Anyone who loves freedom celebrates Israel’s birthday
I was born in a still-young Israel just a few years after its inception in 1948. My father and mother were there, however, as the British withdrew on May 14 of that year, lowering the Union Jack over the port of Haifa, and raising the stakes considerably for the 600,000 Jews in British-mandatory Palestine now left to confront a host of Arab nations planning to invade and destroy the nascent Jewish state.
Israel, America’s singular ally in the Middle East, is celebrating its 68th birthday.
I remember living in that idyllic place as a child. It was long before suicide bombings, murderous plots laid out by dictators who trade oil for blood, and who now kill their own citizen-children in places like Syria, Egypt, and Yemen. I recall the dreadful Palestinian skyjackings over Europe in the ‘70s that had little to do with the sweet osprey birds that flew about the desert of our little homeland.
There was a time when you could easily recite the meaning of Israel’s birth, and it’s worth remembering now. Israel only came into being because Europe had slaughtered the Jews and then because the United Nations had a stunning vote in its Security Council: by a tally of 33 to 13, the UN partitioned Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Israel never reneged on that agreement and has made endless contractual agreements with Arab governments to cede land it won only because it was repelling attacks.
Israel has returned heaps of land for no peace and now a nuclear Iran; the Arabs have yet to pull back one inch from neither their territories nor their vow to wipe Israel off the map of existence.
In 1948, The Jewish Agency, still heaving from the European genocide and desperate to create a sanctuary for the exiles, agreed to” the two-state solution”. The independent Arab nations, manifold times larger than Israel, declared their intention to finish what the Nazis had started. These are the facts; even as the ensuing Arab invasion of the Jewish territories served to displace the parallel victims of this blunder – the Palestinian people.
Whether or not the leaders of the Palestinian people still want that separate state or not, or even if they indeed covet the full region and would still plan to consume the sovereign state of Israel, the Palestinian people themselves still need to feel they belong somewhere – just as we Jewish children of the remnant felt we belonged somewhere back in the days following Israel’s birth.
But before either one of us, Arab or Jew, can plan the future, we must learn the past. We were both always there in that land, even as the wind brought the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British, and so many others into the land to help set us against each other.
My childhood memories include the thick citrus smell of orange groves that lay between Kfar-Saba and the minarets of the neighboring Arab village of Qalqilya. We actually lived in peace; there was no fear in the air – till the distant Egyptians and Syrians decide to exterminate the Jewish state in 1967 and suddenly every orange tree, every brook of water, every synagogue and every mosque would become a flashpoint.
Israel’s birth in 1948 was a heroic and healing response to the politics of murder.
The death of Israel, now actively sought by hatemongers from Argentina to Britain to Egypt to Iran, would disavow every good instinct that was found in humankind after Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
Israel’s emergence was supposed to have been merged with the emergence of a free Palestine in the first place; who can blame those of us in the Jewish community who truly care about the children of both Israel and Palestine enough to require Israel’s continuity even as we seek a just solution?
The parents who would send their children to blow themselves up in Jewish pizza parlors and at Passover gatherings, the men and women who still applaud the inferno of 9/11, and who would suggest that the Jews that made the desert green again are some kind of Nazi incarnation are people who never breathed in the fragrance of oranges across a warm valley of conciliation. They certainly never read a book that tells the true story of a people who survived and just want to live.