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Leah Garber

Just Imagine

Today marks a historic anniversary that provides an opportunity to take a step back to try to understand the complex geopolitical reality in Israel. Seventy-six years ago, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine—known as the Partition Plan or Resolution 181—at the end of the British Mandate. The resolution recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states and a special international regime for the city of Jerusalem. The plan sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims of Palestinians and Jews. It also called for economic union between the proposed states and for the protection of religious and minority rights. While the Jews accepted the plan, the Arab Higher Committee, the Arab League, and other Arab leaders rejected it, indicating an unwillingness to accept any form of territorial division and therefore aren’t bound by the decision. Jews gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to celebrate the UN resolution. Cafes in Tel Aviv served free champagne, while Zionist leaders began rolling up their sleeves with great excitement—and significant responsibility—to establish a modern Jewish state and commit to work toward a peaceful coexistence with the region’s Arab residents. Now, imagine you are racing through a time tunnel and land in Israel 76 years ago. The land of Israel, or Palestine as it was called then, welcomes you with the scent of the season’s first rain as the remnants of summer dust make room for renewal. People in Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city; in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people; and on kibbutzim all over the country are busy building the new state. Schools, where the language of instruction is Hebrew, are established; community centers offer Jewish culture; theaters present original Hebrew plays; and fields are plowed. Great excitement is in the air for the blessed rains that are expected to fall soon—to water new furrows and grow crops, with the promise that next season, we will enjoy the fruits of our labor. But not only the Israeli side is busy. Our good neighbors, the Arabs, plow and sow, build cities and villages, open cultural centers and modern schools. From time to time, Jaffa oranges make their way through Arab markets. Olives harvested in Arab villages’ orchards are offered for sale in Israeli markets. All enjoy the fine fruits from the same soil, pray together for the same blessed rain, welcome the rays of the same sun, and thank the same God for our good fate. Just imagine… If only the Arabs had accepted the partition proposal, laid down their swords, and picked up a hoe or a rake instead, what a wonderful, peaceful paradise this place could have become with our joint labor and goodwill. How much pain and bereavement could have been spared, how many resources could have been channeled into growth and prosperity, shutting down the war machine in favor of regional development. Hello? Are you still here, or have you drifted on the wings of imagination to what could have been? I would much rather stay with that imaginary reality. If only… No, I’m not naive. Life in Israel taught me that naivety is luxury; there’s no space for it here. It is clear to me that the romantic picture I painted is more complex, that reality is complicated, and yet, look at what we lost. With incredible proximity to today, only yesterday the US House of Representatives, by an overwhelming majority, passed a statement confirming Israel’s right to exist. This is the statement given by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus and senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

Israel is the only state in the world whose fundamental right to exist, within any borders at all, is openly denied by other states. Some of them including Iran even call for Israel’s complete destruction and support transnational terrorist organizations to work toward its destruction. It is also the only state in the world whose fundamental right to exist is constantly undermined and challenged by intergovernmental organizations—such as, most shamefully of all, the United Nations. The antisemitism motivating those who deny Israel’s right to exist is apparent, but it is important to connect, as this resolution does, the denial of Israel’s right to exist to antisemitism and to connect them both, as enabling causes, to the monstrous crimes Hamas has unleashed on Israel. Make no mistake, antisemitic bigotry is at the root of the UN’s hostility toward Israel, which is ugly, evil, and manifests itself in almost every UN entity.

It’s a shame history did not foresee the future early on and change its course to avoid the pain and misery that have resulted—and refuse to let go. If only history had aligned with our dreams and dreamt its own romantic fantasies about what could have been. In the meantime, alongside the wholehearted support of the United States, the sixth day of the ceasefire will bring more hostages home after 54 days in the dark. They, too, will surely change from the blood-stained clothes they have been wearing since the day they were captured and will be forced to dress up for the ridiculous show put on by Hamas for the benefit of the cameras. Despite their technological ability, the cameras’ lenses cannot hide the pain in the eyes of the hostages, the terror with which they look at their captors, their hands clenched in fear, or the trauma etched on their faces. Again today, we are reminded how 11-month-old Kafir and his four-year-old brother Ariel (Bibas) along with their parents became a symbol of Hamas’s cruelty from the moment they were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7.

How long will the imperious hand on the shoulder of Kafir and Ariel’s mother hold this family captive, or are these beautiful two redheads destined to be the world’s tiniest human shields?

This one picture reflects our terrible story—the dreams the time tunnel took us back to in 1947 and the painful reality of today. Cruelty and fear vs. life as it should be—blowing soap bubbles and smiling at a world that smiles back.

In Hamas’s tunnels, there is not enough air to allow Ariel’s soap bubbles to rise, and there is not enough light to let Kafir’s shining eyes sparkle.

Together, united, we will overcome.

Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.

About the Author
Leah Garber is the senior vice president of Israel engagement at JCC Association of North America and the director general of the Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem, where she facilitates connections to Israel in all JCCs in North America.
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