Many of us, when we think about significant dates in the creation of the state of Israel, immediately recall the 5th of Iyyar. It was on this day, in 1948, that an independent state of Israel was declared, and this date on the Jewish calendar continues to be celebrated as Israel Independence Day in our time. There is, however, another quite significant date in the history of Israel's formation, a date that falls in this calendar month: The 29th of November. It was on this day in 1947, just a few months prior to Israel's independence, that the United Nations voted to partition the Land of Israel. In essence, the nations of the world recognized the national aspirations of the Jewish people, as well as their right to a Jewish country in their ancient homeland. Very tellingly, every Arab member state of the UN voted against this resolution. In the summer of 1967, the member states of the Arab League convened for a summit in Khartoum, Sudan. The context of the summit was the question of how to relate to the recent Israeli victory in the Six Day War in June of that year. The Arab nations had gone into the war with the hopes of crushing the small Jewish state, and of bringing it to its end after just 19 years of existence. Instead, not only were the Israelis able to defend themselves in the war, but in just six short days they also took the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai Desert from Egypt, and the West Bank from Jordan. They were also able to reunify the city of Jerusalem, and to bring the Western Wall under Jewish sovereignty. Now the Arab world was backed into a corner where it was forced to react. In the wake of the Israeli victory and its own inability to destroy the nascent state, would they do an about face and accept the Jewish state in their midst, or continue down their path of rejectionism despite Israel's gains? Unfortunately, the Arab League adopted the latter approach in Khartoum, and in August of 1967 they passed the Khartoum Resolution, resolving not to recognize Israel's existence, not to do business with her, or to establish diplomatic relations with her on any level. The unfortunate decision of the Arab League, meeting in Sudan that summer, largely set the tone for the Arab world's position towards Israel for much of the next fifty years It is quite incredible that the same nation that hosted the summit, Sudan, announced just a few days ago that she would be establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel. This announcement was just the most recent of a series of White House-brokered deals between Israel and her Arab and Muslim neighbors. Over the course of just a short few months, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and now Sudan have all announced that they will be normalizing ties with Israel. To put the events of the past few months in context, until recently the Jewish state enjoyed full diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries: Egypt (1978) and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (1994). Almost overnight, that number has more than doubled, with other Arab countries sure to follow suit. We are witnessing a process that, when put in its proper context, is actually quite significant and astounding. Not much has been made in the media about these treaties, as the story has often been buried in the media beneath a heap of competing stories relative to domestic and social issues, as well as the presidential election. But the lack of coverage in the mainstream media does not diminish from the significance of these events as Israel continues to achieve stability, recognition, and acceptance amongst her neighbors. In the wake of Israel signing her first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor, Egypt, Rabbi Chaim David Halevy, the Sefardic chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, commented as follows:"We have entered a new phase in the redemption of Israel. For from the very first day that the Jewish people began to return to its homeland, the Arabs in the region met us with violence and bloodshed. They were never willing to come to terms with our existence, and they dreamt of casting us into the sea. "Even after the victory of the Six Day War, when the Israeli army achieved a resounding and definite victory, the Arab world did not change its tune. And we all remember the three "no"'s of the Khartoum Resolution, and at their center was "no to recognition of Israel"...
"Following the Yom Kippur War, which took Israel by surprise, and which granted the Arabs an advantage during the war's early days, but which eventually concluded with an Israeli victory, the Arab world began to realize that it would not be able to destroy Israel on the battlefield. President Sadat became the first to make peace with Israel and to recognize her, not necessarily as a result of his love for Israel, but as a result of his realization that the Arab armies would not be successful in wiping Israel off of the map of the Middle East."From that time onward, a revolution began to occur in the region, as the Arab world began to appreciate and understand that the state of Israel is an established fact, and that all of the "no's" of the Khartoum Resolution were misguided. From that point onward, the Arab world recognized Israel, and was prepared to sit with her in direct peace talks..."Rabbi Halevy concludes that although there are still many problems that are preventing total peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors, nevertheless, "the historical fact is that the Arab world has recognized Israel's existence, and is prepared to make peace with her. Therefore, the peace treaty with Egypt is a significant event in the process of the Jewish people's redemption. We should analyze its place amongst the various signs of redemption that the Gemara provides for us in Masechet Sanhedrin. We should hope and pray that the sparks of peace that were ignited at the time of the signing of the peace treaty should lead to true peace speedily in our days."The words of the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, penned several decades ago, are relevant now more than ever. We are witness to a natural and long-overdue process of Israel's Arab and Muslim neighbors recognizing both the Jewish people's history in the region, as well as their future destiny on their ancestral homeland. May we continue to pray to the Almighty that this process leads to peace and stability for Israel, and to the final redemption.
All the Best,
Rabbi Peretz Robinson