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It was the evening of the 29th of November 1947. I was then an 8-year-old child who was aware that something very important was about to happen. Only in the coming years did I realize the full significance of the event.
Almost all the neighbors in the house on 97 Herzl St., located in the southernmost end of Tel Aviv, the house my father built in 1935, gathered in our small apartment, pencils and pieces of paper in hand. All ears were glued to the radio as they tried to guess and assess the results of the vote to take place in the U.N. Assembly in far-off New York regarding the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
The hour was late, after midnight, and despite all my efforts to stay awake, I finally succumbed to sleep only to be summarily awakened by shouts of “mazal tov,” “L’chaim” and “Shehechiyanu.” My father, a man not known for his sentimentality, approached me with tears in his eyes and said, “Roha’le (little Rachel), we have a state,” and gave me a little kiss on my forehead. I will never forget those words as long as I live.
Then came the unforgettable Friday afternoon of 1948 when our Old Man, as David Ben-Gurion was known, read the Scroll of the Independence of the State of Israel in the old art museum in Tel Aviv. The next day, the British Mandate on Palestine was over, and the newly formed State of Israel was formally established after 2,000 years.
There was great rejoicing among the Yishuv, as our Jewish community was called. We all filled the streets with spontaneous singing and dancing, which is possible once in the life of a person and in the life of a nation.
Alas, Israel was already engulfed in a war with its Arab neighbors who refused to accept a state in Palestine.
After the end of the war, we were proud spectators as my father received a commendation from the mayor of Tel Aviv for his brave service in the Mishmar Ezrahi, Civil Guard, during the War of Independence or War of Liberation as it was also called.
Now, as we mark the 70th birthday of the State, I wonder what my parents and their founder friends would think in facing an Israel that is not exactly what they dreamt about. I still believe they would rejoice with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a State of Israel that would not have come to reality without them.
Rachel Kapen lives in West Bloomfield and contributes Yiddish limericks to the Jewish News.