This morning, as the U.S. election came to a shocking conclusion, I sat down in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. It’s a former art museum, was home to the first mayor of Tel Aviv and, most importantly, is where David Ben-Gurion, executive head of the World Zionist Organization, declared Israel to be an independent state on May 14, 1948.
There was great joy amongst Jews, at the signing of this document, and as we listened to the recording of Ben-Gurion announcing the news, many of us had tears in our eyes. One woman in my group, said she remembered her grandmother telling her how she’d listened to the radio that day. I told her she was lucky to have been able to talk to her grandmother about this historic event, and I wondered if my grandmother, living in Montreal at the time, had also listened.
She never talked about being Jewish, and hid that side of herself from everyone, including her own children, my mother and aunt. But I can’t believe that my grandmother wouldn’t have been interested in the fact that Jews finally would have a homeland. In my mind, I see her sitting at her kitchen table, embroidering, listening intently, and even smiling a little. It makes me sad that I’ll never know.
We spent the rest of the day in Tel Aviv, now a secular city where modern Bauhaus buildings clash with small, old ones, where Israeli soldiers walk along the same sidewalks as Arabs and Christians. Where there is a sense of peace, and an underlying shakiness, because people can never be certain of what the future will bring.
The day after Ben-Gurion declared Israel to be a free state, five armies launched an attack. Israel had no real army as a defense. But they managed to hold on anyway.
I left Tel Aviv hoping that America will overcome the challenges ahead, as the ground shifts and the air thickens with intolerance.