For a people who hold memory sacred, this month is particularly rich in anniversaries that evoke crucial moments in Jewish history, both times to celebrate and times to mourn.
Some Jewish landmarks that took place in Novembers of years past are relegated to the pages of history books, others are more vivid because of their impact, having taken place 100, 70, 40 and 22 years ago.
Among the most important dates in Zionist history, before the birth of Israel, were the Balfour Declaration, signed on Nov. 2, 1917 by Arthur Balfour, England’s Foreign Secretary, affirming that his government views “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”; and the approval on Nov. 29, 1947, by the United Nations General Assembly of Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine, soon to be vacated by the British Army, into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accepted the plan, the Arabs rejected it.
The decades following the Balfour Declaration and the U.N. vote saw the birth of the State of Israel, which was plunged into an existential war as soon as the British troops departed in May 1948. The Jewish State has had to contend with hostility from Arab neighbors, in a series of wars and terrorist attacks, ever since.
Another historic anniversary that occurs this month, of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s unprecedented trip to Israel on Nov. 19, 1977, offered the hope that the cycle of violence in the Middle East would be shattered. Sadat was the first Arab leader to openly recognize Israel and set foot there, let alone sign a peace treaty with it.
Egypt, followed subsequently by Jordan’s King Hussein, did make peace with Israel. But for the most part it has been a cold peace, and Syria remains a danger, as do the Iran-sponsored terror groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
A particularly tragic anniversary marks the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a 25-year-old Jewish extremist on Nov. 4, 1995. Yigal Amir’s fatal bullets were meant to derail the peace negotiations that Rabin, a career military leader, had at first reluctantly endorsed with the PLO.
Despite these setbacks, Israel has grown increasingly strong – economically and militarily — though its conflict with the Palestinians has drained off support from some quarters.
Anniversaries offer us a time to pause from our daily routine and reflect on what we often take for granted — after thousands of years, an ancient people in a modern state of its own that offers refuge and inspiration to Jews from around the world.
This November, bereft of important holidays on the Jewish calendar, still presents us many opportunities to rejoice and pray for a more secure future.