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When the Yom Kippur war broke out back in '73, Jews in my city were asked to give all the help they could to imperiled Israel. I myself gave two dollars every day. At that time I was a student, very poor, and two dollars was what I ordinarily allotted myself every day for food. So, quite simply, I was fasting for Israel. And I was determined to continue until Israel was out of danger, or I collapsed, whichever came first.

When your heart is heavy for what you love, and your head light from lack of food, you don't always think as clearly as you should. One day I got it into my head that the fate of Israel was hanging entirely on me. I alone could raise the dollars that would buy the one gun, the one bandage, the one miracle, that would make the difference between defeat and victory.

And so I put notices on the telephone poles along my block announcing ''A Benefit Sale for Israel,'' to be held that afternoon in my apartment and featuring ''Bargain Personal Items.'' That my stock amounted only to a change of clothes that hung like an off-duty scarecrow in the closet, a dozen or so paperbacks, two reams of typing paper, and an old electric typewriter that, when certain keys were struck, trumpeted like a dying elephant - this did not in the least discourage me.

I told myself that because of the gravity of the days, people would offer more than the things were worth. I could even imagine other Jews gathering around me, eyes brightening with joy at my pocketfuls of money, arms entwining with arms, and all of us dancing and singing to celebrate how a poor man had saved Israel.

But only one customer came to my sale, an old man in the junk business. He squinted at the few offerings, poked, sniffed, but in the end bought nothing. I awoke from my fairy tale, remembering myself and the world.

That night at the cafe where I washed dishes I broke more than usual, and I was afraid the boss would burst into the steamy crashing and fire me. Then Israel would not have even two dollars. But business was so good, and merriment so high, the boss forgot about me, and I was spared.


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