|From Norfolk Ledger-Star, Jan 13 1984, Page 1|
By Larry Bonko
|Arnold E. Resnicoff
Catholic colleague made the
yarmulke for him in Beirut
| On that terrible day in Lebanon last October, when a terrorist took the lives of 241 U.S. Marines, Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff was among the first to reach the dead and dying in the devastated barracks.
The memories of that day burn within the Navy chaplain like a violent fire.
"We pushed to pull men from the smoke and fire," he remembers. "We comforted those who were pinned down or partially buried until help could reach them. Later we would comfort those who continued to dig for their dead and wounded comrades."
Somewhere in all that destruction, in all that smoke, sweat and tears, Resnicoff lost his yarmulke, or kippa, a skullcap worn by Jewish men. When his companion, the Roman Catholic chaplain, Father George Pucciarelli, noticed that the yarmulke was gone, he made another for his colleague.
Pucciarelli created one out of the camouflage cloth worn by the Marines in Lebanon. The cloth became their badge of honor. There and then a legend was born.
The story of the chaplain in the "camouflage kippa" spread through the U.S. 6th Fleet.
"I promised to wear the kippa whenever I serve with the Marines," the rabbi wrote to me from the Mediterranean, where he is one of three Navy chaplains who look after the needs of the troops stationed on 6th Fleet ships and with the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
The rabbi refers to himself as a seagoing circuit rider.
Resnicoff, who had lived with his wife, Barbara Ann, in Norfolk for almost four years before he was assigned to the Office of the Fleet Chaplain in the Mediterranean, had been in Beirut on the day of the bombing for a somber event. He led services in memory of a Jewish Marine gunned down by a sniper.
Because he did not travel on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, Resnicoff found himself near the Marines' sleeping quarters at the Beirut airport when the terrorist struck. The rabbi was waiting for a lift back to the fleet.
-- Please turn to page A5, col 5
a badge of honor
--from page one
"The delay put me on the scene when the explosion occurred," he writes.
"I truly felt I as meant to be there, that it was God's will.
"One of the chaplains was in the building and was buried in the explosion. It took almost four hours. But we found him alive. We had been sleeping in a building nearby. The blast shattered windows in our building and tore the doors off the hinges. As we ran to where the Marines slept, we thought in terms of a rocket or mortar attack and hoped that no one had been hurt," he recalls.
"Then I saw the building. The rubble. I could not believe my eyes."
"It took only a few seconds for the screams to start."
Finally, the screams ended. But the dying goes on in Lebanon.
The three 6th Fleet chaplains move from ship to ship, from sea to shore, sharing what Resnicoff calls the good and the bad times. In the 6th Fleet, the church pennant and the Jewish pennant fly above the Stars and Stripes.
Resnicoff has been in the bunkers 12 times when rockets and shells fell on the Marines. He has felt the fingers of death touch the bunkers. Since Oct 23, the rabbi has been wearing the famous camouflage kippa.
"Between shellings, we fill and pile up sandbags," he writes.
Lt. Cmdr. A.E.Resnicoff needs no introduction to us here in South Hampton Roads. We know him from his presidency of the Tidewater Board of Rabbis, from his service to the Jewish Community Center here, the Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, and the United Jewish Federation.
We know him as the chaplain who once served the fleet as an officer of the line, taking part in the early fighting in Vietnam in and around the Mekong Delta with the navy's Game Wardens. Today he is one of 13 Jewish Chaplains in the fleet and the first to be part of the seagoing circuit riders.
"Whether during a meal on a ship, in the passageway, in a private meeting, or in a foxhole or bunker in Beirut, the people in uniform are happy to have a chance to speak of fears and of dreams. I have had many hours in the bunkers of Beirut," the rabbi writes.
Many with the combat yarmulke on his head.
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