BLOG 302 May 16, 2016
On the Middle East calendar and across the world, May 14 is Yom Ha’Atzmaut or Israel Independence Day. The state of Israel is 68 years old – and what a turbulent 68 it’s been. Israel started at the bottom of the heap with little more than struggling immigrants, swamps, and deserts. Today Israel does more than $100 billion in annual trade with the world. Millions of tourists pour in while dozens of international airlines fly in everyday. Not bad for a 68 year older!
I have visited the Independence Hall formerly called Dizengoff House, originally built by Meir Dizengoff who became Tel Aviv’s first mayor. I even sat in the former Prime Minister Golda Meir’s seat the day the document was signed. Born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev, Russia, she became Golda Myerson in America before Hebraizing her name to Meir in Israel. The building is so small that the symphony orchestra had to sit upstairs. At the end of the ceremony, they played the Hatikvah that drifted downstairs as the delegates sang. The national anthem of Israel proclaims, “Our hope is not yet lost, the hope 2,000 years old to be a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
The daughter of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence still lives in Tel Aviv. Batya Herman’s father Saadia Kobashi had been a leader of the Yemenite Jewish community before immigrating to Israel in 1909. He was the only signatory born in an Arab country. On Batva’s living room wall hangs an exact copy of the Declaration of Independence. Her father was to become a supervisor of the Religious-Zionist education system and principal of a school in Rosh Ha’ayin.
My first visit to Israel came in l968, one year after the six-day war was won by Israel. Sabras (native born Israelis) were a fierce force to contend with and the country was still emerging. Now, 48 years later the scenery has radically changed. However, one finds that Israelis are still attempting fully to internalize that they are a free people in a free land and not at the mercy of oppressors. The vast majority of the world does not fully grasp how deeply the historical scars from the past remain. Arab Intifada’s and the current rash of stabbings of innocent citizens in the streets also with street car bombings are a phenomenon that most of the world can read about, but usually will not feel in their souls. This residue remains part of the Jewish psyche.
Israelis see the world through decidedly different glasses.
And yet history leaves a witness. Eleven minutes after David Ben-Gurion signed the Declaration, President Harry Truman gave recognition to Israel (standing against his entire national security staff). Three days later, the Soviet Union granted recognition. Today 158 of the United Nation’s 193 states recognize Israel.
History marches on and Israel is in full step advancing toward a bright future.