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Inside Information

Inside Information

In 1942, Pierre, a French Jew, abandoned God. Then the Six Day War happened.


I met Pierre*, a French Jewish reporter, during a Shabbat meal in the Old City' of Jerusalem. He told us a remarkable story that took place during the Six Day War.

Pierre had run far away from God and any involvement in religious Jewish life. He lived with his family in Paris during the years before the Holocaust. In 1942, when he was 15 years old, he wore a Jewish star on his coat. The French word for Jew, "Juif," was sewn over his coat, identifying him immediately to any interested anti-Semite.

One day, while on a train stationed in Paris, uniformed Germans came aboard. Both Germans and French police were picking Jews off the streets and they began inspecting the riders. Pierre felt his heart move closer to his mouth.

Remarkably, some riders who saw the trembling young man began to push him farther to the end of the car, away from the German intruders. As Pierre neared the end of the car he could still see German officers approaching. During those frantic seconds he quickly tore off his yellow star. A Frenchman suddenly opened the door of the train and pushed Pierre out of harm's way. Luckily, no one in a German uniform saw what happened. Pierre proceeded as calmly as he could and left the station behind.

With the torn-off star came a fractured religious identity. Pierre promised himself he would never step foot into a synagogue as long as he lived. He wanted no part of the God of Israel.

He returned home where the family decided it would be best to send him to the Vichy section of France. As deportations of French Jews became more ominously frequent in the south of France he hid with non-Jews until liberation. Pierre kept his promise against God for over 20 years.

Then in early June, 1967, Pierre was summoned to the Paris offices of a major French newspaper for an emergency meeting. He was now the lead reporter for the Metropolitan Paris region. It was the first day of the Six Day War. Pierre had not yet heard any of the details of the war but he came immediately. He entered a smoke-filled room of colleagues. Noisy discussions resounded in the air, competing for space with thickening smoke. A number of Pierre's friends saw him and a sudden hush came over the room. Pierre was bewildered.

He urged his colleagues, "Please, friends, continue whatever it was you were discussing. Why should you stop talking on my account?"

The eerie silence continued until one of his peers came over to him. "Pierre," he gently told him, "we are quiet because of you. We don't want to upset you."

"But why would I be upset?"

"Your country is about to be destroyed. We didn't have the heart to tell you."

"Because your country is about to be destroyed. We didn't have the heart, nor did we know how to tell you."

Pierre was in shock.

What? His country was about to be destroyed? France was in mortal danger? "France?" he asked.

"No... Israel," they said. "Israel is about to be destroyed. We didn't know how to tell you. We know you are Jewish, Pierre. We knew it would upset you. We are so sorry."

"That's impossible! I cannot believe it!"

Another colleague went over the statistics with the Jewish reporter. "Egypt has this many hundreds of tanks. Syria, this many. Then there are Jordanian and Iraqi tanks. Israel has far fewer."

The situation was even worse when it came to warplanes. Egypt had many hundreds of superior Russian air force fighter planes. Syria had hundreds more. Jordan and Iraq helped round out a devastating advantage against Israel. The reporters rattled off figures for soldiers and ammunition.

"You see, Pierre, it's all over for Israel. We're sorry. We didn't want to hurt you."

Pierre began thundering, "No!! No!! This will not happen!"

The men looked at him incredulously as Pierre's voice rose to a shout.

"The God of Israel will fight for the Jewish People! Israel will not be destroyed! The Jews will not be destroyed!"

The men viewed Pierre with a mix of pity and disgust. Two men walked over to him, took him by the arms and walked him out of the room as his colleagues shook their heads. Pierre was still screaming: "The God of Israel will fight on the side of the Jews!"

Three days later it became clear to the world that a miracle happened in Israel. The Jews not only fought off four neighboring Arab armies (and distant recruits as well), they returned to conquer their ancient capital as victorious heroes. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, all of Jerusalem was in Jewish hands.

Pierre's colleagues were convinced that he denied them inside information. They could not see that Pierre had already revealed to them his deeply repressed, inside information. The God of Israel kept His promise to the Jewish people.

(* the reporter's name was changed)


May 12, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Pinchas R. ;) - A talmid of Harav Burstein, December 30, 2010 1:27 AM

Spiritually incredible and uplifting

Rebbi, there is not much to say, This article is AMAZING, and I deeply miss being in your class. I am in the process of growing up and getting older and as I keep reading these stories, I learn something new every time. Even when im not in your class Hashem has blessed me with having a good memory, and I always find references and meaningful insights I can pass to others in my everyday life, and keep on inspiring myself from your incredible and warm words that you have ingrained in my heart. I hope you can continue to write more inspiring articles and continue enlightening the world with your beautiful words of wisdom. From your student, Avraham Pinchas "Rosenbaum"

(6) ruth cheeseman, June 3, 2007 5:50 AM

6 day war?. it's truly a miracle. God is watching over us!

i was ten during the 6 day war. my mum was heavily pregnant and dad was contantly reminding her to get into the tiny underground shelter that he dug only a day or two before. i was so confused by the whole situation, tape is all over the windows, what happenes to the arabs from the gaza strip that dad had employed to work his fields (they only lived 5 KM away from us and mum used to make tea for them on a daily basis, are they too our enemy? and was concerend for mum for refusing to go to the underground shelter, which its roof was made with few twigs; did dad really think the arabs were that stupid not to notice our shelter? 1/2 a KM away was the village's solid concreate shelter, and mum wasn't bothered to go to that either. did she then know anything about the war not going to last or that something forcefull from above was watching over us? it probably was - and it proven it/he was! a pack of wolves nearing to attack one sheap - but the wolves were kept away and disperced by some strong force. the arab countries taking part in this attack were confused: how could this be? we had millions of soldires, millions of amunitions and the support and back up (finacially and pysically)of their allies - most arab countries and also Russia and other countries around the world. now, i really understand this phenomenum (6day war) was not short of a miracle!

(5) YH, May 16, 2007 2:11 PM

misinformation in Braverman's comment

Cardinal Lustiger, was born Aaron Lustiger in Paris, to the Polish Jews Charles and Gisèle Lustiger, whose family had settled in France before World War I. When the Germans occupied France in 1940, he was sent to live with a Christian family in Orléans. He and his sister Arlette converted to Catholicism and were baptized by the Bishop of Orléans, Jules-Marie Courcoux, on August 21, 1940. His parents were deported, and his mother died in the Auschwitz concentration camp; his father, who was displeased with the baptisms, survived.

Which synagogue does he attend on the yartzeit? I doubt this is true.

(4) Beverly Kurtin, Ph.D., May 15, 2007 2:26 PM

No guarantees

Although I have never denied my Judaism, I had friends call me as they did "Pierre" to tell me that my country's death was imminent. "The United States is being attacked?" I asked in horror. "NO, not us, Israel."

Frankly, that angered me in a way that I can't be described and to this day I have carried that anger in the background of my mind. Although I and my parents have lived their entire lives in the United States, those dunderheads still felt that somehow I did not have any rights to being an American just because I was a Jew.

Are not Jews as American as other people? I don't hear Germans or Poles or the French being denied their rights to being called Americans. Where do those misbegotten ideas come from? I've served in the Air Force of the United States, many of those who don't consider the United States my country never lifted a finger to help it, yet the feel entitled to call it "their country" and not mine.

That does serve as a warning to all American Jews that even in this day and age we're not safe. Evangelical Christians are calling for a national day of prayer and are deliberately and with hatred excluding any Jews from participating, yet Israel thinks they're our friends. Oh, and those same hate filled Evangelicals are excluding Mormons, Hindus, and Buddhists, but not Muslims (that I could find).

Evangelical Christianity is the single largest enemy of Jewelry in the United States and if they ever get to the White House again, it's time to pack our bags and head for the only other country we can go to: Israel.

Once the Six Day War was concluded, I received congratulations that "my" country had won. By that time I was fed up with all of them. "Yes," I said, "my country won its independence from the British in the last 1700s.."

Mind you, I was thrilled in Israel's victory and still am these 40 years later. But back to a question that was asked. Did God say that he would always keep Israel in our hands or just that he would always keep us as His people? We don't have any guarantees that his land will stay in our hands. Israel is His, it is on loan to us as long as we keep our part of what He demands on our part. Go read it in the Shema.

Most Israelis, from what I have read, are not keeping their end of the bargain our forefathers and mothers made with HaShem. We've been tossed out of the land before, what makes Israelis think it can't happen again. Heaven forbid that it happens, but if the old time prophets were still around, they'd be hoarse

A word for Andy: You seem to have forgotten what Kaddish is. It is simply a praise to the King of the Universe. Can one who has apparently joined the other side say it for his parents? Why not? To my way of thinking, any one, Jew or not can say Kaddish.

When my best friend died I was asked by his wife and family to give his eulogy. (I know that sounds funny, but Bill and I had worked very closely for years but were still committed to our own families.) Bill was a Christian, one of those Christians that didn't have to go around saying that they were Christian, he just showed it by the way he lived. I was very touched that they would have me do the honors.

At the last, I explained that I was about to speak a few words in Aramaic, and then prayed the Kaddish. Did I care that he wasn't a Jew? That he wasn't a member of my family? Not at all; he was my best friend and I miss him to this day.

(3) Andy, May 14, 2007 1:30 PM

Is Pierre correct? +other ?

Pierre either chose to identify as Jew or something about his appearance or lifestyle identified him as Jewish, even if he did not set foot in a shul. Countless Jews do assimilate successfully and their descendents are no longer Jewish. That a Jew maintained a strong connection and belief while not publicly praying is a nice story but what is so surprising. The interesting thing is that outside of Orthodox circles in Israel and the USA most of the glory went to the IDF and not the God of Israel. If there is a promise that God will protect the State of Israel from destruction as Pierre believed I'd love to know because the future looks uncertain. As far as I understand it God promised that the Jewish people as a whole would never be destroyed. That is not the same. I hope I am mistaken and that Pierre is correct.
Re Chaim Braverman comment :Cardinal Lustiger was according to many, one of the leading candidates for pope. From a Catholic perspective I wonder if it is OK for a practicing Catholic to say kaddish for his Jewish parents. I'd think so but why a need to change change dress? If he felt by converting he was mistaken we'd welcome him home.What is the halacha from a Jewish perspective re a apostate saying kaddish fora parent?

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