Hanna Szenesh and the journey of a hundred paratroopers

By Avi Nardia Contributing Sharon friedman

Red boots walking down the streets of a hot city. A young child holding hands with his father the paratrooper hero. But who was that father’s hero? Seventy-seven years ago, a young girl called Hanna jumped from a rotor propelled airplane into the forest of eastern Europe at night. A jump most trained paratroopers would hesitate to make in modern times with modern gear and extensive training. This year, A hundred paratroopers from the Israeli Defense forces and many others from countries who were occupied during the second world war jumped in her tracks and learned of the history of the brave women who jumped into occupied lands in harsh conditions. Frail in body and indestructible in spirit. There have been many wrongdoings during World War two. People marked for their race, religion, ancestry and more. Some took the side of opportunity and aided the occupiers and others fought for freedom with meager means, bringing hope and courage to generations since. We remember a young girl from Hungary who came by way of boat to what was once Palestine and volunteered to the SOE (Special Operations Executive) at the height of worlds war two. She and dozens of others, parachuted into occupied land, and were hunted by both the locals and the military of Nazi Germany. A few years prior, Szenesh, a pupil in a religious school in Hungary and paying double for tuition as a Jew tax, joined the Maccabea organization. A Zionist organization named after the family who led the revolt against the Greek occupiers. One of the feats of the Maccabi warriors was to take down an armored elephant single handedly. The equivalent of taking on a modern tank without any modern arms. Later on, Hanna immigrated to Israel and joined the Haganna (The Defense in Hebrew) which later evolved into the modern IDF. What was the drive for such people? To take off from their motherlands, learn new languages, create a state out of nothing in the midst of a world war and then, again, leave everything behind and go back into the hell of war in Europe. It was the person on their left and the person on their right. They families and their traditions. Like a Martial art school is made out of generations of learning and passing on old and new traditions, so was the choice of those thirty seven people obvious to them. The die was cast to see beyond the person and to give all in service of something higher. What does our martial path say about us? Do we actually perform it in military uniform and if so, is it a marketing ploy or just what we wear day to day? For many, the martial art lives in the dojo. For some, it is a true way of life. The martial art guides through life’s choices both small and big and inspires us to greatness beyond our own time. It can be humbling to the bravest warrior or soldier to read about the lives of ordinary men and women. People who exemplify what true budo spirit is and, in most cases, would go unnoticed if we passed one of them in the street. Pride in muscle, in gold medals and belts can blind us to what true martial spirit is and what a Sensei really is. The word Sensei means in Japanese, the one who walked the path before us. This is the legacy of these brave souls. Not just fighting against unimaginable odds but inspiring generations of soldiers and warriors to be true mentors and devote themselves to a higher purpose than fame and gold. A little diminutive girl through her life story which ended in her resisting torture all the way to a firing squad is a torch burning in the dark. A fire brighter than led lights and computer screens. Something to ignite a human soul on fire. The premise of martial art technique is that with the right timing, leverage and position, the weak can prevail over the strong. Hanna trained as best she could under the conditions of clandestine warfare, yet she never gave up despite being tortured and brought before a firing squad. What was her special ingredient? All the things we hang on the walls of the dojo but most disregard. Honor Commitment Community Sacrifice