The Essence of Brotherhood:
The Unique Story of Naphtali Lavie

By: Gad Nahshon

Many celebrities came to the offices of the Ronald Lauder Foundation recently to express their love and admiration for Naphtali Lavie, a Holocaust survivor, a distinguished journalist and diplomat whose creative mind served Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, as well as Yitzhak Shamir.

Lavie belongs to the generation which produced the miracle: the establishment of a Jewish free state in 1948.

The celebrities were invited by the President of Israel Bonds, Gideon Patt, to celebrate the publication of Lavie's autobiography, Balaam's Prophecy (Cornwall Books, New York-London, 1998). The subtitle is: Eyewitness to History: 1939-1989. This unique, touching book was dedicated to Lavie's parents and brother, who perished in the Holocaust.

What is the message of this book?

Lavie himself said that the message is to never trust other people except for the power of a strong, free Jewish state. "It is not one more book about the Holocaust," said Lavie. In Israel, the Hebrew edition of this book "Am Kalavie" (in English: A Nation Strong as a Lion) was successful. The critics loved this book, but a "fight" broke out between Peres, who said this is one book and Shamir, who wrote: "This fascinating book actually contains two separate stories: the amazing tale of Lavie's survival and then his successful career in Israel."

Indeed, Lavie is a Holocaust survivor. It is a story of a child from the town of Piotrkow, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, Treblinka and Buchenwald. Lavie, certainly knows the essence of the term "The Other Planet" which was coined by the writer, Yechill Di-Nur ("Katzetnick"). But the uniqueness of this book is to be found in the human message: the Brotherhood.

Lavie was the eldest child in his family. During the Holocaust era, his mother made a last moment decision: she sent his little brother Israel (or "Lulek") and told him "you must stay with your brother".

It took place in the ghetto of Piotrkow, the first ghetto in Nazi Europe. "Lulek" was pushed by his mother to the group of young men because she believed that the Nazis would use them for labor. So their chances to stay alive were better than the older group.

The story of Naphtali Lavie from that moment is the great message of this book: the climax of Brotherhood, the climax of humanity; a child living in hell fought for the survival of another little child, his young brother. The little one, Israel, today is Israel's Chief Rabbi and a famous spiritual leader in Israel.

The story of the survival of these two brothers is incredible. It was a miracle.

"At that time when my mother sent me to Naphtali, I was mad at him because I lost my mother," said Rabbi Israel Lau to the guests of the Israel Bonds meeting in New York, while Naphtali Lavie listened.

The original family name was Lau. Their father, Moshe Chaim Lau, was a well known rabbi and scholar. He was also a leader in the Orthodox party called Poalei Agudat Israel, which was a pro-Zionist faction of Agudat Israel. Naphtali Lavie-Lau and Rabbi Israel Lau, two Holocaust survivors, came to Palestine in 1945 from France. Then Naphtali decided to be a member of the Hagana and Israel decided to be a rabbi.

"I must point out to the following bible's teachings. We can see that brotherhood did not exist. For example, Abel and Cain. At the beginning, we see brother against brother in the bible. But there was a change, a turning point: Moshe and Aaron. This is the new momentum of brotherhood. Aaron served Moshe in Egypt," said Rabbi Lau at the meeting. It was a touching moment: the two brothers turned out to be two celebrities in Israel.

Naphtali Lau-Lavie outline in his "Balaam's Prophecy" the history of Israel since 1948. He himself even fought in the Israeli War of Independence. Later, he decided to be a journalist.

In the book, he did not discuss issues such as:

"What was the attitude of the Israelis and the sabras to the Holocaust survivors"? Since he and his brother were educated as unorthodox, one could expect the Laus to ask the terrible question: Where was God? Where was he when 1.5 million innocent Jewish children were murdered by the Nazis and their many collaborators? But Lavie tells another story.

His newspaper, "Haaretz", asked him to research the issue of: Where was the "Yishuv", the Jews of Palestine and where were the leaders and the leaders of the Zionist movement during the Holocaust era?

Lavie found the well-known terrible omission although one must keep in mind the fact that the British controlled the country and they were indifferent to the Holocaust per se. Furthermore, they closed the gates of Palestine in the face of the refugees. It is time to expose the depth of the British cruelty at that time. Today, many people simply do not know or tend to forget about it.

Lavie tells the story of Jacob Kurtz from his hometown, Piotrkow. In 1942, Kurtz came to Palestine. He published a book called: "Sefer Ha Edut" in which he told the story of the Holocaust, but he found that people refused to believe him! He was a lone voice in the wilderness. The end of his research was that the editor of "Haaretz" decided not to publish Lavie's story about the science of the Yishuv during the Holocaust era.

It is important to point out the contribution of Lavie to Israeli diplomacy and to the peace process with Egypt. In this book, he discussed issues such as: "King Hussein warns of Yom Kippur Attack", "Rabin-Peres Rivalry", "Sadat in Jerusalem", "Carter in the Knesset" and many others.

Especially enriching is Lavie's discussion of the Moshe Dayan legacy and heritage. Lavie accomplished many diplomatic missions from Prague to Teheran, and New York as well. He is well respected by the Israeli political elite, but his intimate personal treasure is his refined expression of eternal brotherhood -- he is the perfect epitome of the term "Brother's Keeper".

Lavie once said: "I had an obligation to my brother, who was less than 8 years old. I was his parent -- both his parents -- and I had been given a mandate to keep him and protect him and deliver him to safe haven."

For the Laus it was clear since their liberation from Buchenwald by American soldiers that "safe haven" meant only Israel. "Israel, with all its skirmishes and its wars, is ours," said Naphtali Lau-Lavie.

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