© 2015, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
“Here they are,” I say when Carol and I find the two graves marked Gerald Berliner and Ariela Berliner.
Carol reads the inscription on Gerald’s headstone.
Chalutz, chayal, chaver kibbutz
Johannesburg, South Africa, April 12, 1915
Maayan Baruch, April 22, 2003
“That’s very fitting,” I say. “He was all of those things, an Israeli hero, a pioneer, a soldier and a founding member of the kibbutz.”
“You told me once he was in three armies,” Carol says.
“Yes,” I say. “In the British Army at the beginning of World War Two. After a while, when he could, he got himself transferred to the South African Army. And later, he was a member of the Haganah and a soldier in the IDF during the War of Independence and from then on.
“And he was a raconteur par excellence.
“He loved to tell stories of his adventures during the late 1930’s and 1940’s. But of all the stories I heard him tell, the most unforgettable one was about how he and Ariela smuggled a pistol through a British checkpoint in their newborn daughter’s baby blankets.”
“You never told me that one.”
“Are you sure?”
Carol laughs. “Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s one story you’ve never told me.”
So standing there in front of Gerald and Ariela’s gravestones, I tell Carol the story she says I never told her.
“Gerald wiped the sweat from his brow and neck. We were sitting under a young apple tree, a few of us volunteers along with him as we took our mid-morning break. We didn’t have to worry about over-staying our break time. Gerald was the boss of the apple orchards during the 1965 fall harvest season.
“He said, ‘My daughter Ayala was the first baby on our kibbutz.’ Then he laughed and shook his head in mock disbelief. Carol, he was always on, always performing when he told us his tales of daring and adventure. And then he said in his Jo’burg accent, ‘She was four days old when she smuggled a pistol past the British checkpoint at Rosh Pina.’
“Gerald and Ariela’s daughter Ayala was the first baby born to kibbutz members after its founding in March 1947. It was early in 1948, a few months before the British left Palestine. They still had roadblocks all over the country. Gerald had taken Ariela to Tverya to give birth in the Scottish hospital. When he brought Ariela and the baby home, they hid that pistol in Ayala’s blankets.
“The bus they were traveling on was stopped at the Rosh Pina checkpoint. The British sergeant in charge ordered everyone off the bus. Gerald and Ariela were sitting near the rear. Gerald told Ariela not to move, to stay right there in her seat and he would speak to the sergeant.
“I can still see his face and hear his voice the way he told the story. It was an unusually hot day. Gerald’s face was red from working in the sun. He was sweating and wiped his brow and cheeks and neck with his handkerchief over and over and all the while he fanned himself with his straw hat.
“This is how he told the story,” I say, and I clear my throat before I begin.
I told the sergeant my wife had just given birth that week and that she wasn’t supposed to exert herself. The sergeant said, “I’m sorry, Sir, but regulations say she must get off the bus so we can search her.”
Then I put on my best imperious military persona. I said, “Sergeant, I am a retired officer in His Majesty’s armed forces.” I snapped open my British army ID and said, “I fought in Italy when you were still in knickers. That woman is my wife and she has a newborn baby with her. She will stay on the bus and that’s that.”
“But, Sir,” he said, not so sure of himself any longer. “I have my orders and the regulations say . . . ” I cut him off right there and said, “Never mind trying to solve this yourself, young man. You are absolutely right to work according to regulations. Let me see your immediate superior officer. I’m sure he can make this decision.”
Then the young sergeant said, “That won’t be necessary, Sir.” And he snapped to attention and saluted me. This is the God’s truth. He saluted me! And then he said, “Tell your wife she may remain in her seat. My men won’t disturb her or the baby while they search the bus. I will tell them to be quiet. And, Sir, please accept my congratulations on your newborn baby.” Then he clicked his heels and saluted me again.
And that’s how we smuggled a pistol in Ayala’s blankets, right through the British checkpoint at Rosh Pina. Ayala was four days old. I always tell her she was the youngest member of the Palmach to smuggle a weapon to us at Maayan Baruch.
“Great story,” Carol says.
I turn to the headstone and say, “I hope I got it right, Gerald.”
And then I flash on the image of his smiling face as he put on his straw hat, got to his feet and said, “Okay, chevreh, let’s get back to work.”