Remembering 4th July, 1976

The summer of 1976 was a special one for me. For starters, it was my last summer before I left England for a year-long programme in Israel with the potential to turn into a permanent move. I planned a party for friends and work colleagues. I was excited to be doing something new, in a new land, and looking forward to being close to the boyfriend who in time became my husband.

It was unusually hot in England  that summer. The heat wave was to last for about three months, although we didn’t know that at the beginning of July. In some areas, people would suffer from water shortages, though not in London, where I lived. I remember joining work colleagues for a day trip to Oxford. I remember relaxing on a punt and trailing my hand in the water.

The media was full of a special anniversary. Three-and-a-half thousand miles away, and further, across the Atlantic Ocean, something enormous was being planned in an enormous country I’d never visited – a country connected to us by language but one that seemed very foreign in many ways. The United States of America was about to celebrate two hundred years of independence.

Despite my distance from that place, in all senses, I would have been interested in the run-up to the special day. I would have been happy for those people over the ocean, but for one thing.

One unfolding event in another part of the world dampened my enthusiasm for everything else and kept my eyes glued to the television screen. In a disused part of the airport at Entebbe, Uganda, a little over a hundred people were being held hostage by four hijackers with the full support of the leader of that country, Colonel Idi Amin Dada. Apart from the French crew members who had elected to remain there rather than desert the hostages, those people were Jews or Israelis, following a selection process reminiscent of other such processes that took place not so many decades previously, and resulting in all the other passengers of the hijacked plane being released.

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On the morning of Sunday, 4th July, I woke up in time to turn on my transistor radio for the eight o’clock news, and was overjoyed to hear the first item. Israel had launched a raid on the old airport building at Entebbe and rescued the hostages. I raced downstairs to tell my father, who always got up early but never turned on the radio before my mother got up.

Throughout the day, we listened and watched as details became clearer. We also watched the Independence Day celebrations in that far off country. Suddenly they matched the way we felt: euphoric.

The following day, work colleagues congratulated me as if I’d personally planned the whole rescue operation. Times were different then.

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On October 25th, I’ll be celebrating another fortieth anniversary – of my move to Israel. There might be prizes.

Before that, probably later this month, I plan to announce a change in direction for this blog. Keep watching this space.

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