Vol. 13


To Live

1948; Jerusalem, Israel

On May 14, 1948, Nachman Ofer was spiritedly cheering and dancing in the streets with the rest of his Jerusalem neighbors and family. He was seven years old, and Israel had just officially become a state. Nachman had two older sisters and an older brother named Yitzchak. His mother, Chava, was pregnant with a baby boy, and his grandfather lived in an apartment across the street. Nachman had a very sharp memory and was in a school for gifted children. As he waved his new Israeli flag, Nachman could not imagine any place he would rather be.

In 1934 Nachman’s father, Ephraim Dov, had moved from Lublin, Poland, to the land that would become Israel. His father’s brothers, who were still in Poland, had been killed in the Holocaust. Nachman’s father became a construction worker and traveled all over Israel building houses. After Israel became a state, Nachman saw his father less and less frequently. The neighboring Arab countries had attacked, and his father was busy building trenches and fortifications to be safe from Arab snipers.

On the morning of June 11, 1948, Nachman and his family were relieved to hear that there was a ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Their home had been hit hard by the shelling, and they’d already had to move homes once. Nachman left with his father and brother, Yitzchak, to go to synagogue while things were still calm.

Just then they heard a deafening boom, and Ephraim Dov collapsed. Yitzchak shouted at Nachman, “Take Mother inside!” because she had fainted from shock.

As Nachman dragged his mother indoors, he heard more shelling outside. His heart was pounding like a hammer. He ran back outside to check on his father. His neighborhood was destroyed, his grandfather was injured, and his brother was standing over his father’s dead body. His father had been killed instantly.

Life changed very quickly for Nachman. His mother gave birth to a baby boy, and named him after her husband, Ephraim Dov. She couldn’t afford to keep all her children, so she sent Yitzchak and Nachman to live in an orphanage. There were many crying, traumatized children living there, so Nachman never got much sleep. He was not fed well either, so he and Yitzchak scavenged food from grocery trucks. Nachman had to leave his school, and lost almost three years of education. During that time Chava opened up a grocery store, and finally earned enough money for Yitzchak and Nachman to return home.

Today Nachman Ofer, my great-grandfather, lives in New York. He and his wife, Rachel, have four children, fourteen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Nachman learned early that one day you could have everything you’d ever want, and the next day it could all be taken from you. He tries to live every day as if it is his last.

Rami Kessock; New York, USA



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