Honorable Discharge, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, 1992
Honorable Discharge, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, 1992Click to Enlarge
Look at the expression on this man’s face. How would you describe it—fear, sadness, confusion, joy? He has just arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union. Under communism, Soviet Jews were not allowed to practice their religion openly and were often denied the right to immigrate to the U.S. or Israel. But after Gorbachev (the Soviet president) opened the doors to emigration in 1989, hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union flocked to Israel, with the help of Jews around the world.
These immigrants often arrived with very little and faced many challenges in their new homes. But the man in this picture has brought something very precious with him: the military medals he wears with pride. They serve as a reminder of his previous life, of the risks he took fighting for his country.
Here is what the photographer, Zion Ozeri, has to say about this picture: “I call it honorable discharge. He was obviously discharged from the Russian army. And many Jews, by the way, either sacrificed their lives or fought heroically during World War II…. I always look for the image that would define the moment, so to speak. So I sort of saw it in his face…. You see the flag, you see El-Al, and that look.”
עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת שֵׂיבָה; בְּדֶרֶךְ צְדָקָה, תִּמָּצֵא.
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
It is attained by the way of righteousness.
– Proverbs (Mishlei) 16:31
וַהֲבִיאֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת הָאָרֶץ, וְתוֹלִיכֵנוּ קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְאַרְצֵנוּ.
Bring us in peace from the four corners of the earth and lead us with upright pride to our Land.
– from shacharit (the morning service)
לָכֵן הִנֵּה-יָמִים בָּאִים, נְאֻם-יְהוָה; וְלֹא-יֹאמְרוּ עוֹד חַי-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. כִּי אִם-חַי-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ צָפוֹן, וּמִכּלֹ הָאֲרָצוֹת, אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחָם שָׁמָּה; וַהֲשִׁבתִֹים, עַל-אַדְמָתָם, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי, לַאֲבוֹתָם.
Assuredly, a time is coming—declares the Lord—when it shall no more be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt,” but rather, “As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites out of the northland, and out of all the lands to which He had banished them.” For I will bring them back to their land, which I gave to their fathers.
– Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) 16:14-15