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Six Days & Fifty Years

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This Monday evening, June 5th, we at the Mosaic Law Congregation of Sacramento, and its KOH Library and Cultural Center, will be commemorating—with a special program and an excellent film—the 50-year anniversary to the Six-Day War of 1967. A war in which I fought as a young soldier, both at the Egyptian front and at the Syrian front (see the picture above of young paratroopers about to embark on a plane; I’m second from the left). I will take an active role in the program by recalling my experience during that war (to hear my story you’ll have to come to the event itself). I’m mentioning this upfront because many of you, who have been following my political writings here, and events throughout our community, and know my political views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may raise an eyebrow or two, to say the least, in wondering how someone with my opinions and inclinations, is so readily participating and organizing such a program.

Well… here’s my explanation. To begin with, our event is not a ‘celebration’ per se, nor it is a ‘mourning’ of sorts. (Most certainly it is not a political event.) Rather—though both elements would be present—it is a commemoration. We will be observing and reflecting on the days leading to the war. Days that began with an act of aggression by Egypt and its leader Camal Abdel Nasser, being pushed from behind by the Russians, which led to a joint effort by all the Arab countries surrounding Israel, aiming to annihilate the young nation and its Jewish people from the face of the earth. Days that plunged Israel into a collective state of anxiety, great worry for its survival, and preparation for the upcoming war. Days of mobilization of all the country’s resources, human and machine, dedicated to the defense of the Jewish state. Days of no school; of no theater; of no street cafes and normal life. Culminating in six days of war that would prove to be decisive, destructive to our enemies, and glorious in term of modern history warfare.

What we will not be observing, reflecting on or discussing, would be the aftermath of that war. The day after. Fifty long years of wars, battles, and yes, some peace. In those years Israel, which at the end of the war—a war of survival per excellence, make no mistake about it—not only secured its long-term existence, but was also began a downfall of sort. At the time, it was situated at its modern zenith as a country, at the highest point on top of the ‘wheel of history.’ But unfortunately, thereafter, it began a downward spiral, continuing to this day. This disastrous descent included, among its many casualties, two warrior leaders turned peacemakers: an Egyptian President and an Israeli Prime Minister, assassinated on the altar of peace. But true: not everything has been bad since then. Far from it: The country, its army, its economy, its high-tech industry—not only its agricultural marvel as before the war—grew into a global leading proportions. After the terrible blunder of the Yom Kippur War, the country had made peace with two of its strongest enemies: Egypt and Jordan. A peace that is lasting, so far. A country of two million people is now a country of more than eight million people. Despite some challenges, it’s still a democracy. Not bad at all.

What went wrong was, still is, the occupation. I’m talking, of course, of the colonial grabbing of the West Bank (the Golan Heights too, to a degree), and the continuation of the conflict with the Palestinian people; which, in historical terms, had begun in 1948 and before. This occupation has led to a situation on the ground where the only solution available; the only solution acceptable on the majorly of both peoples; the only solution accepted on the international community—which regard, and rightly so, the Israeli settlement movement and activity as illegal—has brought us to the dying bed of that Two-State solution. It can still be resurrected and brought to life, I very much want to believe so. But in truth: I don’t see how. Again, I believe the majority of the people on both sides—more even than the politicians—are resigned now to the fact that it’s over and done with.

So what’s wrong with it, you ask? I tell you what. It can bring, potentially, not only the demise, but the end of Israel as a free society, and as a Jewish and democratic state. Maybe still in our lifetime, and maybe not. With it, it would also kill the Zionist dream. Here’s why: It cannot be both. Israel cannot be Jewish and also democratic state, while at the same time continuing to rule over millions of Palestinian people. If Israel would grant them citizenship, it soon won’t be a Jewish state anymore. If it would deprive them of these rights, while continuing to control their lives and treat them as second-class citizens, then it’s no longer a democratic state. It’s an Apartheid state. We did not—I repeat, did not—go to war for that!

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Days—and Heroes—to Remember

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This evening Israel will begin the observance of Yom Hazikaron—Memorial Day—and the next evening it will begin the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut—Independent Day. Thus, the country will mark its sixty-ninth years of existence, and will usher in its seventieth year. By first observing the memory of all the fallen soldiers, it will continue a tradition—not without some controversy—that had been enacted into law in 1963. In later years, following the Six-Day War and its aftermath, the memory and honor of remembrance has been extended to include civilian victims of political violence, and terrorism in general.

While the memory of each and every fallen soldier is dear and singular—I will remember a number of them myself, whom I knew personally and had had the honor to count, if for such a short period of time, among my dear friends and brothers-in-arms—none will be remembered and missed more, both as a fallen soldier and as a victim of political violence, than the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; assassinated on the altar of peace by a zealot, fervent, messianic, religiously-fanatic Israeli Jew in November 1995. Together with him, the peace between Israelis and Palestinians had died too. And since then—yet to be resurrected.

It is to the understanding and observation of yours truly—who was born in Israel, fought in a number of its wars and major operations, but now lives (mostly) among the Jews of America—that when we look on these sixty-nine years of independence with clear eyes and open mind, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the ‘political assassination’ of Yitzhak Rabin, who quite possibly was the greatest war-hero and independence-warrior Israel had ever known, was one of the three, maybe four most crucial events in the short history of the modern county since it had gained independence. Like the Six-day war of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the peace agreement with Egypt to follow it in 1979, this singular event—i.e. Rabin’s assassination—and its aftermath, had changed dramatically the course of the nation.

The last page on that tragic and momentous event in our history is yet to be written. And though many words had been said and had been written about it, the cloud of mystery surrounding that terrible death and murder is still looming large, dark and heavy. One brave attempt to shade some light on that mystery is the film ‘Rabin, The Last Day,’ by the well-known and well-respected Israeli film director Amos Gitai. His 2015 Israeli-French docudrama, released here theatrically last year, is a political thriller of the first order, depicting the events surrounding the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—with footage never before seen of the actual moments of assassination—in the days leading to it, and its aftermath, including the governmental committee inquiry to follow.

We will screen this film at the KOH Library, in the Culture Center of Mosaic Law at 2pm on Sunday May 21. I will make an introduction to the film, and after the screening I’ll lead a discussion—believe me, there is a lot to be discussed—about it. The film is not easy to watch, or digest for that matter, but nothing easy ever had much of a value to it; especially when it comes to such a tragic, complex event. Rightfully, the reviews for the film were mixed. “Rabin, the Last Day is not interesting in spite of its flaws as a film. It’s interesting because of them,” wrote A. O. Scott in the NY Times. “Frequently horrifying and never less than absorbing, Rabin, the Last Day is a meticulously observant portrait of a broken society.” Wrote Matt Fagerholm, on his Roger Ebert’s dedicated blog.

The film, correctly so, raises more questions than answers. But this is exactly why it’s so important that we will watch it; that we will pay attention to the old stories and new revelations; that we will discuss them, and try to answer them to ourselves, and to others. It is of the utmost importance, then, not only because this was one of the most ‘successful’ political assassination in the bloody history of mankind, but because the implications to the state of Israel and its people, and to the future of the Jewish people as a whole, are still vibrating, and loudly, with a lot still at stake.

On the occasion of the screening we will also celebrate the ‘Nine-year Anniversary’ to this blog, with this being the 121 continuously monthly post. I hope you’re enjoying the ride, just as I do, and that you will continue to visit this site, read my posts, reflect and comment. And please, join us at the screening of the film on May 21.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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