Although Israel seems to have missed the train on certain levels, when it comes to celebrating or commemorating festivals and anniversaries, organizers are often well ahead, as are retailers.
Hanukkah donuts had barely disappeared from stores, only to be instantly replaced by packaged dried fruits for Tu Bishvat. Even before Tu Bishvat, Purim cookies could be seen in supermarkets, and in time for both International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Yom Hashoah, singer Dudu Fisher released a video in Yiddish and English called “A Shtikele Broit” (A Morsel of Bread).
Purim this year falls just over a week after International Women’s Day, and this is the year in which women have gained greater prominence than ever before. Several of the women’s empowerment conferences planned for March illustrate through their participants the high levels women have attained in the workforce, especially the justice system where the presidents of the Supreme Court, the National Labor Court and the incoming president of the Military Court of Appeals are all women, in addition to which the favored candidate for state attorney is also a woman.
Advertisements for kosher Passover vacations replete with the festive Seder meal appeared in newspapers and magazines immediately after the High Holy Days last year, and press releases have for some weeks been heralding Independence Day activities on the presumption that this year they can be celebrated without the restrictions that were imposed last year.
As of now, it’s official that the main singers at the opening Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl on May 4 will be Sarit Hadad, Valerie Hamaty, Raviv Kaner and Idan Amedi. For the first time ever the presenters at the event will both be women – radio and television newsreaders and program hostesses Almaz Mangisto and Hila Korach.
■ IF TRUTH be told, every year is one of personal, national or universal milestone anniversaries, or even just annual anniversaries, such as birthdays. 2022 is no exception. To list some of them does little or no harm and helps to jog people’s memories about events that in their time were considered historic or gala, but whose luster may have faded in the interim.
Some people count milestones by multiples of five or 10 years. Others by 25, 50, 75 and 100, and others will find any excuse to celebrate and even count half-year anniversaries. What’s important is to remember the important events that have shaped history and that have directly or indirectly impacted on our lives.
Let’s go back 125 years to August 29-31 to the first Zionist Congress in Basel. Who would have genuinely believed that just over half a century later the Jewish State of Israel would be a reality and not just a dream and that “Next year in Jerusalem” was not simply a prayer, but something that would one day be actually taken for granted.
To avoid confusion, the other few listings here will be in monthly but not yearly chronological order, and will include some events that have already passed, such as the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference and Martin Luther King Day, on the anniversary of the birth of the civil rights leader.
Readers will wonder or be annoyed that certain events are missing, but in a column of this size, it’s impossible to list the many important events that make the world go round and to keep rising from the ruins of war to rebuild with fresh hope.
Still the few events listed here, will give some readers cause to ponder over those that were omitted.
On February 6, 1952, with the death of her father, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth became queen of the United Kingdom. This is her platinum year, and she is the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s history, having outdistanced her great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who died on January 22, 1901 after a 64-year reign.
On February 12, 1942, the day that Lehi founder Avraham Stern was betrayed and shot to death by the British in a Tel Aviv apartment, Ehud Barak, future IDF chief of staff and prime minister was born.
■ EVEN THOUGH relations between the US and China are far from friendly, diplomatic relations have not been severed. On February 21 this year, both countries will in all probability mark the 1972 state visit to China by US president Richard Nixon, which was the diplomatic icebreaker in relations between the two nations.
March 1 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yitzhak Rabin, the country’s first Sabra prime minister, who was born in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital in 1922, and assassinated in Tel Aviv in November 1995. Presumably Shaare Zedek will not ignore the date.
March 9, 1992 marks the 30th anniversary, according to the Gregorian calendar, of the death of Menachem Begin, Israel’s first right-wing prime minister, who was also the first Israeli leader to reach a peace agreement with an Arab state.
Five hundred years after the March 31, 1492 signing of the expulsion order against the Jews of Spain, King Juan Carlos of Spain on April 1, 1992 accompanied president Chaim Herzog to a service at Madrid’s only synagogue. Herzog was the first president of Israel to visit Germany, China and Spain.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the highly publicized visit of reconciliation, which years later culminated in the granting of Spanish citizenship to people who could prove descent from Jews who had been expelled five centuries earlier.
The 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Marshall Plan, to rehabilitate Europe’s economy following the destruction wrought during the Second World War, will be marked on June 5, as will the 45th anniversary of the outbreak of the Six Day War, which led to the reunification of Jerusalem and the removal of barbed wire and land mines that separated the Israeli side of Jerusalem from that which had been part of Jordan.
July 1 commemorates the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handing over of Hong Kong to the Chinese.
On August 1, Americans will celebrate the birth in 1779 of Francis Scott Key, the author of the “Star Spangled Banner;” and on August 2, 1776, 55 members of the Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to sign the parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Something that is pertinent to current affairs in that it is a timely reminder, was a letter written on that date in 1939 by Albert Einstein to president Franklin D. Roosevelt concerning atomic weapons. Six years later, on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb developed in the United States was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan.
August 3 is an extraordinarily important anniversary date in world history, in that it is the 530th anniversary of the date that Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain with three ships, which he mistakenly thought were bound for the Far East, but which eventually reached what is now America.
August 4, marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved so many Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
The events of September 6, 1972 in Munich remain an open wound in Israel’s collective memory. This was the date of the Munich massacre when Black September terrorists targeted the Israeli team in the summer Olympics, resulting in a total of 17 deaths comprising 12 victims and five terrorists.
September was also the month in 1952, when on September 10, at the Luxembourg City Hall, the agreement for reparations by Germany to Israel was signed by Israel’s foreign minister Moshe Sharett, Nahum Goldmann as head of the Jewish Agency and German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who was also his country’s foreign minister.
The outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, with its devastating number of casualties on all sides, was on October 6, 1973. On October 6, 1981, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel, was assassinated.
On November 1, 1922, the Ottoman Empire, which had been in existence for almost seven centuries, effectively came to an end, and in December of that year, the Soviet Union was officially established.
November 2 is the 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration for which credit must go to Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president of the sovereign State of Israel, and who died on November 9, 1952.
President Sadat, on November 19, 1977, became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel. There had previously been secret visits by King Hussein of Jordan.
But the most important milestone anniversary this year is on November 29 when Israelis and many Jews abroad will celebrate the 75th anniversary of United Nations Resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine, which led to the independence of Israel.
Celebration often precedes tragedy, and on December 9, several bereaved families in Israel will remember this date as the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the First Intifada.
■ LOOKING FORWARD to something that is going to make history will be the FIFA World Cup, which on November 21 will kick off in Qatar. This will be the first time the World Cup will be staged in an Arab country, and not even in one of the larger Arab countries, but in the small, albeit wealthy, State of Qatar. Although Israel has an Arab player in the national team, Israel won’t be playing in the finals.