The Hurva synagogue, built by David's great-great grandfather, Baruch Eppel
The Hurva synagogue, built by David's great-great grandfather, Baruch Eppel

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Hidden Roots, a personal living website, is an ongoing narrative that tells two remarkable, interwoven stories.
Each story unfolds as we write. 

Betty searches for - and may soon find - the people and organizations who took her to safety in the lovely, isolated French village of Dullin.

David, in Jerusalem, studies the unfinished autobiography of an ancestor who came to the Holy Land in the 1880's to build one of the most interesting and important synagogues in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehuda Hahasid, the "Hurva."  We explore this story from the point at which yet another predecessor, Yehuda Leib Eppel, leaves a tantalizing fragment of his autobiography - for us and the generations to come. Incomplete when he died, the autobiography will be continued on these and subsequent pages, as a website and in print. The “spark” he describes – a key element of our hidden roots – reflects the glimmer of Israel’s renaissance.

In each case, the Hidden Roots story begins at a particular moment, dramatic pivotal, and historical. 

The Germans have invaded and occupied France, the Jewish population is being rounded up and deported to the concentration camps, Betty's father and mother, torn asunder by an inhuman choice, make a momentous, fateful and horrendous decision. 

Tragically and inevitably, it means life and death - death for two, life for three.

As we shall see in this narrative, escape, rescue and safe sanctuary in the French mountains shapes Betty's character, attitude to life and personality.

David, who lives with the "spark" of Israel's rebirth as described by Yehuda Leib Eppel, finds the building, documents and artifacts from the Hurva synagogue, where his ancestral roots were planted 145 years ago. 

Under the light and shadow of both narratives, David and Betty explore the past, discover the present and contemplate the future.

In essence and reality, the two stories combine in the same Jerusalem home. In one corner is Victor's key, his antique family clock is in another and facing them, in bold, tacit admiration and rapport - is Isaac Eppel, the educator who understood what could and would happen.

Two stories, two roots, the search and the discovery. 

This is not only a record of the dark, recent past in Europe; it is an expression of our sincere hope for and faith in the future, exemplified by our own children and grandchildren.

In this momentous context, we - in our own way - are part of a large contemporary world-wide effort to tell the story and recall personal Holocaust experiences before the eye witnesses have gone and - so we suspect - few in future generations will believe it could have happened the way it happened. 

Even we – who were there – find it hard, indeed virtually impossible, to believe.

For the eye witnesses, as for the historians, scholars and moral humanity everywhere, these events are incomprehensible.

The more one learns, the more information one gathers, the greater the appalling disbelief. Were these things really done in our time? Tell it to your childrem and their children, the prophet said.

All over the world people of our generation, the hidden children and their families, are still searching, for their parents, their real names and identity - some do not know who they are - and their rescuers.

By telling our story, we trust  the world will learn that it must never happen again, that the first signs of hatred of others, racism in any form and anti-Semitism must be exposed in all its foreboding, virulent transparency and nipped in the bud.

Hidden roots must not sprout into weeds, irrigated, as they were, by German fanatical hatred.

Children, everywhere, must express, not conceal or deny their identity. The action taken to help them, in most cases, was too little, too late. Bystanders, who saw it happen, were invariably and pathetically indifferent.

This is a living memorial, because both stories live on and Hidden Roots will be developed and updated from time to time. Fresh information will be added as it is researched, verified and becomes available and pertinent.

In France, extraordinary people - some were Jewish Scouts who took to the fields,  forests and byways they knew so well to escort children to safety - are helping Betty in her search for the "missing links' - the unlikely heroes who ignored very real dangers and at great personal risk took action when others turned their backs.

In most cases, they are now elderly people who remember and still strive to create and rebuild.
 
One woman in our story did not realize at the time that she and Betty lived in the same village; a man, posing as a casual farm worker, did not know that the little peasant in the fields was a Jew; another woman helps us reconstruct the secret networks and survival organizations. Others tell us their tales, so modestly, so courageously, so momentously.

At the same time, in Jerusalem, David returns, on these pages, to the Hurva synagogue and from it back to Edinburgh and Lithuania, where Zionism, as we now know it, took root.

Our conviction is that by means of modern technology - the Internet - the lessons of Hidden Roots can remind nations of the world that courage, as shown by Victor and Josephine Guicherd can prevail over evil, as shown by the Germans in World War Two, and that humanity will never allow it to happen again.
 
We shall see how one man in our story - Isaac Eppel - issued a warning on time. It was ignored. He saw the signs twenty two years and more earlier. When it - the Holocaust - happened in another part of Europe, Victor Guicherd, a simple farmer, rose to accept the challenge, at enormous personal risk. The two men, Isaac and Victor, the rescuer and the visionary, who form an essential part of our hidden roots narrative, would have understood, admired and enjoyed the company of one another. They shared similar human values and acted when and where others feared to tread.

Hidden Roots should be perceived as incomplete at this stage but continuous and, we hope, everlasting for the message it carries.

The Hurva story, on which we are also working, reveals an historical aspect that runs very close to and parallel with the events in France.  Zionist pioneer Isaac Eppel, the Hebrew teacher and scholar, who understood what would happen and issued his warning to others, lived long enough to see his vision of Israel, the nation and the state, fulfilled.  His portrait, drawn in his Edinburgh study, hangs in the Eppel home - on a wall facing the very same clock that chimed the hour as Betty climbed up the steep hill to the little house in Dullin. The portrait and the clock symbolize two dreams, two hidden roots and the epic point at which they meet. 



David Eppel, former head of the English newsroom at Israel Radio and creator of this website, died on March 31, 2006, after broadcasting the ‘first’ English news for the 70th anniversary of Israel Radio—then called Kol Yerushalayim, the Voice of Jerusalem, in British Palestine. He was buried on the Mount of Olives, where his great-grandfather, Reb Baruch Eppel, is also buried.
 
Before David died, le Memorial de la Shoah museumin Paris had requested and received David’s permission to include the Hidden Roots website, along with David’s many photographs, in its exhibit ‘The Righteous’. The museum had invited both David and Betty to the opening in May 2006, and Betty went alone.
 
Of the many people from all over the world who have viewed and continue to view this site, some of you knew or knew of David through his work as a journalist. You may not have heard of David’s sudden death, and we wanted you to know. His obituary, from the Jerusalem Post, 9 April 2006, follows:
 
David Eppel - journalist and gentleman
By Steve Linde
Date: Sunday, April 9, 2006

Ten days ago, on Thursday, March 30, David Eppel dressed as the British gentleman he always was. Approaching his 70th birthday, he wore an elegant jacket with a red pochette, his RAF tie, and even put a pipe that he hadn't smoked for decades in his pocket.

It was a lovely Spring day. He and his wife, Betty, parked at the YMCA in Jerusalem, and walked to what was the Palace Hotel, where he was to take
part in a reenactment of the first broadcast of the Palestine Broadcasting Service, Israel Radio's precursor, in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

He had been invited to represent the English News, where he had spent most of the last four decades of his career before retiring five years ago.

Eppel, as his colleagues called him, was clearly excited about participating in the historic event, which for him both acknowledged his contribution to broadcasting in Israel as well as represented a closing of his life's circle.

He shook hands and chatted briefly with fellow Israel Radio veterans. and aRussian television reporter interviewed him about his career. It was obviousthat he thoroughly enjoyed the moment, reminiscing about the good old days.

At one point in the interview, he beamed and remarked what fun radio had always been for him, and that he had remained a radio addict to this day.
Then, in a more serious tone, he decried the interference of commercials on the air waves of state broadcasts.

It was classic Eppel: the bearded, balding bard with the ever-present twinkle in his spectacled eyes, holding his pipe in his right hand, and
waxing poetic about his profession.

In the studio again, he reread a news bulletin in English and the first announcement to the world about the inception of Kol Yerushalayim, the Voice
of Jerusalem, in British Palestine. His calming BBC voice lilted with a Scottish accent was as clear and authoritative as ever: 'This is Jerusalem
calling.'

IT HAD been an extremely moving experience, but afterwards David told Betty that he wasn't feeling well. She summoned their children, Michal and Yaron, who was in Budapest. At Shaare Zedek Hospital on Friday morning, David waited for Yaron to return from abroad, exchanged a few parting words with him, and passed away.

As Betty recalls, with tears in her eyes, he died like he lived: as a gentleman. He was buried later that day, March 31, on the Mount of Olives.

David Eppel served two stints as director of Israel Radio's English News department, where he also worked as an editor, reporter and news presenter.
He moved for several years to the Hebrew News to produce a cutting-edge science program called 'A New World.'

His colleagues remember him as a tough but fair boss. He was also known as the best and fastest translator and typist in the whole radio station.

David started as a newspaper delivery boy in his native Glasgow, where he also began his career in print journalism. After making aliya as a young
man, he fell in love with and married Betty, a beautiful Holocaust survivor originally from France who still teaches French at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

He worked at Israel Radio in Jerusalem for most of his career, covering just about every major story. He reported on the country's wars and peace
efforts, culminating in a flight to Washington for the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

He enjoyed interviewing politicians and people in the street, scientists and artists, rabbis and experts. And every story he covered infused him with adrenalin: he loved culture and music, science and nature, politics and diplomacy. He was a real Renaissance man.

IN HIS profile on a Web site he and Betty created in recent years, David writes under interests: 'Few things don't interest me.'

Under favorite books and authors: 'All writers who tell a tale well.'

And under favorite music: 'From Bach to Beethoven, with authentic folk music wherever possible.'

David had undergone dialysis over the last decade in Jerusalem after being diagnosed with a vascular disease that led to blockage of his renal arteries.

On the web site, Life Options, he wrote the following inspirational piece to others, entitled 'Don't forget your survival kit.'

'When I go to dialysis, I always take along my 'survival kit.' It is a big, black travel bag packed full of favorite 'odds and ends' to take me through the session with as much comfort and interest as possible.

'Among other things, I have a selection of reading materials, a CD player with various musical disks, a radio, and a cassette recorder with audio
books. Sometimes I take along my laptop computer.

'The guiding principle that I've adopted is to create a series of options, so that I'm able to read or listen, as the mood strikes me. 'I've found that having a lot of choices is essential, so I'm not limited to certain activities during dialysis.

'For added comfort, I have mineral water face spray, aromatherapy scents, a flask of my favorite English tea, and an airline blindfold to shut out the unit when I feel like sleeping.'

David didn't allow his dialysis to interfere with his life. He and Betty continued their annual pilgrimage to Provence, where they enjoyed the food
and wine, took in the beauty and romance, and he researched her life and the French couple who rescued her and other Jews in distress during the
Holocaust.

On their web site (http://eppel.blogspot.com), David and Betty Eppel invite all those interested, especially their two children and five grandchildren, to learn more about the family heritage.

David Eppel's legacy was nicely summed up by his family in the obituary they put in the newspaper: 'Lover of life, idealist, journalist and Zionist.'



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