PoP's Southern Thangs: Arieh O'Sullivan


Arieh O'Sullivan

A LONG TALE from the Sultan Knish
The first time I met Arieh O’Sullivan was in the predawn darkness of a winter morning in Jerusalem in 1997, when he came to pick me up in a jeep emblazoned with the Confederate flag on its spare tire.

I was just starting out as a journalist and working as a cub reporter at The Jerusalem Post, and O’Sullivan, a veteran of The Associated Press, was the Post’s seasoned military correspondent. I thought O’Sullivan had one of the coolest jobs in the world, and it turned out that this diminutive Jew with an Irish name and a Southern accent was a pretty cool guy, too.
What happened to that jeep?
While you can take the boy out of Mississippi, you can't take Mississippi out of the boy. My jeep had a red and white Rebel Flag on the back spare tire and a plastic statue of General Robert E. Lee stuck on the dash, making it most likely the only Confederate shrine in the Middle East.

And somebody had had the chutzpah to steal my jeep from in front of my house. A decade ago, we had joined about 200 families and built a new village in the forested hills above the Elah Valley: nice modest villas surrounded by vineyards and olive groves in central Israel. Every now and then thieves would steal a car, but I never thought they'd set their sights on the old General.

Were they Palestinians? Bedouins? Jews? Or (good gracious) damn Yankees?!

"Forget about it," a police officer told me. General Lee was likely deep in the West Bank, a region to which Israelis have long stopped venturing. "Probably already in a chop shop."...

Two days passed and I got a midnight call from a friend, a former agent from the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The whole underworld is only two degrees removed from everyone. My buddy knew Arab ancient grave robbers, who knew car thieves, who knew car thieves, who were holding General Lee. They were Palestinians in the Hebron hills, and they were willing to sell it back. The catch was that I had to deliver the cash personally to an area fraught with danger for a Jew.
Now Arieh O'Sullivan has joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans
Arieh O’Sullivan left South Mississippi in 1981 to join the Israeli army. He has made a life as a journalist and olive farmer in that country, but holds tight to his Southern heritage in ways that sometimes perplex his friends, co-workers and even his mother. On Wednesday, he further tightened his connection to the region of his birth by taking the oath of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at Beauvoir.

O’Sullivan, who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, is proud of the service given by his great-great-grandfather, Alabama Calvary Lt. George A Johnson. In the oath administered by Wallace Mason of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, O’Sullivan pledged to uphold the traditions of faith in God; honor; chivalry and respect for womanhood; a passionate belief in freedom for the individual; and a military tradition of valor, patriotism, devotion to duty and a spirit of self-sacrifice.

O’Sullivan said there is an unconscious nationalistic soul many Jews carry with them that is similar to the camaraderie shared by Confederate descendants.
“I feel it flowing through me,” he said. “If you have a sense of history that you carry with you, you are enriched by it.”

O’Sullivan is the son of former Ocean Springs Police Chief Efraim O’Sullivan.

A self-proclaimed “Jewish redneck,” O’Sullivan carried a Confederate flag with him into battle with his unit, the Fighting Farmers. He kept the flag, purchased at Gettysburg when he was 12, in the spare grenade pocket of his Israeli army uniform.

He named his jeep the General Lee and attached an image of the Confederate leader to the dashboard. The jeep has a battle flag for a spare tire cover. O’Sullivan said he gets bizarre looks from people sometimes because of his conspicuous affinity for the Confederacy.

“I try to educate them,” he said. “It’s about people who stood up for something they believed in.”
But there's an even more interesting rebel backstory to the O'Sullivan clan.
Toward the end of the Second World War, Thomas O'Sullivan of Bantry, County Cork, decided to join the British army. He was assigned to the Coldstream Guards which was the first unit to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war he was transferred to the Sixth Airborne Division and was posted in Egypt along the Suez Canal. In 1947 his unit was moved to Palestine where his anti-British sentiments led him to befriend some members of the local Hagana Jewish underground. One night, fortified with a few belts of whiskey, O'Sullivan roared out of his base in Haifa with a "liberated" Cromwell tank. It was the Jewish state's first tank.

O'Sullivan stayed in Israel to fight in its war of independence and married a Jewish girl who had been raised in the Cayman Islands. Eventually they moved to Louisiana, U.S.A. where they raised a family together. Their son, Ephraim O'Sullivan, was a policeman in New Orleans when the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973. He decided to enlist in the Israeli army and serve the fledgling Jewish nation. After the war he worked briefly as a policeman in Israel before deciding to return to the United States. Ephraim pursued a career in law enforcement and went on to become the police chief of Ocean Springs, the first Jewish chief in the history of Mississippi.

In 1981, Ephraim's son, Arieh (Hebrew for lion), dropped out of Louisiana State University to join the paratroopers in Israel. He fought bravely in Lebanon in the summer of 1982 after which he became a war correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. He covered conflicts in the Congo, Ethiopia, the Balkans, as well as the Middle East. He and his wife are presently raising their three O'Sullivan children in the Holy land.
...and now you know the rest of the story.

From Free North Carolina


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