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Israel’s Independence Day

Israel’s Independence Day

by William H. Benson

May 14, 2020

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He said that the new State of Israel will “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, or race.”

Despite Ben-Gurion’s promise, war broke out between Arab and Jew. Fearing the worst, the native Palestinian people panicked. They packed their bags, and fled their homes, their villages, expecting to return in days or months, never imagining that their move was permanent.

“More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war.” To this day, the Palestinians call their exodus “the Nakba,” an Arabic word that means “disaster,” “catastrophe,” or “cataclysm.”

The refugees drifted into makeshift refuge settlements in Gaza or the West Bank, or they crossed the border into Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Two, three, four or more generations of Palestinians have lived in exile there since 1948.

Yet, not all Palestinians fled. Some remained on land controlled by the Israeli military and government, and there they have built their lives on their native soil, but under Israeli domination.

In 1948, the population of Israel’s captured geographic footprint stood at 806,000 people. Today it stands at 9,190,000: 6.8 million Jews, 1.9 million Arabs, and 454,000 other ethnic groups.

Each year since 1948, Israeli’s celebrate their Independence Day, May 14, on “the 5th day of the month of Iyer,” according to the Hebrew calendar. This year, in 2020, that day corresponds to April 28.

The Israeli’s also honor the day that precedes Independence Day, calling it the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day. In other words, a Memorial Day.

“To the memory of those who gave their lives for the achievement of the country’s independence and its continued existence.”

The State of Israel at various times have offered citizenship to the Palestinian Arabs who live within Israel’s borders, with the understanding that each must accept Israel’s sovereignty. “The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs declares that Arab Israeli’s are citizens of Israel with equal rights.”

Today, Arab Israeli’s constitute 20% of Israel’s nurses, 45% of its pharmacists, and 17% of its doctors. In hospitals across Israel, Jew and Arab work side by side to save COVID-19’s victims.

An interesting photograph. Two paramedics appear beside their ambulance. One kneels on a Muslim prayer rug and faces to the right. The other drapes a Hebrew prayer shawl about his shoulders and faces to the left. Both attend to their prayers, while a virus wreaks havoc on innocent lives and families.

The Arab Israeli’s are philosophical about their weak position. They say, “Your independence is our Nakba.” “Jewish independence is our day of mourning.” And, “My state is at war with my nation.”

In the year 2000, ten Arabs and ten Jews from the Wadi Ara area decided to construct schools where Arab and Jewish children together would receive an education, as an alternative to the “violence and hatred,” they witness on a typical day. The founders called their schools, “Hand in Hand.”

Kafr Qara is a town of 18,675, mainly Arab, located 22 miles southeast of Haifa, a city on the coast. The Haifa district is the site of the ancient city of Megiddo, or Armageddon. It was there, in 2004, that officials in the “Hand in Hand” program established their third school, calling it “Bridge over Wadi.”

Two teachers, one Arab and one Jewish, teach each each class. One speaks in Arabic and the other in Hebrew. At first, the school had a population of 50% Arab and 50% Jewish, but in recent years, the Jewish percentage has declined some.

Students from a wide area arrive daily in Kafr Qara, a town now called “the village of doctors.” One of the school’s principals, says that “Kafr Qara is the only place in the world where Jewish children commute to an Arab village to study,” to attend school.

Memorial Day precedes Independence Day in Israel, as well as in the United States. Memory is a funny thing. It sticks upon certain things, but it fades away from others. No person though will forget a loved one killed in war, or injured in war. Never.

The Jewish people declare that they will never forget the Holocaust, the state-sponsored slaughter across all of Europe of six million innocent men, women, boys, and girls, because of their religion, their ethnicity, their culture. The Arabs will not soon forget their expulsion from their ancient homes across Palestine in the year 1948, because of their religion, their ethnicity, their culture.

May 14, 1948, seventy-two years ago this week. “Your independence is our Nakba.”