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64 Years Ago Today

On this day 64 years ago, Amos Oz was an eight-year old boy in Jerusalem, up after midnight to watch the large crowd outside his family’s tiny flat. They listened to the only radio available in that part of the city, a big black box that had been placed outside, with its volume turned up as loud as possible, so that everyone could hear the UN broadcast from Lake Success, New York, as the tension-filled roll call proceeded on a resolution to partition Palestine into two states: an Arab and a Jewish one.

In his autobiographical masterpiece, A Tale of Love and Darkness, Oz describes in a two-sentence paragraph the moment after the voice on the radio announced that the resolution had received the necessary two-thirds vote. He captured what Golda Meir meant when she described the moment as one for which the Jews had waited 2,000 years, a moment “so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.” Here is the paragraph:

[The announcer’s voice] was swallowed up in a roar that burst from the radio, overflowing from the galleries in the hall at Lake Success, and after a couple more seconds of shock and disbelief, of lips parted as though in thirst and eyes wide open, our faraway street on the edge of Kerem Avraham in northern Jerusalem also roared all at once in a first terrifying shout that tore through the darkness and the buildings and the trees, piercing itself, not a shout of joy, nothing like the shouts of spectators in sports grounds or excited rioting crowds, perhaps more like a scream of horror and bewilderment, a cataclysmic shout, a shout that could shift rocks, that could freeze your blood, as though all the dead who had ever died here and all those still to die had received a brief window to shout, and the next moment the scream of horror was replaced by roars of joy and a medley of hoarse cries and “The Jewish People Lives” and somebody trying to sing “Hatikvah” and women shrieking and clapping and “Here in the Land Our Fathers Loved,” and the whole crowd started to revolve slowly around itself as though it were being stirred in a huge cement mixer, and there were no more restraints, and I jumped into my trousers but didn’t bother with a shirt or sweater and shot out our door, and some neighbor or stranger picked me up so I wouldn’t be trampled underfoot, and I was passed from hand to hand until I landed on my father’s shoulders near our front gate.  My father and mother were standing there hugging one another like two children lost in the woods, as I had never seen them before or since, and for a moment I was between them inside their hug and a moment later I was back on Father’s shoulders and my very cultured, polite father was standing there shouting at the top of his voice, not words or word-play or Zionist slogans, not even cries of joy, but one long naked shout like before words were invented.

The UN resolution that passed that night contained no less than 30 references to a “Jewish state.” The Palestinian Arabs could have celebrated their own state that night as well, but instead began the first of the successive conventional wars, terror wars, rocket wars, and diplomatic efforts intended to destroy the Jewish state. More than six decades later, there are still no Palestinian leaders who will agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even if it would give them the state they could have had from such recognition 64 years ago, without firing a shot or creating a single refugee.


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