Behind the Headlines to the Heroes of Entebe

A pile of checks with letters attached were on a table at the office of the Israel Voluntary Defense Fund. There were dozens of them: some with $10 bills, some with $50, and a number with as much as $100, $500 or even $1000. There were checks made out in German marks, Swiss francs, Norwegian crowns and even in Hong Kong dollars.

Some of the attached letters noted that the checks were for those who “carried out the rescue operation of the free world.” Others stated more specifically, “To the heroes of Entebbe.” The letters and checks were mainly from Jews from the United States, from Canada, from Finland. But there were many checks and letters from non-Jews who wished to express their gratitude to the Israeli soldiers who participated in the spectacular rescue mission in Uganda.

It is now a month since that mission took place. But the elation and enthusiasm over that feat continues to be expressed by people in all walks of life all over the world, an elation and enthusiasm matched only once before–in 1967 with the end of the Six-Day War.

The continuing upward curve of these feelings is manifested in the ever increasing flow of contributions to the Israel Voluntary Defense Fund, says Moshe Gilboa, the Atlanta, Georgia-based Israel Consul General for the southeast United States, who was assigned to head the fund at the Defense Ministry here. A great believer in the Jewish nation and its ability and integrity, Gilboa gets emotional as he produces letter after letter received with the checks. The sum, he notes, is not always important. What is, is the feeling that goes with it.

HEART WARMING EXAMPLES

As an example, he cites the case of an elderly woman, Tikva Sofer, who is on old age pension. She sent a check for IL 1000 and, in a letter attached to it, she wrote: “Since I shall not be able to cover the whole sum this month I am sending a check in advance for payment next month. I may not live until then, therefore I was in a hurry to send the check now. With love to the wonderful boys.”

Gilboa offers another example of a youngster who spent two years in jail and was released on the eve of the Entebbe operation. The youngster mailed all the pocket money he received from the prison authorities upon his release to the fund. Still another example, Gilboa notes, was that of Mrs. Dora Auerbach who lost her son in the Six-Day War. She sent a check for IL 1000.

The admiration and enthusiasm for those who participated in the Entebbe mission has inundated the entire country; every sector and every level and despite the heavy tax load everyone must bear Workers who are union militants and frequently involved in strikes over higher wages and better living conditions contributed up to three days of work, usually matched by a similar sum by management. Workers contributed the money they received as special allocations for their vacations; children sent their Bar Mitzvah money gifts; electric corporation workers contributed IL 500,000 and the Israeli banks contributed millions of Pounds.

SOME IL 40 MILLION TO DATE

The Israel Voluntary Defense Fund was actually founded before the Entebbe operation, following the cut by President Ford in the transitional quarter allocation to Israel and the IL 500 million defense budget slash by Finance Minister Yehoshua Rabinowitz. As a result; a committee was spontaneously formed comprising individuals from all segments of Israel’s society to see to it that the nation’s defense needs would be met and to assure the armed forces of having the best weaponry available. Industrialist Shimon Elman and kibbutz member Senta Josephthal headed the committee.

The committee has gradually assumed greater dimensions and more responsibilities, especially with the unprecedented flow of contributions following Entebbe. More than IL 30 million has been received to date, over 10 percent coming from abroad, Gilboa notes. But he estimates that the total sum may be closer to IL 40 million if the working days contributed are taken into consideration. “There is confidence in Israel and confidence in Israel from people abroad,” says Gilboa by way of explaining the flow of contributions. “People give money to things they believe in and have confidence in.”

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