Weekly Message from Rabbi MIchael

November 29th, A Historic Day

Our apartment where we lived in Jerusalem was a few blocks away from a street named after a significant date in Jewish history -- November 29th, 1947.  What happened on that day, 65 years ago, to merit a street sign in Israel?  The United Nations approved a resolution to create two states in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine - a Jewish state consisting of mostly the Mediterranean coastal cities plus the desert of the Negev and an Arab state encompassing much of the heart of historic Israel, including the land surrounding Jerusalem, which would be set aside as an international city.  Despite a proposal that left much to be desired, the Jewish Agency accepted the resolution and prepared for the establishment of the first independent Jewish State in more than 2000 years. 


However, the representatives of the Arab world flatly rejected the partition plan and prepared to launch an all out assault on the nascent Jewish state.   Sixty-five years later, Israel continues to be the national homeland of our people, all the while dealing with the challenges of being surrounded by hostile neighbors and grappling with what it means to be a democratic Jewish nation.  And yesterday, November 29th, the same body that first proposed a version of two states for two peoples voted to grant honorary recognition of the Arab State of Palestine.


The resolution has many pitfalls and undermines the indispensability of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  Most disappointing for me, while the resolution makes reference to Israel and other UN pronouncements including the Partition Plan of 1947, no where does the word Jewish or recognition of Israel as Jewish appear.  For these reasons, I understand why it was important that Israel and the United States stand against this proclamation of symbolic recognition. 


Still, the resolution also claims that the Palestinian people embrace the goal of establishing a state side by side with Israel. Ultimately, for all the very real questions of territory and status, the only way such a state is possible is by replacing the all or nothing struggle the Arab world committed to sixty-five years ago with a story of self-determination based on a dream of coexistence and peace.    As problematic a forum as the United Nations is, I can't help but feel that what formally began with one flawed proposal in 1947 may be moved toward closure with this flawed attempt to establish two states for two peoples.  We are still far away, and with the images of Israeli cities under fire from Gaza still fresh, the obstacles loom much larger than the reasons for optimism.  However, if peace can be achieved, perhaps a State of Palestine may one day name a street for November 29th.


With prayers and dreams for peace,

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Michael