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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Palestine Post

"Tonight, you don't go..."


Shimshon Lipshitz's daily routine on that cold night of February 1948 was subjected to an unusual intervention by his wife, who had glossed over every detail of his household for the past eighteen years. Her trepidation stemmed as much from premonition as it did from the knowledge that the half an hour walk that Lipshitz was scheduled to undertake was, like hundreds and thousands of fellow Jerusalemites, prey to Arab sniper fire. Yet, her words beckoned him away from his greatest source of pride. Since the day of its inception, Shimshon Lipshitz had never missed a day as the chief printer of Zionism's foremost English language newspaper north of Cairo - The Palestine Post. Even Lipshitz mustn't have realized the epoch making era he lived in, as he deftly assembled blocks of lead that served to record the remnants of a history whose violence was rivalled by the resurgence of its characters. Tonight, as his pride drove him towards the three storey red stone building that served to be the Post's headquarter, his wife's gaze lingered on, as if to personally guard her love from enemy onslaught.



Two miles away, Abou Khalil Genno lit a cigarette near the village of Shofat, on a ridge north of Jerusalem. The cloak of the night had shrouded his identity, safely wrapped underneath the British uniform he had managed to procure from the two deserters who were about to aid him in an endeavor for which the trio had been specifically handpicked by the Mufti. As the British prepared to move out of Jerusalem, the Mufti had contemplated terror bombing to drive the Jews out of their promised land. Tonight, through Abou and the British deserters, the Mufti was poised to send an indication to the Jews of Jerusalem of the price they were going to have to pay for obtaining their Promised Land. The truck with its load of TNT which Abou Khalil was going to drive to its intended target lying two miles away saw one extraordinary sight. A group of black robed women, rushed wailing out of the shadows. They chanted some ancient indecipherable incantations, mumbled a verse from the Koran, and as a final act of blessing, splashed the wheels of the departing vehicle with a bowl of goat's milk.


Ted Lurie, the chief correspondent of the Post was crossing Jaffa street, when he saw a British police truck go lumbering by, smashing the concrete on the turn to bits. "Sure is in a hurry to get somewhere", thought Lurie as he crossed Zion square and made his way to Ben Yehuda street. As he was about to step into a roadside cafe, the explosion caused by Abou's TNT laden British truck, ripped into a deafening roar, sending Lurie sprawling to the ground. Scrambling to his feet, he rushed to a nearby phone to find out what had happened. To his chagrin, the number to the Post was busy. Furious, he dialled twice and then hung up. As he started to dial for the third time, the truth hit him - "My God"! He exclaimed. "They have blown up the Post".


By the time, Lurie had reached the headquarters, flames licked the debris. Almost the entire frontage had disappeared. The building which had served to document such memorable eras in history seemed to have itself been consigned to history, as onlookers stared in disbelief. Locals rushed in to cater to the wounded and cleared the dead bodies. Amidst the bedlam, Lurie's wife tugged his sleeve - "Ted" she asked, " what are you going to do about the news"? "Are you crazy" asked an incredulous Lurie. A moment later, he realized that she was right. The Post was more than a paper. It was the voice of a race that refused to buckle under the many persecutions it had been subjected to through the annals of history. He set up a temporary newsroom in a nearby apartment. Within hours a printing press was located. Two of his reporters rummaged to find any remnants of the carbons for the night's stories while their girlfriends retyped the scraps that were salvaged. By six 'o' clock, faithful to its daily rendezvous with the people of Jerusalem, the paper was on the street. Not even the excesses of the Mufti's terror tactics could blot out the proud logotype of the bedraggled, but unconquerable news paper. The Mufti had not succeeded in his major goal. He had demonstrated that, while he was capable of penetrating the city, he could not silence its spirit - The Palestine Post.



Shimshon Lipshitz had one of his eyes blown away in the blast. Typical of the man, he returned, his remaining eye bolstered by a magnifying glass, and like the Post, his indomitable spirit saw him place the blocks of type that announced the birth of an independent Jewish State later that year.




10 comments:

honshu5 said...

Definitely inspiring! Leads me to the question, are we committed enough? That Chomsky you gave me, combined with Prize has opened my mind to new fields that were hitherto beyond my comprehension!

We are following the American way where individual is worshipped above the collective. No, i am not turning into a socialist. I shall write on Chomsky soon.

But yes, Israel is a military-state. People are led by one common belief & detractors are not allowed! Conscription is a law, and that leads the people to follow the collective dream. I was talking to Doc's mom the other day, and she stressed how NSS & NCC were critical in providing services & public aid during the 1965 war! Those were our socialist days, and the collective was lauded. Doc's dad told me there was something known as the Vijay Vrath. Our country was facing foodgrain scarcity, and PM Shastri asked each person to take Vijay Vrath (i think it was mondays) to save foodgrains. Uncle said that he observed that the rich were as eager as the poor to undertake that vrath, and even restaurants were closed on that day each week! The war only escalated the collective sentiment, and public donated packaged (dried) food, blankets,etc for the army fighting on the front (we were a poor country then!).

I am sure you get my point, and i do not need to tell you how much we all missed you during this conversation (bhabhiji's bday dinner).

Kanika Gupta said...

Needless to say, the historic event has been captured beautifully in words. The narrative, although succint in nature, highlights the strength of characters who, perhaps, wrote history that fateful night (both literally and figuratively). The post makes an interesting read, for it accentuates the infinite potential of the human spirit, especially when faced by a threat to it's very existence.

Rakesh said...

Hi

But is there a message in the timing of this post? I'd really like to know...

Hatikvah said...

@Honshu - thank you. I was obviously nowhere near Lapierre's rendition of the event. But, it smacked of hope, in the face of mounting odds. Maybe there is a lesson for all of us to learn from there...

@Nouveau - there are a lot of parallels between then and now, and its my favourite adage that every problem has a solution in history. The world would do well to remember the struggle of the Jews. Thanks for dropping by...

Rakesh said...

Nope, just wondering if it was a coincidence or were u try to say something else.

Glad its a coincidence coz. nothing (not even years of opression and injustice) can justify taking innocent lives.

Hatikvah said...

Oh, okay, you were referring to the strikes at Hamas. Yeah, in that, I'm at total concurrence with you. No amount of persecution can condone the atrocities they have perpetrated.

Netra said...

Thanks for your comment on my NGO.
Its nice to hear that you would like to join.

For now, you could have a look at our website http://www.readindiafoundation.org/and register on the wiki http://readindiafoundation.wetpaint.com/. You could even drop a mail to the mail id readindiafoundation@gmail.com if you need more details on how you could be a part of this group.

DJ said...

beautifully written....like the simple crisp narrative...!!! like how you have highlighted the commitment of two people involved so differently to the functioning of The Post..!!! interesting read..!!!


P.S. wish i were so committed to work.. ;)

Arindam Mukherjee said...

Hmm ... Hebreophilia is a new phenomenon among Indian intellectuals. Even condoning the displacement of millions of Arabs from their homelands is seen as correct. As is rephrasing passages from O Jerusalem in futile posts. Hope you have the strength to let this comment display!

Hatikvah said...

Oh, I've no problems with the comment. After all, you are quite entitled to your opinion. A few clarifications though - If you've read O Jerusalem, one of the most striking aspects of the book is that it takes no sides. Secondly, I'm no intellectual, just a mere reader, who loved the story, without getting into the rights and wrongs of the same. As for the futility of the posts, well, this one merits no response (I'd recommend you revisit the concept of blogging)...