From Gush Shalom
ON BLOODY MONDAY this week, when the number of Palestinians killed and wounded was rising by the hour, I asked myself: what would I have done if I had been a youngster of 15 in the Gaza Strip?
My answer was, without hesitation: I would have stood near the border fence and demonstrated, risking my life and limbs every minute.
How am I so sure?
Simple: I did the same when I was 15.
I was a member of the National Military Organization (the "Irgun"), an armed underground group labeled "terrorist."
Palestine was at the time under British occupation (called "mandate"). In May 1939, the British enacted a law limiting the right of Jews to acquire land. I received an order to be at a certain time at a certain spot near the sea shore of Tel Aviv in order to take part in a demonstration. I was to wait for a trumpet signal.
The trumpet sounded and we started the march down Allenby Road, then the city's main street. Near the main synagogue, somebody climbed the stairs and delivered an inflammatory speech. Then we marched on, to the end of the street, where the offices of the British administration were located. There we sang the national anthem, "Hatikvah," while some adult members set fire to the offices.
Suddenly several lorries carrying British soldiers screeched to a halt, and a salvo of shots rang out. The British fired over our heads, and we ran away.
Remembering this event 79 years later, it crossed my mind that the boys of Gaza are greater heroes then we were then. They did not run away. They stood their ground for hours, while the death toll rose to 61 and the number of those wounded by live ammunition to some 1,500, in addition to 1,000 affected by gas.
ON THAT day, most TV stations in Israel and abroad split their screens. On the right, the events in Gaza. On the left, the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
In the 136th year of the Zionist-Palestinian war, that split screen is the picture of reality: the celebration in Jerusalem and the bloodbath in Gaza. Not on two different planets, not in two different continents, but hardly an hour's drive apart.
The celebration in Jerusalem started as a silly event. A bunch of suited males, inflated with self-importance, celebrating -- what, exactly? The symbolic movement of an office from one town to another.
Jerusalem is a major bone of contention. Everybody knows that there will be no peace, not now, not ever, without a compromise there. For every Palestinian, every Arab, every Muslim throughout the world, it is unthinkable to give up Jerusalem. It is from there, according to Muslim tradition, that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, after tying his horse to the rock that is now the center of the holy places. After Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is the third holiest place of Islam.
For the Jews, of course, Jerusalem means the place where, some 2,000 years ago, there stood the temple built by King Herod, a cruel half-Jew. A remnant of an outer wall still stands there and is revered as the "Western Wall." It used to be called the "Wailing Wall," and is the holiest place of the Jews.