November to July
a new novel by Marilyn Oser

It’s November 11, 1918. “Who’s going to clean up this mess?” are the first words Eleanor Simons hears on a suddenly-silent battlefield when the cannons cease their roaring. The mess is everywhere–in the blasted fields of France, Belgium, Russia, the Middle East, Africa…. And like those fields, Eleanor’s life looks bleak; her fiancé has died in the war. As a nurse at the front, she never expected to survive, either. Now, a long, blank lifetime stretches out ahead of her.

In Asia, Africa and Europe, whole empires have been blown away. To clean up the mess, to make a lasting peace, the world’s diplomats are convening in the beehive that is Paris. During the early months of 1919, Eleanor–like many a harried, sleepless minister–must face the challenge of shaping a new future out of the ashes of the old.

Available on Amazon or to order through your local bookstore

12 Things You Need to Know About… David “Mickey” Marcus

Israel’s first general since Judah Maccabee

Mickey_Marcus_West_Point_Photo1. David Daniel Marcus was born in New York in 1901 to immigrant parents. He learned boxing for self-protection in the Brooklyn neighborhood where he went to school. He was admitted to West Point in 1920 and graduated in 1924 with an outstanding record.

2. After active service, Marcus attended law school. In the 1930s he served as federal attorney in New York and helped bring Lucky Luciano to justice. Mayor LaGuardia named him Commissioner of Corrections for New York City.

3. In 1940, he went back into the army. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to fight in the war. He parachuted into Normandy, saw fighting service, and helped draw up the surrender terms for the Axis powers.

220px-MickeyMarcus4. The year was 1944: Marcus was in charge of planning how to sustain the lives of those in the areas to be liberated. He was responsible for the prisoners in the death camps; he entered the camps, coming face-to-face with the survivors and the dead. After the war, he was named chief of the War Crimes Division, planning for the Nurenberg trials. These experiences, as might be expected, turned him into a Zionist.

5. While the United Nations deliberated over the establishment of the State of Israel, Marcus was serving as a colonel in the US Army. He was wooed by Yitzhak Shamir to help pull together a ragtag set of citizen-soldiers into a fighting force. In January 1948, “Michael Stone” arrived in Tel Aviv, using the assumed name to satisfy the US authorities and to avoid problems with what remained of the British Mandatory authority.

6. He designed a command structure for the new army, wrote training manuals and identified weak positions. When, in May 1948, the new state was attacked by Arab armies, the new army of Israel was ready.

7. Marcus had prescribed hit-and-run tactics with the Egyptian army, a technique that worked well in the south. As commander of the Jerusalem front, he broke the siege of that city by building a new road – the “Burma Road” – to bring in supplies to the Jewish defenders; the Arab siege was broken just before the cease-fire took effect. Israel’s borders were kept virtually intact.

8. As a commander he inspired confidence in his men. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister [see my blogpost of October 9, 2013], named him Lieutenant General, the first general in the army of Israel in nearly two thousand years.

9. He did not live to see the peace. Six hours before the cease-fire, he was killed by friendly fire.

Marcus gravestone10. Marcus was buried at West Point with a tombstone reading, “A Soldier for All Humanity.” A monument has been erected to his memory where he fell, now in Kiriat Telshe Stone near Abu Gosh.

11. A biography about him was written in 1962 by Ted Berkman, Cast a Giant Shadow. A movie of the same name came out in 1966.

12. Kibbutz Mishman David and the neighborhood Neve David in Tel Aviv are named for him, as is the Colonel David Marcus Memorial Playground in Brooklyn.

In Haifa you’ll find David Marcus Street in French Carmel, just east of Tchernichovsky Street.

10 Things You Need to Know About…Hanna Senesh

National heroine

1. Hanna Senesh (Szenes) was born in Budapest in July 1921 to a wealthy, distinguished, assimilated family. Her father was a well-known writer.

2. She, too, wished to write and, starting at age thirteen, kept a diary. She had a modern Hungarian education, but became attracted to Zionism when, in high school, she came into contact with anti-Semites.

Szenes-Hannah-23. In 1939, she went to study agriculture in Palestine. At the end of the two-year course, she joined a kibbutz at Caesarea. Working there in the kitchen and the laundry, she was less than satisfied, as reflected in her diary. During this time, she wrote poetry and a play about kibbutz life.

4. In 1943, the Jewish agency approached her about a clandestine military operation to offer aid to European Jewry. Her Hungarian background made her perfect for the project.

5. She joined the Palmach, studying first to be a wireless operator and then a paratrooper.

senesh parachuting6. In March 1944, she was dropped into Yugoslavia – one of more than thirty Jews parachuted in by the British Army to establish contact with Hungarian partisans and to aid the beleaguered Jewish populations. She crossed into Hungary in June, her entry delayed by the German invasion. Within hours, she was picked up by the Hungarian police, imprisoned in Budapest and tortured. Most of her fellow parachutists also were captured within days; only one managed to survive the war.

7. Her mother was arrested and brought to the same prison in an attempt to break her. To no avail: she would not give up the wireless codes that her enemy wanted. In November 1944 she was tried for treason and sentenced to death. Age twenty-three, she faced her firing squad.

szenes8. Her mother survived the war, and it was through her mother that her diaries were brought to public attention. In 1950, her remains were transferred to Israel and buried in the parachutists’ section on Mount Herzl. That same year, Kibbutz Yad Hannah was established, named in her memory.

9. In 1993, a Hungarian military court officially exonerated her.

Hanna S10. Here are four samples of her writing; some you may have seen set to music (please forgive the spacing in the poetry):

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.


In my life’s chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything happened according to an inner need.


My God, my God, I pray that these things never end

The sand and the sea,

The rustle of the waters,

Lightning of the Heavens,

The prayers of Man.


Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its breath for honor’s sake

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.


In Haifa, you’ll find Hanna Senesh Street south of the Municipal Theatre, running parallel to Sederot Wingate.



6 Things You Need to Know About…Dov Hos

Ardent Labor Zionist

Dov Hos1. Dov Hos is not well known or widely documented, but he was among the leaders of labor Zionism, the founders of the Haganah, the pioneers of Israeli aviation, and the Jews who worked to establish a nation in the interwar period.

2. He was born in Byelorussia in 1894 and emigrated to Ottoman Palestine with his family in 1906.  From 1909, he was part of the group that organized guarding of the new city to become Tel Aviv. He was among the first graduates of Herzliya High School (1913).

3. During World War I, the Turks sentenced him to death for aiding Jewish settlement in Palestine; he managed to slip through their hands and flee south to the zone newly captured by the British.

4. By 1920, he was a member of Haganah’s central committee. From 1931-40, he served as a member of the Haganah command center. In 1935, he became deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. He served, as well, in the Histradut.

Unknown5. He was CEO of Aviron, the company that trained pilots and established flight lines in Israel and beyond, and also is said to have served as a cover for the Haganah. On his way to a meeting at Aviron, Dov Hos died in a car accident in December, 1940. Sde Dov Airport in north Tel Aviv is named for him.

6. In the aftermath of World War II, the famous ship Dov Hos galvanized world attention on the plight of European Jewish refugees.

In Tel Aviv, you’ll find Dov Hos Street running north from Frischmann, parallel to, and east of, Ben Yehuda.



8 Things You Need to Know About… Louis D. Brandeis

American Jurist and Zionist

louisbrandeis1. Louis Dembitz Brandeis (1856-1941) was a distinguished American jurist, the first Jew to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court. Nice, but why would that make him worthy of having a street named after him in Israel?


2. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, to affluent parents who were universalist in outlook – not strong advocates of Judaism – he grew up to be a prominent lawyer for social justice, but not one with a strong interest in Jewish affairs.

3. Prior to 1914, most American Jews did not actively support establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Some opposed it, fearing they would be accused of divided loyalty. Others – the more traditionally orthodox – felt that a Jewish state would come in God’s time, not man’s. Brandeis was strongly influential in changing these attitudes, convincing American Jews that a Jewish state was essential not only for saving Eastern European Jews, but also for reviving American Judaism.

4. He was introduced to Zionism sometime around the 1900 by the English Zionist Jacob de Haas, and later by Aaron Aaronsohn, the internationally renowned botanist and founder of the Jewish espionage group NILI. In 1910, he learned that his uncle Louis Dembitz, for whom he had been named, had been a Zionist. This prompted him to learn all he could about Zionism. Then, as part of his work as a mediator of  a strike, he met with Russian immigrant garment workers, who he found to be full of the spirit of democratic idealism.

5. In 1913 and -14, he stuck his toe in the waters of Zionist leadership, and by 1915 he was serving as Chairperson of the  Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs; he raised millions of dollars for Jews in war-torn Europe, and he improved the organization and its finances, dramatically increasing American membership in the Zionist movement.

Brandeis stamp6. He resigned from this office when President Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. He was nevertheless influential in convincing Wilson of the justice of the Jewish cause in Palestine.

7. After the war, and during the Paris Peace Conference, Brandeis came into conflict with Chaim Weizmann over the aims of Zionism and the means to achieve them. In brief, Weizmann saw Zionism as a political movement with funding from abroad, while Brandeis believed that an economic basis was necessary in Palestine; he was critical of the choices that European Jewry had made, in that they favored political activity in Europe over practical improvements in Palestine. Nonetheless, he retained an interest in the Zionist project and continued to support the efforts of American Jewry in this regard.

8. His contribution at a critical time was to affirm a Zionism born out of the American context, affirming a commitment to Eretz Yisrael as part of the American Jewish identity.

Brandeis“To be better Americans, we must be better Jews, and to be better Jews, we must become Zionists.”


You’ll find Brandeis Street running north of Pinkas Street, north Tel Aviv.

10 Things You Need to Know About… L. L. Zamenhof

Creator of Esperanto

esperanto4“I was taught that all men were brothers, and meanwhile, in the street, in the square, everything at every step made me feel that men did not exist, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews, and so on.”


1. Eliezer Zamenhof (also called Leyzer Levi Zamenhov and Ludwig Lazar Zamenhof) was born in December 1859 in Bialystok. His father was a teacher of German. He grew up speaking Russian, Polish and Yiddish and later learned French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and English.

2. As a young man, he conceived the notion that ethnic and national hatreds had a linguistic basis, and that understanding among peoples could be achieved if they had a common, neutral communication tool. He began developing that tool while he was still in high school.

3. He studied medicine in Moscow and Warsaw and in 1886 established a practice as an ophthalmologist. But he had not forgotten his goal of promulgating an international language and spent the better part of two years trying to raise funds to publish a forty-page booklet describing his “lingvo internacia.”

4. Finally, with the help of his father-in-law, his International Language was published in Russian under the pseudonym “Dr. Esperanto,” which, in his constructed language, meant Doctor Hopeful.

5. The first magazine in what came to be called Esperanto came out in Germany in 1889. A formal organization was formed in the 1890s, and the first international congress was held in Boulogne in 1905. It was not a ringing success, as the French Esperantists were put off by Zamenhof’s religious enthusiasm (see below). In 1908, the Universal Esperanto Association was founded in Rotterdam.

6. Zamenhof continued to write dictionaries, texts and translations in Esperanto, including the Old Testament. Some of his works can be found today at Project Gutenberg (

7. His linguistic efforts extended to Yiddish. In 1879 he wrote the first grammar of the Yiddish language, later translating it into Russia and Esperanto.

Unknown-18. After the Russian pogroms of 1882, Zamenhof joined the early Zionist movement, but left it only five years later. In 1901, in an essay on what he called Hillelism, he argued against nationalism of any sort. He wanted Judaism reconstructed on an ethical basis, advocating for people of all religions to reject national, racial and religious chauvinism. Jews, he argued, should give up Hebrew, which was “cadaverous,” and Yiddish, which was “a jargon;” instead, they should adopt Esperanto and practice a theosophical faith based on cultural Judaism. In 1906, the name Hillelism was changed to Homaranismo (Humanitarianism), which he described as a “philosophically pure” monotheism, a universal ethical order.

9. He died in Warsaw in April 1917 and is buried there in the Jewish Cemetery at Okopowa Street. Hundreds of streets, parks and bridges worldwide have been named in his memory – in Lithuania, England, France, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Brazil. There is a Zamenhof Island in the Danube River and a minor planet, Zamenhof 1462, among the stars. A genus of lichen has been named for him. And he is honored as a deity by the followers of Oomoto, a Shinto sect.

10. Esperanto is still in use today by an estimated minimum of 100,000 people, and perhaps as many as two million. It has its own flag, and its online learning platform receives upwards of 200,00 hits a month. If you noodle around online, you will find jokes in Esperanto, tongue-twisters in Esperanto….

UnknownIn Tel Aviv, you’ll find Zamenhof Street running east off Kikkar Zina and crossing King George Street.

10 Things You Need to Know About… Eliyahu Golomb

Chief architect of the Haganah

1. He was born in March 1893 in Volkovysk, Byellorussia. When he was sixteen, his family made aliyah. He graduated with the first class of Herzliyah High School.

2. He went to settle in Kibbutz Degania Aleph, working there and organizing agricultural training courses. But upon the death of his father, he returned to run the family flour mill in Jaffa. When World War I came, he was ordered by the Turks to operate the flour mill on Shabbat. He refused, and was publicly whipped for it.

4. He opposed Jewish enlistment in the Turkish Army. When, late in the war, the British permitted formation of a Jewish Legion, he headed up the volunteers for it.

Golomb.stamp5. He was active in the labor party Ahdut Ha-Avodah, but he is best known for his work in creating a Jewish military presence. Golomb believed that all Jews must be involved in their own defense. After the war, he was active in founding and organizing the Haganah. He served on its command council and in 1920 was involved in sending aid to the defenders of Tel Hai.

6. From 1922-24, he was abroad – Vienna, Berlin, Paris – purchasing arms for the Haganah and organizing pioneer youth groups.

7. Through the 1930s, Golomb largely directed the organization and financing of illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine. During the riots of 1936-9, he was one of the initiators of the field units that confronted Arab terrorists. He supported defense against Arab attacks, but not indiscriminate attacks on Arab populations. These punitive actions he opposed.

8. Like most of his compatriots, he supported the British in World War II without ever forgetting the need to remove the mandate. He was a founder of the Palmach – the elite unit of the Haganah – and trained many future commanders of the IDF.

9. He authored “The History of Jewish Self-Defence in Palestine, 1878-1921,” a pamphlet that is currently (May 2014) up for bid at

defence-museum-_0110. He died in June 1945. His home on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv, where the command council typically met, is now Beit Eliyahu Golomb, the museum of the Haganah. His apartments have been restored, and the museum is adjacent.

In Haifa, you’ll find Eliyahu Golomb Street running southeastward from the Bahai Shrine.

Several Things You Need to Know About… Shaul Pinchas Rabinovitch and David Bloch

Two Ardent Zionists

1. Shaul Pinchas Rabinovitch, known as SheFeR, was born in Lithuania in 1845. He became a Zionist, one of the leading forces in Hovevei Zion in the Russian Empire.

2. He was active in Hebrew publication, writing for such newspapers as HaMagid and HaTsefira.

3. He published a collective work, Knesset Yisroel – the Gathering of Israel.

4. He translated Graetz’s history of the Jews [see my blog post of July 13, 2013] into Hebrew, making significant changes to remove anything that shed a poor light on Israel.

5. He died in Frankfurt in 1910.

David Bloch visiting Detroit

David Bloch visiting Detroit

6. David Bloch (also known as David Bloch-Blumenfeld) was born Efraim Blumenfeld in Grodno in 1884. He was active in Poalei Zion, helping establish labor offices and workers’ settlements.

7. He was a distinguished part of the second aliyah, a founding member of both Ahdut HaAvodah (1919) and Histradut (1920).

8. In 1923, he became Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv; he served as the city’s mayor from 1925-7.

9. He died in 1947. Moshav Dovev in the upper Galilee was named for him (1963).

In Tel Aviv, you’ll find Shefer Street in Neve Tzedek running eastward from HaKarmel just north of Kalischer. Further north, you’ll find Bloch running northeastward from Ben Gurion to Arlosoroff.

10 Things You Need to Know About… Moshe Sharett

Second Prime Minister of Israel

1. He was born Moshe Shertok in October 1884 in Kherson, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. In 1906, he made aliyah with his family, living first in an Arab village, thus learning Arabic and becoming familiar with Arab customs.

2. In 1910, his family were among the founders of Tel Aviv. He was in the very first class to graduate from Herzliya High School. He went on to study law at Istanbul University, but his academic career was cut short by the advent of World War I. Fluent in Arabic, Turkish and German (and ultimately five other languages), he served as an interpreter in the Ottoman Army.

220px-Sharet223. After the war, he became an agent for the Yishuv, working in Arab affairs and land purchase. He joined the labor party Ahdut Ha’Avoda and later Mapai. Between 1922-24 he attended the London School of Economics, where he was active in Poalei Zion. He edited their periodical Workers of Zion and later worked on Davar, Histradut’s daily newspaper, editing its English language weekly from 1925-31.

4. Upon returning to Palestine after his studies in England, he became secretary of the political division of the Jewish Agency. After the assassination of Arlosoroff in 1933 [see my post of May 8, 2013], he became head of the division, a position he was to hold until 1948.

5. He was the key negotiator with the British Mandatory during the critical time of the thirties and forties. In 1944, he was instrumental in establishing the Jewish Brigade, doing all he could to encourage Jewish volunteers.

6. In 1947, Sharett appeared before the United Nations General Assembly with regard to the partition of Palestine. He worked tirelessly to mobilize international support for the plan and was one of the signatories to the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

7. During the 1948 War of Independence he served as Foreign Minister for the provisional government. He led the Israeli delegation to the cease-fire negotiations during and after the War of Independence. He was elected to the Knesset in the first Israeli election (1949) and served as Minister of Foreign Affairs until 1956, establishing the diplomatic service and embassies, forging diplomatic ties with many nations and helping to bring about Israel’s admission to the United Nations. In 1952, he signed a reparations agreement with West Germany.

sharett8. Sharett was eager to stabilize relations with the Arab nations and opposed any use of harsh tactics against border incursions [cf. my post of March 19, 2014]. In this, he came into conflict with his old friend and colleague, David Ben-Gurion. In December 1953, when Ben-Gurion retired from politics – though only temporarily, as it turned out – Sharett became Prime Minister and held the position for two years. During his tenure, a scandal arose (the Lavon Affair) over a covert operation in Egypt run (poorly) by the IDF; Sharett, unaware of it, publicly denied the espionage. This and his disagreements with Ben-Gurion caused his political downfall and retirement.

9. In retirement, he became Chairman of Am Oved publishing house and of Beit Berl College, both Histradut institutions. He represented the Labor Party at the Socialist International. In 1960, he became Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. He died in Jerusalem in 1965 and is buried in Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv. In the Ynet 2005 poll, he was voted 150th on the list of 200 greatest Israelis.

220px-20_NIS_Bill_(polypropylene_and_paper)_Obverse10. The Prime Minister’s Office lists several books written by Sharett, though I have been unable to verify this information elsewhere: Oar in Asia  (1957), At the Time of Nations (1958), Booklet of Poetry Translations (1965) and Fading lights (196-). It is certain, however, that after his father’s death, Sharett’s son published Sharett’s diaries, making an important contribution to historical scholarship. A new edition of the diaries came out in 2007, with passages that had been left out of the earlier editions.

In Tel Aviv, Sharett Street circles around HaMedina Square, intersecting with Arlosoroff, Jabotinsky and Weizmann, among others.