COURAGE

Their names were Avshalom Haviv, Meir Nakar and Yaakov Weiss , and their memories stand as a blessing. In yesterday's Post, Yehuda Avner told their story:

It was 1947. As the days of the British Mandate for Palestine began to wind down, the local authorities moved against the Irgun -- the Jewish rebels led by Menachem Begin-- and frequently ordered executions of those who were captured. In one daring raid, members of the Irgun breached the walls of the Crusader fortress in Acre (Akko), where many were held, and set them free. Haviv, Nakar and Weiss, in that rescue team, were caught and sentenced to die.

Others within the prison on the day of their executions later told the story of what went on:

"Avshalom Haviv was hung at four in the morning , Meir Nakar at 4.25, and Yaakov Weiss at 5.00.

"No one in the Acre jail slept that night. One prisoner, whose Irgun name was Natan but whose real name was Chaim Wasserman, was in a nearby cell, and he smuggled out a letter to Irgun commander Menachem Begin, describing what he saw and heard. He wrote:

"'Early this morning our three comrades went heroically to the gallows. We were already aware of what was going to happen between four and five in the morning, and pressed against the bars with bated breath watching helplessly what was going on around the cell...

"'The officers went in and informed the condemned men they were to be executed...Their reply was to sing "Hatikva" and other songs in powerful voices. They then shouted to us..."Avenge our blood! Avenge our blood!"'

"'We shouted back, "Be strong! We are with you, and thousands of Jewish youth are with you in spirit." They replied, "Thanks," and went on singing.

"'At two a Sephardi rabbi ...was brought and stayed in the cell 15 minutes.

"'At four in the morning Avshalom began singing "Hatikva," and we joined in loudly, pressing against the bars. At once armed police came up to the visitors' fence near our cell. At 4.03 Avshalom was hanged. At 4.25 we were shaken by the powerful singing of Meir. Hardly able to breathe, we nevertheless joined in. He was hanged at 4.28. At five o'clock the voice of Yaakov, this time alone, penetrated our cell, singing "Hatikva." Again we joined in. Two minutes later he was hanged. Each of the bodies was left hanging 20 minutes before being carried off, one by one...

"'At dawn we informed the prison officers through an Arab warden that we would not be responsible for the life of any Englishman who dared enter the jail yard. We declared a fast and prayed. Later in the morning we found the following inscription on the wall of the cell of the condemned: "They will not frighten the Hebrew youth in the Homeland with their hangings. Thousands will follow in our footsteps."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1185379003680&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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"Thousands will follow in our footsteps."

We ask where we are, 60 years later. The positions of Olmert and Livni and Ramon et al are to their everlasting shame. They actually join those attempting to frighten the Jewish youth in our Homeland.

But I believe that the thousands still stand -- G-d forbid that any should have to die. I am seeing signs of courage that are heartening -- signs that I believe are growing: determination is being fueled in the face of the actions of Olmert and company. I am reading e-mails that say, "Enough is enough."

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There is Homesh , the Samaria community dismantled with the "disengagement," where settlers are determined to build again. The IDF drives them off, and they return.

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There is Hebron , where two Jewish families have taken up residence in buildings on Jewish owned land in the Avraham Aveinu neighborhood that was used as an Arab market but has been abandoned for some time. They have sworn that if Barak follows through on threats to have them removed they will not go peacefully, as they did in the past -- especially as the Jewish community had been promised that arrangements would be made for Jews to live there, which is what had promoted an earlier voluntary (and presumably temporary) evacuation of the property.

This time there is Knesset support -- a very significant thing -- as the representatives of several parties -- Kadima, Shas, Gil, National Union/NRP, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beitenu -- sent a letter to Barak on Wednesday.

It said, "We are now commemorating the 78th anniversary of the pogrom of 1929. You now face a decision regarding the fate of one of the sites that most symbolize the murder and thievery of the Jewish community of Hevron. The land in question is Jewish-owned, and the government must act to return that which was stolen, just as it would do regarding Jewish property anywhere else in the world."

When dozens of Jews were massacred in Hevron in 1929, the British moved out the survivors -- as it was easier to do that than protect them -- and Arabs confiscated their property. In subsequent years, the Arabs made the claim that Hevron was "theirs" and Jewish settlers who wanted to return were labeled interlopers and radical trouble makers.

This is a key issue -- that of claiming the right to what is ours.

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There are the activists at Givat HaEitam in Efrat who are fighting for Jewish rights. This hill is within the boundaries of the municipality of Efrat, and 2,500 housing units were to have been built there. But then planning by the government put the security fence through Efrat so that this hill would be on the wrong side -- on what, if this government has its way, would be Palestinian area.

This, too, is an issue of Jewish rights. In the face of IDF strength -- which properly should be used not against them but against our enemies -- there are Jews trying to establish building there.

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There are the good people of Gush Katif , abandoned by the government and in many cases still without homes and land to farm. Marking the second anniversary of the "disengagement," they vow that the day will come when they will return to their land in Gush Katif.

"...at the end of the day, this is my country – not the politicians'. It important to me to change this country's values," said one former resident.

This change is already under way: Recent polls show that some 60% of Israelis believe that the "disengagement" was a mistake -- that's the same percentage that was once for it, before the fact.

Ami Shaked, the former chief of security of Neve Dekalim, spoke at a rally at the Kisufim checkpoint on Wednesday: "Young people of Gush Katif, swear me this - be I an old man or be it my bones, you will take me with you upon your return."

Yesterday afternoon, in the course of a demonstration of some 500 regarding return to Gaza, there were clashes with police. MK Aryeh Eldad, (NU) -- who was there along with MK Uri Ariel (NU) -- declared, "Anyone who thinks that we will forget the homes from which Gaza residents were evicted is deluding himself. Hundreds of youth are declaring that mistakes can be amended and are demanding to return home." The goal is to reestablish the Jewish community of Nisanit in the north of Gaza.

A handful of young people, unnoticed, slipped over the border into Gaza and were then apprehended.

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May G-d grant strength to every one of these people , and may the rest of the country awake before it is too late.

We are taught that the Temple fell because of the sin of the spies -- the spies sent in by Moses to see what the Land was like, who came out frightened and pessimistic. We are told that this was a failure to have faith and to understand what was ours. We, as a people, still have not learned that lesson. Unless we stand for what is ours, we are lost.