A lot of history born in 60 years

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By Judi Siegal

She was born on May 14, 1948 and her birth was anxiously awaited for 2,000 years. The official announcement was made by David ben Gurion. In a tableau reminiscent of the famous John Trumbull painting depicting the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, David ben Gurion, standing beneath a picture of the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, announced to the world that the Jewish people have a land of their own.

Jews wept for joy as a homeland was established in what was once called Palestine. And the very next day, the fledgling State of Israel was attacked by the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and a contingent from Iraq.

This unfortunate event was a portent of things to come with her Arab neighbors and as history would play out, would become a decisive factor in the development of the state. Much has transpired in the 60 years of statehood in this old-new land, sacred to three world religions and the crossroads of civilizations.

As we look back over the years, we see the incredible development of the country, the 100th smallest in the world with less that 1/1000th of the world’s population and its influence and importance to the world of today.

The early years of the state included the founding of the army, Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) in 1948. The Law of Return granting Jews full citizenship and the right to immigrate to Israel was passed.

Chaim Weizman was elected first president and Jerusalem was declared the capital. Operation Magic Carpet bringing Jews from Yemen was established and the first ulpan, special classes for teaching intensive Hebrew language to new immigrants was started. The population exceeded one million.

The 1950s was a period of growth and welcoming of immigrants. In 1952, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was elected president and Israel participated in the Olympics in Helsinki for the first time. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial was opened.

Immigration from North Africa accelerated due to increased anti-Semitism and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah brought Jews to Israel from Iraq. The prime minister of Burma, U Nu, was the first official to visit the new state by a world leader.

The Sinai Campaign was launched in response to the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran and subsequently Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula. Immigration from Eastern Europe increased and Tel Aviv University was formed.

The first international Bible Contest was held in Jerusalem; Habimah, the national theater, was declared and the population at the end of the decade was 2 million.

The beginning of the ‘60s saw the opening of the world famous Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University Medical School at Ein Karem in Jerusalem. Adolph Eichmann, the master mind of the Nazis’ “Final Solution” and the Nazi death machine, was tried, found guilty and hanged for crimes against the Jews and humanity.

Hai Bar was started to reintroduce animals once native to Israel. Zalman Shazar became the third president and archeologist digs revealed the fortress of Masada.

Pope Paul VI visited Israel and President Shazar received him in Megiddo. (It would be many years later before a Pope would recognize Israel as a state and would be received in the capital of Jerusalem.)

The PLO launched its first terror attack, targeting the national water carrier. The Israel Museum was founded as the national museum and Teddy Kolleck was elected mayor of Jerusalem, a term that would last 28 years.

Israel and Germany established diplomatic relations and the Hebrew writer S. Y. Agnon was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. The Six-Day War erupted, with Israel successfully repelling her enemies in a pre-emptive blow, winning the right of self-defense.

The war increased Israel’s borders and secured divided Jerusalem into a unified enmity. The Golan Heights was captured from the Syrians.

The PLO formulated its covenant which negates the State of Israel. Palestinian terror attacks increased with airplane hijackings and U.S.-made Phantom jets arrived in the Jewish state.

By the 1970s, the Israeli population rose to 3 million. Palestinian terror attacks escalated and 11 Jewish Olympic athletes were murdered by the PLO at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

A satellite communication station was opened in Emek Ha’ela. Ephraim Katir became the fourth president. Israel produced a plane called the Kfir and its air force is recognized as one of the best in the world.

The Entebbe Affair raised Jewish pride as the IDF freed captives held in Entebbe, Uganda by terrorists who had hijacked their plane en route to Paris. Egyptian President Sadat visited Israel, breaking the cycle of Arab rejection of Israel. Israel allowed a group of Vietnamese boat people to enter the country.

Yizhak Navon became the fifth president, and at the Camp David accords, a process for peace between Israel and Egypt and for stability, and peace in the Middle East region was signed. Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Sadat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and a peace treaty with Egypt is signed, ending 30 years of war.

While hopes of peace soared with the ending of the 1970s decade, the ensuing years were to bring more unrest and terror to the Jewish state.

(End of Part One.)

Judi Siegal is a retired teacher and Jewish educator. She lives in Sun Valley with her husband, Phil.