A Voice Called
Stories of Jewish Heroism
By Yossi Katz
Gefen Publishing House (2010), 234 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 2, 2010
Early in this well-written, easy to read, and very informative book, Katz states, "if you know a person's or a nation's heroes, you will know who that person or nation is and what their values are. A nation infatuated only with athletes, movie stars and ‘celebs' is condemned to mediocrity, selfish values and national decay. A people who look up to true heroes will find the strength to face the world's challenges with dignity and courage."
With this in mind, Katz, who served for twenty-five year as a combat soldier, and a former Israeli national boxing champion, and then a high school teacher, offers his readers the heroes of modern Israel, men and women, soldiers, statesmen, founders of Israel, writers, poets, athletes who inspired a moral life, an astronaut, espionage agents, and others, including the story of a religious Christian who became an inspiring hero of Jewish history.
There are thirty–two chapters, a half dozen speak of two people, and one about the heroines and heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto spotlights a group. Katz is a very good writer. He captures a long detailed story in about a half dozen pages, filling it with information that even well-read people know nothing about. His introduction to modern Israeli history is inspirational.
For example, he tells why Theodore Herzl, an assimilated Jew, became a fervent Zionist, about Herzl's family that was plagued by madness because of his wife, how the he introduced the Israeli flag fifty years before the establishment of the State of Israel and designed it so that it resembled the tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, with the traditional star of David at its center, and how he made Hatikva the national anthem.
He tells how Haim Nachman Bialik wrote a poem after the Russian Kishinev pogrom butchered many Jews that awakened many survivors from their traditional passivity during which they watched relatives being murdered. The poem provoked them to become active, protect themselves, fight back, and begin to think of establishing a Jewish State, rather than waiting for God to do so with a miracle.
He also tells how many modern Israelis fell in battle defending their country in a poignant and inspiring manner.