February 1988, Page 12, 13
Haviv Schieber (1913-1987): Eulogy to a Free Man
By Andrew I. Killgore
"John Brown's body lies amoldering in his grave, but his soul goes marching on." -Battle Hymn of the Republic
Haviv, we know you were laughing up there during the public wrangle whether to bury you as a Christian or a Jew. And over the haughty Washington Post, which denied you even a line while you were alive, but after your death featured the dispute over your religion in front section articles. Yes, the public can finally read about you as an anti-Zionist Jew and about your Holy Land State Committee, as it never could before you departed us on the last day of 1987.
The television news mentions, but only in passing, your ideal of a Holy Land state where Christian, Jew, and Muslim would live in peace. But there is no intimation of your searing anger against Zionism, or your bitter denunciations of Israel for grinding into dust Judaism's beautiful ideals. But never mind, dear Haviv. Even your closest friends sometimes found you unfathomable-a blur of energy, consumed with the fire of an Old Testament prophet, living every day as if it were your last.
Forgotten, dear friend, or never comprehended at all, is that you transcended race, creed, color, and sect. You soared high above the constraints and classifications that limit the rest of us mortals.
Rising Above All Else To Pursue the Holy Land State
You were actually a free man. Perhaps the only free man many of us will ever know. You cared nothing for food, wore whatever came to hand, and let your contracting business lie fallow. All to pursue, indefatigably and single-mindedly, your crusade for a Holy Land state. You overrode rebuffs from your opponents and overlooked disappointments from those of us privileged to be your friends. What we saw as failure you saw as success.
Haviv, to your friends and followers, you symbolized the indomitable human spirit. Like the prophet Jeremiah, you predicted disaster for Israel for its sins. Like Jeremiah, you were jailed for your efforts.
For me, you were the re-embodiment of fiery, idealistic, indomitable, immortal John Brown. No slaves were freed by his quixotic scheme for an uprising at Harper's Ferry in 1859. Instead, John Brown, seemingly a failed prophet, was delivered to the hangman by Robert E. Lee. But John Brown was the inspiration for the mighty army that preserved our nation. Eight hundred thousand young men died, the scourge of slavery was ended. And with ironic historical symmetry, Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender established our young republic as the beacon of freedom for beleaguered men and women everywhere for a century afterward. Did John Brown really fail?
You were every brave man who resolves to fight injustice, no matter the cost, Haviv. As a young Zionist you went to the Holy Land from Poland, helped others to follow, and together you laid the groundwork for the Jewish state. You were the first Jewish mayor of Beersheba. And then, because you were a fair and honest contractor, you did business with Palestinians, you dealt honestly with them, and they became your friends. As a result, in the great Palestinian revolt of 1936, you saw Zionism through their eyes. Guns, force, and ruthlessness. The rhetoric was a fraud.
A Disillusioned Return to Eastern Europe
When, disillusioned, you returned to Poland, you saw your Jewish compatriots, now menaced by Nazism and desperately looking for refuge in Palestine, passed over by the Zionist organizations in favor of young men able and willing to fight the Palestinians. You saw that yours had been a false God, a Moloch that devoured its own. You never forgot that the Jewish refuge rejected those who needed it most, and accepted only those it needed.
As you lay dying, the new holocaust of which you had warned began. Tens of thousands of Palestinian children, young Davids with only rocks for weapons, are challenging the Middle Eastern Goliath of our time. In your Holy Land state, Palestinian and Israeli teenagers could have built a proud and peaceful homeland together. Did these children hear you, Haviv, while the rest of us were deaf? Out of their bloodbath will something arise that transcends them all? Who, in 1859, could have foretold John Brown's impact on history? Who in 1988 can predict yours?
Shakespeare's Hamlet, speaking of his father, spoke as well for all of us who knew you:
He was a man/Take him for all in all/I shall not look upon/His like again.
Andrew I. Killgore, a former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.