From the Other Side of the Bench


Revisiting the past

by David Seidemann

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about my illustrious career as a little league catcher; the point of it was to encourage us all to revive that one memory that could serve as mental respite from our daily pressures. That article and the article three weeks later about the Regev-Goldwasser prisoner exchange produced so much positive feedback that I felt compelled to revisit both issues in a combined format.

Doing so presents no problem because my second mental escape is Israel. Not just Israel, but a specific place in Israel, and not just a specific location, but a specific event that I replay in my mind whenever I need a boost. It serves not only as a vacation, but also as a homecoming.

It goes back to 1980-81, the year I spent learning in Yeshiva in Israel. Every Motzai Shabbos, not long after the three stars emerged in the night sky over Jerusalem, signifying the end of Shabbos, I boarded a bus or grabbed a taxi to King David's tomb in Jerusalem.

I, together with hundreds of others, went to have my soul electrified by the father of Jewish rock 'n roll by Avrohom Rosenblum and the Diaspora Yeshiva Band.

Nestled in the caves of Mount Zion, the Diaspora Yeshiva, founded after the Six Day War, catered to the returnees and to those from less traditional, more diverse backgrounds. Over the years, the Torah teachings that emanated from those stones and the musical offerings that enraptured the few hundred souls that packed the cave every Saturday night created a worldwide spiritual awakening. The original band members were not your Moishy or Shmuel from down the block; they were all accomplished musicians, having played with the greatest of America's rock 'n roll artists.

The band toured the world in the 70s and early 80s, only to cease performing when the members' family commitments inside and outside of Israel took precedence. From the mid 1980s until 1995, all Diaspora fans could do was to spin the old 33 on our record players, close our eyes and wish for a reunion.

It happened in 1995 at Town Hall in New York City. I was on the board of directors of a yeshiva in Brooklyn which catered to Russian immigrants. For three hours in New York in 1995, all of us were transported to King David's Tomb in Jerusalem. For three hours, 1995 was 1980.

Those “King David Melava Malkas,” as they were called in the 70s, attracted a diverse crowd. Yeshiva boys and girls from all points on the spectrum; Chareidi, non-religious and even non-Jews packed Mount Zion Square for those Saturday night soul fests.

But the most passionate memory, the memory that never leaves my mind, is that of the Israeli soldiers who would attend in full uniform, some with yarmulkes, some without. They would lean their rifles against the wall and dance in front of the band with such fervor, such hope, tears and so much heart. I often wondered if G-d forbid, I would show up on a Saturday night and not see a soldier that I had seen the week before.

Here I am, I remembered thinking, learning Torah in the land of Israel with the toughest thing I would encounter being a mussar schmooze (ethics lesson) from one of my Rabbis. The soldiers, on the other hand, were leaving home every day without the security of life that I enjoyed.

So, the need for mental respite leads me to think of those Saturday night concerts which lead me to envision the soldiers, which brings with it thoughts of their sacrifice for our land of Israel and my paltry contributions in comparison. Jonathon Pollard wants to go and can't. We can go, but too many of us, yes, me included, don't go. For the first time in Jewish history ,we are not being expelledm we are not experiencing pogroms and ships are not being turned away. Nevertheless, with the door to Jerusalem wide open, we walk on by.

So I'm watching the All-Star Game last Tuesday night, the night before the bodies of our two brothers were returned; two soldiers who were not yet born when I was tapping my feet, clapping my hands and dancing with Israeli soldiers from another generation at Mount Zion Square in Jerusalem.

Pitcher number three of the evening for the national league All-Stars was a tall, lanky powerful right-hander by the name of Danny Haran. The announcer made reference to the fact that Haran had been traded, swapped, from Oakland to Arizona in an eight player deal, which in baseball circles was deemed to be fairand advantageous to both clubs involved.

The name Danny Haran sounded familiar as soon as the announcer mentioned his name. I had read an article or read a news clip, something with that name in the last few hours. My mind began to google the name Danny Haran. I was drawing a blank, but then I noticed, there on the bed next to me was the newspaper article detailing how this murderer that Israel was about to pardon and release this Hezbollah hero Samir Kuntar, and this murderer's victim was an Israeli man named Danny Haran.

The rest of the story we know. After murdering Danny, Kuntar murdered his four year old daughter. Mrs. Haran, in trying to quiet the cries of her infant daughter accidentally suffocated her. The rest of the All-Star game was unappealing, as all I could think about was our Danny Haran, our Goldwasser, our Regev, our Shalit, the real All-Stars.

And I longed for a Saturday night at King David's Tomb with the band, and I wished I was there along with the soldiers, Regev, Goldwasser, Shalit, Arad, Hever, Feldman, Katz, Baumel and all those soldiers felled in the line of duty defending the country we just can't seem to list as our home address. And so I, like most of you, will worry from afar and send in a donation once in a while.

There will be a day, and it will be soon, that the Diaspora Yeshiva Band will pick up their instruments from all over the world and once again reunite near King David's Tomb. Jewish music, holy music, spiritual music, will once again reverberate from the walls that contain the greatest composer of all time, King David.

There will be a circle. A huge circle. Every Jew from all four corners of this Earth will be there, from the left, from the center and the right, some with yarmulkes and many without; none of us will be in an army uniform, for what country would dare attack us? Regev, Goldwasser, Shalit, all of them, those whose names we know and the names of those we don't know, they'll all be there.

If my memory serves me correctly, the concert starts at 8:30 and it's the number 1 or 38 bus.