‘Really helping’ Israel worthwhile, risky

It was 1948. I was 16 and like a lot of the other Bronx Jewish teens wanting to help the Jews of Palestine, I volunteered to collect money for a Jewish charity raising money for medical supplies. It had opened a storefront just two blocks away at Grand and Burnside.
After school, I’d stop by their office for a pushke. Working with a partner, we’d get on opposite ends of the Jerome Avenue subway heading downtown, each working toward the middle, calling out, “Please help buy medical supplies for Palestine!”
From what I had read in the news, the Jewish army, the Haganah, needed weapons more than they needed “medical supplies,” but an arms embargo prevented military supplies from being legally shipped to Palestine. The Arabs on the other hand had already been equipped for war by the British.
After a few weeks of collecting, I was called to the rear of the store by a supervisor who asked if I’d be willing “to really help Israel.” Of course I agreed.
“Really helping” involved riding in a rental truck in the evening to an apartment building, and while the driver waited in the truck, taking a couple of army blankets to specified apartments.
I was to ring the doorbell and then quickly wrap whatever they gave me and return to the truck before going to the next apartment.
Each apartment building had three to six apartments listed. Each of the contributors were World War II veterans.
After returning to the storefront, our cargo was quickly transferred to the rear of the store (hidden from the street) where the adults separated the items into two stacks (usable and unusable).
There were Japanese officers’ swords, rifles, pistols of all sorts, a mortar, ammo clips, knives and even a live shell.
I was thanked before being ushered out and was told that “the less I knew, the better off I’d be.”
I have found only one book which describes the secret arms for Israel procurement operations. It is The Pledge by Leonard Slater and includes limited information about the type of neighborhood activity which I actually experienced.
Probably the reason so little has been written about the arms contributed by World War II veterans to the Haganah is that there are many sympathetic law enforcement personnel who “looked the other way” so that the weapons could reach the freedom fighters.
At one point, I was charged with possession of a firearm and had to appear at juvenile court. The judge asked very few questions, but wanted the name of the gun supplier.
I gave him the name of the person whom I had been instructed to offer up, a close relative of the Bronx district attorney.
Since I had no previous record, I was released and told that as long as I stayed out of trouble, this violation would not be permanently recorded.
Looking back, I am proud of my teenage contribution to the State of Israel.

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