November 29, 2004
In Israel, today is known as “kaf-tet b’November. ‘Kaf-tet’, two letters of the Hebrew alphabet represent, in Hebrew, the number 29. In other words, the 29th of November. That’s today’s date, so what’s so special about it? As far as I know, there aren’t any other days in the Gregorian calendar, known by their Hebrew equivalent. Gregorian dates are known numerically – the first of December, or April 15th. Dates on the Hebrew calendar are recognized Hebraically, ‘kaf-tet Kislev – i.e., the 29th of the Hebrew month of Kislev. However, today’s date is a mixture of the two – ‘kaf-tev’ of November.
Why? Exactly fifty-seven years ago today, one of the most unusual events in world history occurred. The United Nations voted to partition Eretz Yisrael, thereby granting the Jewish people an opportunity to declare a Jewish state, the first sovereign Jewish state in two thousand years. This, coming only two and a half years after the conclusion of the Holocaust. Today is almost a mini-independence day – recognition by the international community of a Jewish right to its homeland.
This wasn’t the first time such acknowledgement was forthcoming. Almost exactly thirty years earlier, on November 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour, then the British Foreign Secretary, issued the famous ‘Balfour Declaration, a letter to Lord Rothschild, which said, “I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty’s
Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The major difference of course, between the 1947 partition plan and the 1917 Balfour Declaration is that the later was strictly British; the former construed international recognition.
The 1947 UN decision precipitated the declaration of Israeli statehood, in May, 1948.
Looking back at these historic decisions, different questions can be posed. For example, how would the UN vote today? Would they readily accept creation of a Jewish State? Should the Jews then have accepted partition of the Land of Israel? What would have happened had the Arabs accepted the partition plan? While Jewish leaders in Israel reluctantly accepted the arrangement, the Arabs rejected it out of hand and their reaction was an immediate declaration of war.
However, in my opinion, perhaps the most significant question to be broached is: Was it worth it? Did we do the right thing? In other words, should a Jewish state have been created and recognized?
Why do I ask this question? There are those in Israel today, both on the right and on the left, secular and religious, who doubt the wisdom of the leaders of yesteryear. Looking at the state of Israel from different angles, there are those who arrive at the same conclusion: the State of Israel was a mistake. It should be dismantled, allowing others to start again. Those on the left view supposed Israeli ‘apartheid,’ or treatment of Arabs as an excuse to do away with the state. So I was told by Israeli ‘historian’ Teddy Katz, back in September. “If I had a choice between this (i.e. – removing Arabs from their homes and villages), or giving up, I would give up”, i.e. relent on the idea . of a Jewish state.” 2) Israel is the second largest ethnic-cleansing country in the history of the world, second only to Nazi Germany. (See: A Glorious Past, Present and Future – TTTThttp://www.hebron.org.il/articles/articles1.htm). (According to media reports, Katz attended Arafat’s funeral in Ramallah.)
Those on the far left aren’t the only ones who have despaired. There are people on my side of the coin have also given up on the current State of Israel. Some advocate creation of a new state, calling it ‘The State of Judea,’ while others believe that the original state of Israel is totally ‘impure,’ due to the fact that the primary movers in the 1940s were secular, thereby bringing about creation of a secular state.
In truth, it’s not difficult to comprehend the lost hope. Israel’s current situation is far from rosy. The latest escapades of our Prime Minister, who has single-handedly annihilated the Israeli right, betraying his own philosophies and moving over to ‘the other side’ is deplorable. Perhaps Israel’s greatest error is the continued revival of ninty-nine percent dead terror organizations.
By the time Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister in 1992, the PLO was a virtually impotent organization. Israel defeated the ‘first’ intifada, and Arafat was both broke and broken. Rabin, Peres, and Co. brought him back to life with the infamous and cursed Oslo Accords.
Again, we have seen history repeat itself. The second Arafat war was also lost. Following massive Arab terror, leaving over 1,500 Jews dead and thousands wounded, Israel pinpointed the multiple heads of the snake and one by one, destroyed them. For all intensive purposes, the Palestinian authority ceased to exist. Arafat was internationally recognized as a murderous thug, and his organization corrupt, unstable and totally irresponsible. The state of Israel could basically follow any path it so desired.
Ariel Sharon, rather than officially declaring Oslo a failure and decrying the creation of a poisonous palestinian state, accepted and followed the path of the ‘roadmap,’ much the surprise of its initiator, George W. Bush. Sharon’s willingness to accept a Palestinian state, followed by the expulsion plan from Gaza is nothing less than true ‘revival of the dead.’ So it’s not surprising that despair has reached new heights, despair leading to gloom and anguish. And a willingness to watch the state crumble to pieces.
I fully agree – the situation is not good. We are facing different types of terror, from without and from within. But our state of affairs is certainly not as serious as it was in November, 1947. How many hundreds of millions of Arabs, surrounding the not-yet created fledgling state announced their intentions to ‘throw the Jews into the sea?” There weren’t even a million Jews in Israel at the time. Much of the international community didn’t care whether Israeli ‘lived’ or ‘died.’ And those that did care, well, most of them weren’t on our side. The chances of survival weren’t very good. But here we are today – still here.
The November 29th UN decision was nothing less than miraculous – so too was the Israeli military victory during the War of Independence. Today too, we are fighting a war – this time on many fronts, some of which definitely shouldn’t exist. But we cannot live in a dream world of ‘what should be.’ This is the way it is, for whatever reason, and we have no choice but to deal with it. I won’t try to relate to the despair of the far left – but I can give a word of advice to those closer to me. Should you manage to take apart the current state of Israel and start again, what will you do with all the Jews who don’t agree with you – send them back to Europe, or put them in camps, or send them out to the sea? Of course not! So you will still be here, and they will still be here, and then what? If they don’t like what you do, they will have learned from your precedent – they will have a good reason to attempt to destroy whatever you manage to create, just like you did.
In other words, the problems within will still exist, as will the problems from outside – you will not have solved anything.
So, what can we do? I can’t speak for everyone – but I know what I have been taught and what I believe. Our job is to try as hard as we can for that which is right and just, without attempting to destroy the framework which already exists. We cannot be held responsible for failure, because much of the results are not dependant on our actions – there are many other factors involved. We can only be held responsible for trying – as hard as we can. The final result isn’t in our hands.
Those listening to the vote in the UN, on November 29th, 57 years ago, could barely have expected victory – who would have thought that Russia would vote in favor of the partition plan. They could easily have delayed the vote, or cancelled it altogether. The chances of victory were virtually nil. Yet the unexpected became reality and again, after 2,000 years, the Jews held their fate in their own hands. That day – today, should be a lesson to us all – to expect the unexpected, never to despair – to keep the faith.
With blessings from Hebron.