At 60, Israel's never-ending struggle for security
On May 7, Israelis began celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. Soon, Palestinians will mark the nakba, or catastrophe.
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Then came the November day in 1947, when the United Nations voted on the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Arab states disagreed and declared war. At the time, one of Horev's jobs was running convoys to supply Jewish areas of Jerusalem that were cut off, a job which led him to see many young comrades fall.Skip to next paragraph
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"When you look at the convoy situation, it was like going on a suicide mission: each time we went out we got attacked," Horev explains as the hours crawl toward Israel's Memorial Day, which always comes the day before Independence Day. Melancholy songs fill the airwaves, stories of fallen soldiers run on television, places of entertainment close. Horev makes his pilgrimage to the Nahalal Cemetery in Jerusalem, where many of the fallen members of his brigade are buried.
"I think a lot about them now, all my classmates I lost, what they would have done later, what good scientists they would have made, too." Horev, an outstanding science student with a knack for logistics, was sent by the Israeli army to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after the war to complete his BA and a master's in mechanical engineering. During the war itself, he had figured out how to adapt American-made Sherman M4 tanks to the local terrain, turning them into M-50s that lasted Israel until the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Into the 1950s and 1960s, he served as the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) chief of ordnance and chief of logistics.
"Most of the 6,000 killed were part of that generation, my generation. It may not sound like a lot, but it was 10 percent of our population," he recalls, looking at the photos of friends in uniform that now seem almost baby-faced, as he names each of them and whether he survived. "We were the right generation, because we were born at a moment that occurs once in a thousand years: the chance to create a new nation, a new state."
During the war, Horev's wife of more than 60 years, Shoshana, remembers not hearing from her husband for more than three months. By the end of the war, she says, "more of our close friends were dead than alive."
About a month before Israel declared its independence, Horev was deputy commander of the 6th Palmach Battalion, second to Yitzhak Rabin, the famous Israeli who would become prime minister and be felled by an assassin opposed to his peacemaking policy.
One of their missions was to secure the road to Jerusalem to stop nearby Arab villages from overcoming a Jewish settlement called Kfar Uriah. "If they had succeeded, nobody would have come out alive," he says, pointing to a map of where it was situated, surrounded by a cluster of Arab villages southwest of Jerusalem. "There were no neutral villages around Jerusalem," he says.
Two colliding narratives
What happened to the residents of those Arab villages is one of many crucial points where Israeli and Palestinian narratives collide. Palestinians say some people fled, expecting to come home later, but that many villages were evacuated by force by Zionist militias and destroyed. Most Israelis, including Horev, spurn that version of events. But what some Israeli academics loosely refer to as the "New Historians" say that the Palestinian account of events was more credible than previously acknowledged, and that incidents of ethnic cleansing occurred.