It was “Operation Dugo” at two SAE residences – Ein Carmit in Jerusalem and ORT-Netanya – on January 18th. That’s the day the students, and many others throughout Israel, honored Holocaust survivor David (“Dugo”) Leitner by eating falafel.
On January 18, 1945, the Nazis at Auschwitz forced David Leitner and about 66,000 other camp prisoners to march through the snow as Russian forces closed in. During the many mile, underfed, exhausted and wearing nothing but his camp uniform, Leitner, only 14 at the time, began to fantasize about his mother’s bilkalach — small golden buns of bread made in his native Hungary and across Central Europe.
In the end, Dugo survived the war and settled in Israel, and when he visited the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem he saw a falafel stand, that reminded him of the buns that strengthened his spirit in the difficult moments.
Since then, and until today, Dugo celebrates life with two helpings of falafel every January 18. In recent years, his story has become well-known in Israel where thousands honor Leitner, including the students at Ein Carmit and ORT-Netanya — and the chickpea-based dish that many of his countrymen consider to be quintessentially Israeli — by having at least one portion of falafel on what they call Dugo Day.