught me to love Israel and Bnei Akiva and the Bnei Akiva ideals of Torah V‘Avoda.  He was also a friend and my family was friendly with his family.  In or around 1975, after one year of high school, Howie made Aliya.  He went to attend a Yeshiva High School in Israel.  We were all so proud and we missed him when he left.  I wanted to go to BTA like Zvi/Howie did.  I wanted to move to Israel like Zvi/Howie did.  I wanted to go to Israel and see my friend Zvi/Howie again.

Zvi/Howie was killed by terrorists in Hebron on May 2, 1980.

 

Hebron – Some Background and History.

Prior to August 1929, for over 2000 years, there had always been a Jewish Community in Hebron.  Hebron is, at the very least, the second holiest site to the Jewish people.  There, Abraham purchased a plot of land at the city gates (to record the transaction) to bury his wife.  There, the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism were buried in the Mearat Hamachpela also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs.  There, within the double caves — where the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried — is reportedly the entrance to the Garden of Eden.  It was in Hebron that King David ruled for 7 years.

In August of 1929, the Jewish community in Hebron was attacked by Arabs.  67 Jews were killed in Hebron at that time in a brutally violent pogrom.  After the pogrom and Massacre in 1929, the British cleansed Hebron of Jews.  Jews would not return to live in Hebron until 1979.

The Birth of the Modern Day Jewish Community in Hebron.

In May 1979, a group of approximately 10 women and 40 children, led by Rebbetzen Miriam Levinger, snuck into the old Hadassah Hospital in Hebron; The Beit Hadassah.  The goal was the reestablishment of the Jewish Community of Hebron.  When the government found out that the women and children had snuck in and taken control of the Beit Hadassah, it did everything in its power to discourage them from staying.  Utilities were cut off and the women and children who took up residence there lived there under deplorable conditions.  The boys learning in Kiryat Arba and others would pray at the Mearat Hamachpela on Friday nights and they would then dance in the streets to the Beit Hadassah to give strength and encouragement to the women and children who were there.

On Friday night, May 2, 1980, my friend and former Madrich in Bnei Akiva, Zvi “Howie” Glatt was in Kiryat Arba and together with others, he danced from the Mearat Hamachpela to the Beit Hadassah to make Kiddush for and give strength to these courageous women and children living under deplorable conditions.  Suddenly, shots rang out, bullets flew and grenades exploded.  Zvi “Howie” Glatt, Gershon Klein, Ya’akov Zimmerman, Hanan Krauthammer, Eli HaZe’ev, and Shmuel Mermelstein were killed.  There were approximately 20 injured.  Zvi/Howie was 20 years old, he would have been 21 that June.  All of the boys killed that night ranged between 18 and 21 years of age.  In the aftermath of this tragedy, the Jewish Community of Hebron was re-born.

What I remember most about Howie was his smile, his Jewish pride and his love of Israel.  As his chanich/student, he educated me and helped me develop a love of Israel as well.

When I go to Israel, I almost always go to visit the City of Hebron and the Jewish Community of Hebron.  I go to be where Howie was when he died and to pray for him (I can’t go to his grave as I am a Kohen).  I go to visit the people of Hebron and to give them strength and to remember what the six boys of Hebron died for.  I know Howie is long gone, but every time I go to Hebron, I still look for him.  Silly, right?  I know!  Yet, I look for his face in the crowds.  I wonder if he stood where I stand.  I look for his spirit.  I look at the people.  I look at the thriving but small Jewish community in the second holiest city in Israel and I cry and I smile.  I cry because Howie is gone and I cry because his dream of a fully re-settled land of Israel has not yet come true.  I smile because I see that Howie’s spirit and determination continues to live in the Jewish Community of Hebron.  I still miss him.

Last year in January 2014, I was visiting my daughter Emma in Israel.  I took her and my surrogate daughter Noa, to Hebron.  Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum recounted the story of the origins of the Jewish community as we passed the Beit Hadassah and, of course, I cried for Howie, and I looked for him yet again.

Only a few days after visiting Hebron, I went on a trip with the One Israel Fund for Tu B’shvat.  We visited the settlement of Itamar when I met the Zimmermans.  Their farm was devastated by the severe snowfall last winter.  As we arrived at the farm, my good friend and most excellent Tour Guide, Eve Harow, told me to stay close to her; she had a surprise for me.  I was not prepared.  I met Rachel Zimmerman first.  When Rachel started to tell her story I understood why Eve told me to be prepared.  “I am from Canada….I was a Peace Now activist in Hebron in 1980…” she began.  She recounted how Rebbetzen Levinger grabbed her one day and started to show her how the “Arab” houses surrounding the Beit Hadassah area were not really Arab homes but homes stolen from the Jews after 1929.  She told how Rebbetzin Levinger showed her the places where the Arabs removed the Mezuzahs from the Jewish homes when the homes were stolen.  Rachel told us how she spent Shabbat with Rebbetzen Levinger and how she met her future husband that Shabbat, Alon Zimmerman, and she told us meeting Alon’s best friend, Zvi Glatt, who two weeks later died in Alon’s arms.  What did I just hear?  Oh my god!  I approached Rachel and we spoke some more privately.  Thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses because I was crying like a baby.  Some unknown force had brought me here to meet these people who had a connection, a Kesher to Howie.  Next I met Alon Zimmerman.  When I told him where I was from and how I knew Zvi Glatt, tears formed in his eyes and in mine.  We talked for a few minutes about Zvi and he told me that it was incumbent upon me to help fulfill Zvi’s dream of a return to the land of Israel – to the homeland of our people.  He told me that in this way, we keep Zvi’s spirit alive.  Indeed!  I can’t thank Eve Harow enough for bringing me to the Zimmerman farm and for helping me find Zvi, through Alon.

I went looking for my friend Zvi “Howie” Glatt and I think I finally found him.  He is alive and well in Itamar with Rachel and Alon.  He resides in the spirit of every Oleh Chadash  — every person making Aliya to live in Israel.  His spirit is alive and well inside my daughter Dana Lynn who made Aliya and who is serving in the IDF.  He is alive and well in the spirit of every lone soldier.  He is alive and well in the spirit of every person who visits Hebron.  He is alive and well in the spirit of every Jewish resident of Hebron.  He is alive and well so long as we remember him and the sacrifice he made so that we have the land of Israel.  Alon was right, I know that.  The way to keep Zvi alive and to remember him properly is to move and rebuild the land of Israel.  I don’t have an immediate plan to move to Israel.  Right now its a long term plan, but its a plan.  Today, on this 35th Yurtzheit for my friend, my mentor, my teacher — Zvi Menachem ben Shmuel Moshe Glatt is alive and well inside of me.  May his memory be blessed, and may his neshoma have an Aliya and may we never forget.

Zvi  "Howie" Glatt
Zvi “Howie” Glatt
Gershon Klein
Gershon Klein
Ya'akov Zimmerman
Ya’akov Zimmerman
Hanan Krauthammer
Hanan Krauthammer
Eli HaZe'ev
Eli HaZe’ev
Shmuel Mermelstein
Shmuel Mermelstein

My 22 Year-Old Daughter Has Joined the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”) – Where Did I Go Wrong or How Proud Could I Be?

This is my first blog entry and I hope not my last.  I dedicate it to my hero, my daughter, Dana Lynn.  I have 3 daughters.  Each inspires me in a different way and perhaps I will discuss them all in this blog some at some time.  Today, I will focus on Dana.  Dana started blogging recently about her army experience and her writing has inspired me to put pen to paper myself. 

On August 11, 2014, 338 people boarded an El Al charter flight to make Aliya (to emigrate to Israel to become Israeli citizens). Of those 338, 107 were children and 108 were young adults ages 18-23 who were going to join the IDF.  Many of those 108 have already been drafted and the remainder will be drafted shortly soon.   My daughter is one of the 108.  She was drafted on December 16, 2014, and she will be serving two years.   Did I go wrong somewhere?

I am a Zionist.  You see, I was raised in a household by Zionistic Jewish American parents who watched in horror from the U.S. as Jews were exterminated in Europe – while this country did nothing.  They became ardent supporters of Israel – my father in particular.  I recall that in 1970, my father and mother went to visit Israel for the first time.  I was 7 years old.  When they came back, I had a brand new chess set and backgammon set (both purchased in the Arab Market/Shuk in the Old City of Jerusalem) and every Friday night after dinner,  dad and I sat down and we played both, and he kicked my ass.  

Dad  would also regale me with stories of Israel, the Jewish people and our Jewish history. He spoke of visiting Yeshivat  HaKotel in Jerusalem and how he loved watching the boys dance down to the Kotel – the Wailing Wall —  every Friday night.  He hoped that someday he would see me dance down the steps to the Kotel on a Friday night (he did many years later).

It was my father who arranged for Bnei Akiva to open a Snif — branch –  at the Young Israel of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, and who originally encouraged me to attend Bnei Akiva every Shabbat (Bnei Akiva is a Religious Zionist Youth Movement).  I walked about a mile every Shabbat to those Bnei Akiva meetings and that is where I met my first Madrich Zvi (then Howie) Glatt (z’l h’yd).  Howie was a diehard Zionist and Bnei-Akivanik. Howie taught me even more about Israel and he too imparted his love of Israel to me. When faced with the proposition of summer camp a few years later, the choices were the 2 Zionist camps – Massad – run by Rabbi Meir Moskowitz where they only spoke Hebrew,  or Moshava- the Bnei Akiva camp. Although I went to the Yeshiva of Flatbush, I thought my Hebrew was too weak for a Hebrew speaking camp and I was too afraid to go there, so I picked Moshava.  I proceeded to spend the next 6-7 summers in Moshava where I was further infused with Zionism and Zionistic ideals.  

During my years as a member of the Bnei Akiva organization, I made many friends who shared the same ideas and ideals.  As I grew older and began my high school career at Yeshiva University’s Brooklyn High School (“BTA”), I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by many of the friends that I had made in Bnei Akiva and in Camp Moshava.  We spent time in school together, we spent time at camp together, and we spent our weekends together doing things related to Bnei Akiva.  We all talked about going to Israel, about going to Israel for a year after high school on a program called Hachshara (a work/study program) and even about living in Israel, although few of us had ever been.  I still remember the fights with my father about wanting to go on Hachshara — how he was opposed to it because he believed it was unstructured and did not involve enough Torah learning.  Dad really wanted me to go to Yeshivat  Kotel to fulfill his vision of dancing down to the Kotel on Friday nights.  I lost that battle and I ended up in Kotel while most of my friends ended up on Hachshara.  From BTA, out of a class of approximately 30, at least 6 went on Hachshara and at least 6 made Aliya as well.  The year passed quickly and I wanted to stay in Israel either in Kotel or elsewhere, but I wanted to stay. As much as my father was an ardent Zionist, he was also an educator.  He thought that I would be better served if I came home, went to college and completed my education.  He left me little opportunity and swore that he would not support me if I stayed.  An education was paramount.  I returned from a year abroad depressed that I now had to stay here and attend either Brooklyn College or Yeshiva University.  

I ended up at Yeshiva University (“Y.U.”), but the experience of being forced to return had an impact on me.  I gave up!  Resigned to the idea of finishing school at Y.U., I tried to find things to do to fill up my time and I started to rebel in every which way.  I completed my schooling, but by the time I finished Y.U., my father wanted me to continue on to graduate school in some form.  I ended up in law school (applied only to Cardozo and got in – luckily), and I pursued a career as a public defender.  I have now been doing criminal defense work since 1987, most of it public defense work.  At that time in my life, my feelings for Israel and for living there dwindled.  It became a fantasy of something to do “someday.”

Perhaps this is where I truly went wrong. I abandoned the notion of moving to Israel and serving my people in pursuit of a career and family. I got married and had children. The notion of living in Israel became distant and foreign as we focused on educating our children and finding money to pay for Yeshiva tuition.  I still talked of Israel.  I sent my kids to Yeshiva/Jewish Day School and through the school I hoped to instill in my children a love of the people and the land of Israel, but it was abstract for them.  I spoke of Israel often, but I am not certain I conveyed my love for her.  We could not afford to take them to Israel when they were young, so we could not show them our heritage and our roots.  Israel became remote and abstract and the notion of living there slowly faded.  I think that I was very far from my Jewish Zionist roots.   

For my eldest daughter, Dana Lynn, her studies at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School stimulated an interest in Israel, but it remained an interesting and abstract idea until she went on March of the Living in her Senior Year of high school.  In Poland, she sensed despair from seeing how our people had no place to go to escape and how they were systematically murdered.  She experienced a sense of hopelessness at how few Jews fought back.  Then on Israel Independence Day – Yom Haztmaut – which she observed in Israel, Dana saw a strong Jewish people determined to overcome adversity and live in our homeland; a place rich with our history – a place that we can call home.  From that moment forward, Dana ran back to Israel at every opportunity.  Her determination and her love of Israel helped reignite that spark that I had so many years ago; the deep love of Israel that had been slumbering inside me. 

Unfortunately, I’m also my father’s son. When Dana came to me three years ago and told me that it was her desire to go and move to Israel, I questioned her commitment to that idea. I impressed upon her the value of an education and told her that she had to get her education first. I told her that if she completes her education and still wants to move to Israel, I would give her 1000% of my support.   

In August, after completing four years at Binghamton University and graduating with honors, my daughter did what she wanted to do three years ago and she left the United States and all of its luxuries to go live in Israel, to become an Israeli citizen, to serve in the Israeli army and to protect the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Where did I go wrong?

All beginnings are difficult, and the older you are the more difficult and challenging the new beginning can be. The younger you are, the easier it is to adapt.  I think I should have been more supportive three years ago. Dana would have already been living in Israel by now for three years, her army service would be complete, and she would be ready to start making a life for herself in Israel.  Instead, she got an education and a great one, but now she must put her life on hold and do 2 years of army service first.  At 22, she must now take orders from an 18 or 19 year old commanders. 

Where did I go wrong?

I did not advocate for my own needs and desires as much as I should have when I was younger. 

Where did I go wrong?

More importantly and more recently, I didn’t do enough to give my daughter the support and encouragement that she needed three years ago.  Yes, I’m very proud that my daughter is an ardent Zionist and that she is now living in Israel and that she is serving in the IDF, but regret that I did not listen earlier and put aside my father’s reasoning.  I hope never to repeat that mistake.

Finally, I need to thank Dana Lynn.  Over the last few years, her bravery and determination have helped me remember my love of Israel.  The events that have unfolded over the last few months in Israel have increased my resolve and commitment to Israel.  I think that we need to realize what Dana did on March of the Living – we may live here in the United States, but it is not home.  There is only one home for the Jewish People – the Land of Israel. 

Where did I go wrong? Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I was only derailed for a bit.  Thank you Dana Lynn!  You inspire me! You inspire us all!  How Proud I am!

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