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May 14, 2024 - 6 Iyyar 5784

05/13/2024 04:54:53 PM


Seventy-six years ago, on this day in both secular and Jewish calendars, the State of Israel emerged from the chrysalis of the Zionist Movement. Many threads converged in that moment as David ben Gurion voiced the aspiration for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine through the Declaration of Independence in the Tel Aviv Museum Hall on May 14, 1948. With the following text excerpted from Israel’s founding Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses… 

…On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

Accordingly we, members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”  []

It is significant to note that the name of the new state had not been previously disclosed, yet in any case, the legitimacy of the asserted Jewish self-rule arose directly from the United Nations and out of twentieth century experience. 

Resolution #181, passed November 29, 1947, ended the British Mandate after a quarter century of growing unrest. It recommended partition of Palestine between Palestinians and Jews; in broad terms the Jewish community represented by the Jewish Agency [Sochnoot] accepted the plan; the Palestinians represented by the Waqf (the Jordanian-appointed organization responsible for controlling and managing the current Islamic edifices on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem), and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem rejected it. Six months later, Great Britain withdrew.

Leap ahead 76 years (or back 50) little changes, though the national government differed (Ottoman Turks, various Christian interests, etc.)—the central issue of the redistribution of population and external economic interests, wars, peacetime and stalemates, the land between Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea which had not been an independent State since Crusader years, since Judean antiquity, was only slowly emerging as an oasis in the parched region. Zionists started modern economic development—agricultural and industrial—drawing population to the struggling area, Jew, Moslem, Christian, and more.

(Two decades earlier, a similar demographic in Lebanon started a shared state. The less affluent initial Moslem group reproduced far more rapidly than the more bourgeois Maronite Christians. The numbers reversed over the decades leading to the present failed state of Lebanon dominated by Islam under the thumb of Iran-backed Hezbollah.)

In 1948, the new State of Israel faced the armed, trained militaries of Egypt, Syria and Jordan all nominally defending the local Palestinians. These massed militaries were driven back, leading to a restive cease fire that left Jordan ruling the Palestinians (whom they isolated in refugee camps), Egypt commanding the narrow coastal area at the Mediterranean end of the Sinai Peninsula, and Syria atop the escarpment known as the Golan Heights. None of these zones of occupation had been anticipated in the Partition Plan.

Since June 1967, when Israel wrested control in most of these zones of occupation and reunified Jerusalem, the demands of rule have weighed heavily on the spirit of the Zionist state. A (cool) peace with Jordan and Egypt, improved relations in recent years with other Arab States and the economic impact of “Silicon Wadi”—Israel’s blossoming hi-tech center—have widened the economic gap between the main communities. Always restive, never ruled with clear goals of democratization, Palestinians have seen violence as their easier path to self-determination that has never come.

When Israelis awoke last October 8—a day after Iran-sponsored Hamas had breached the border from Gaza—the Jewish State found a new, challenging reality of hundreds of captives, of more than 1200 dead, of an existential threat in the densely built Gaza Strip cities that have since been bombed into near oblivion. There have been few victories, no winner.

Entering year 77 of national life, Israel is under enormous pressure to stop the fighting, to fend off Hamas, to liberate Palestinians. The task is great, the time is short…and the future is a story yet to be recorded.

A toast to Israel: Am Yisra’eil chai!

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784