A Model for Mankind
My grandfather, Mordechai Kreinin, walks down the street in East Lansing, Michigan. The temperature is eighty degrees, and he is dressed in a light t-shirt, khaki shorts, and white tennis shoes. As he is walking, he spots someone walking towards him in a heavy coat, gloves, and a scarf. Due to his naturally talkative nature, Mordechai stops in his tracks and asks the stranger why he is wearing a coat when it is so hot outside. The person looks up, surprised, and then continues walking. Mordechai acquired his friendly, intrusive attitude when growing up before the birth of Israel in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Mordechai Kreinin boarded the bus in Rishon le Zion, Palestine, on his way to Herzliya high school in Tel Aviv, Palestine, in 1945. Palestine later became the state of Israel. He surveyed the bus for his best friend, Moshe Dombek. Their eyes met, and Mordechai pushed past the many legs stretched out carelessly into the aisles and reached his friend. He said a quick hello and sat down next to Moshe. Mordechai glanced up behind him and saw one of the two armed Haganah members on board the bus. The Haganah was a unit designed to defend the Jews from Arabs during the British occupation. Haganah members had accompanied the children to school on board the bus since the beginning of the school year.
Mordechai’s eyes met the soldier’s for a split second and then Mordechai quickly looked away. The outside of the bus was entirely coated in bulletproof metal, with tiny windows just large enough for the barrel of a gun to fit through. Despite these safety mechanisms, the anxiety of the boys in the bus was palpable. Drops of sweat glistened on their foreheads and their arms and legs remained tensed until the moment they reached the school. Every day, on the way to school, the young children passed through two Arab villages in which armed gunman fired at the passing bus. The children were told to duck under the seats as bullets clanked off the outside of the bus and occasionally whizzed past the terrified children. Every day, the children would exhale simultaneously as the bus left the two villages. On this particular day, the kids safely reached the school and made it home later that day unscathed.
While most children today sit on the bus, fretting about a test they haven’t studied for and worrying about who will be their upcoming prom date, children such as my grandfather, Mordechai Kreinin, sat on the bus wondering if each bus ride to school would be their last. When Mordechai reached high school, he joined the Haganah. He did this because he knew he needed to protect his country. If students such as him had not joined, many, if not all of his friends and family, would have been killed and the Jewish state of Israel would not exist. At the time, there were two main divisions of defense units, the Irgun and the Haganah. While the Irgun believed in violence against the Arabs and the occupying British, the Haganah operated in more peaceful ways. Although Mordechai was not yet old enough to be an actual member of the Haganah, he joined a group of younger kids that trained for the group.
Mordechai fought in the War of Independence in 1948, which the Israelis won. He had to shoot a gun numerous times and had to live not knowing if he would be shot and killed the next day. While the future Israelis were vastly outnumbered and short on supplies, my grandfather says that they won the war because they had no choice but to fight and they were fighting for their lives. The Arabs fighting against them came from surrounding nations such as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. If the Arabs lost, they would return to their home countries. They were not willing to die for Palestine; a dry, malaria-infested piece of land the size of New Jersey. However, if the Israelis lost, they would all die and they would not have a homeland. The Jews also won because of their smarts and often deceptive tactics. My grandfather loves to tell the story of how the Jews dropped seltzer bottles from the sky on Arab soldiers when they didn’t have bombs. These seltzer bottles would whistle on the way down and the people would run away, scared, thinking that the harmless bottles were actual bombs.
By the end of the war, the Jews had a homeland and the British, the occupying country at the time, left Israel. When Mordechai moved to America, despite the animosity that surrounded him in his childhood, he continued talking to strangers on the street and did not take into account the color of their skin or their cultural background. This part of his personality is derived from his early days in Israel where everyone felt like they knew each other; not only because the country was extremely small, but because everyone had to be united to stay strong and defend against the constant wave of people trying to kill them. Mordechai serves as a model for mankind because he grew up with so many reasons to hate; yet, he is one of the kindest and most caring people I have ever known.