Forty years ago this week, Israel accomplished a feat which many saw as being nothing short of a miracle. As the United States of America celebrated two hundred years of independence, the State of Israel, barely twenty- eight years old at the time, showed the entire world what independence was really all about.
A week earlier, Palestinian terrorists (read murderers) diverted an Air France wide body jet carrying 246 mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers to Entebbe, Uganda (the plane did land in Benghazi, Libya for refueling before heading to Entebbe). The demands of the Palestinian hijackers (read murderers) was the release of fifty-three Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants (read murderers) – forty of whom were in Israeli jails in addition to a ransom of five million dollars. If the demands were not met, the hijackers would begin murdering hostages on July 1.
Under the guise of needing more time to meet their demands, Israel began to put together a plan to rescue those who had been taken as well as to neutralize (read execute justice) on the Palestinian history. Spectacular, doesn’t even begin to describe what occurred from the time the rescue team lifted off from Israel.
Pidyon Shvuyim, or the redemption of captives, has always been viewed as a mitzvah in a league of its own. “The redeeming of captives takes precedence over supporting the poor or clothing them. There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives for the problems of the captive include being hungry, thirsty, unclothed and they are in danger of their live”, writes Maimonides. While it is true that not every Israeli is versed in mitzvot, much less Maimonides, it is also true that Pidyon Shvuim is in the DNA of Israelis, in that it is inconceivable, and totally unacceptable, for Israelis to stand idly by while the lives of fellow Jews are in peril, given the utter helplessness of the Jew living in the Diaspora throughout the millennia.
Less than two years before the hijacking, moviegoers around the world were reminded by the fictional Michael Corleone in Godfather II, to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. For Israel, the advice was both sound as well as timely.
Itche Gadish currently of Ramat Gan spent much of the decade of the ‘60’s in Uganda where he was the head of the international arm of a large Israeli engineering firm. He knew Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator personally. In fact at one point, Itche was asked to tender plans for the redevelopment of the Entebbe airport and was provided with the blueprints of the existing airport which he brought back with him, when he returned to Israel in 1969. Because of close contact with Itche Gadish, the Israelis had a close up view of their target. The liberating team knew every nook and cranny where the hostages were being kept before they set out on their mission.
According to the History books, the Yom Kippur War ended on October 26, 1973, less than three weeks after it began. Don’t believe it! The Yom Kippur War ended on July 4, 1976. It took the astounding victory of Entebbe to bring the nation out of the malaise they had been in since October 1973. The Entebbe Rescue restored a sense of self confidence along with its can do attitude ever since it had been so badly shaken in October 1973.
It has been said, since its very inception, Israel has been a threat. I couldn’t agree more. Israel has been a threat to the moral values of other countries, where governments are not prepared to lift a finger should it happen that its people are taken hostage by terrorists. Israel has been a threat to overly cautious naysayers of other countries, because time after time, Israel discovers yet another miracle, sometimes in the guise of airport blueprints and makes the impossible a reality. Israel has been a threat to the hijackers, as well as the governments that harbor and support them. Thanks to people Itche Gadish with his blueprint of the Entebbe airport, Israel is able to say “we know where you live and we are coming after you”. And that’s precisely what took place forty years ago, this week.