Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Maccabees In Africa In July?

Forty-two years ago today, on July 4, 1976, the Israeli military freed 106 hostages, consisting of 94 passengers and 12 crew members, whose Paris-bound Air France Airbus, which originated in Tel Aviv, was hijacked. The German and Palestinian terrorists landed with a plane full of hostages at Entebbe Airport in distant, equatorial Uganda. You can read the details here of this incredibly daring rescue operation, which was nicknamed Operation Thunderbolt. The commander of the operation, Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu (older brother of Israel’s current Prime Minister) was killed by a sniper as he set up a command center at the Entebbe airport during the raid. In his honor, the Israeli government renamed the raid, Mivtzah Yonatan, “Operation Jonathan.”

When President Gerald Ford was informed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin of the successful rescue of the hostages, he responded, “Mr. Prime Minister. You have just given the United States of America the greatest Bicentennial gift we could have ever asked for.” July 4, 1976 was the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Jews worldwide swelled with pride as the tiny Jewish state demonstrated that the nations of the world need not capitulate to terrorism and that Israel stood tall as protector of Jews worldwide. Menachem Begin, the long-time leader of the opposition party in the Knesset, captured this idea in a memorable speech at the Knesset, where he called the rescuers, “Modern Day Maccabees.” Mr. Begin declared: “When the actions of Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz, with a finger to the right, condemned men, women and children to death, then there had been no one to save them. Now there was. Now we declare for all to hear, ‘Never Again!’ Let the world know, if anyone, anywhere, is persecuted or humiliated or threatened, or abducted, or is in any way endangered, simply because he or she is a Jew, then the people of Israel will marshal all of its strength to come to their aid and to bring them, with the help of the Almighty, to the safe haven that we call our land, Israel.” 

While several movies were made describing the daring rescue operation, we encourage all Jewish Treats readers to watch the NJOP-produced video about Operation Jonathan, entitled, “The Story of the Modern Day Maccabees.”

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