Israel at 30: But where are the dreams?
An honor guard lined one side of the plaza, the bereaved of war dead the other. The plaza is big, a cold expanse of new stone gouged into the heart of the city. At one end, the Wailing Wall, remnant of the ancient temple, the holiest place of Judaism, stood blank and unattended, lit to a death pallor by kleiglights and cameramen's spots.
JERUSALEM – An honor guard lined one side of the plaza, the bereaved of war dead the other.
The plaza is big, a cold expanse of new stone gouged into the heart of the city. At one end, the Wailing Wall, remnant of the ancient temple, the holiest place of Judaism, stood blank and unattended, lit to a death pallor by kleiglights and cameramen's spots.
At the other end, the public had gathered, separated from the soldiers and the soldiers' bereaved by a line of police barriers. Behind the spectators stood the buildings of the old Jewish quarter, now dominated by construction cranes that dwarfed the modest rooftops.
At 8 p.m. sharp, the sirens sounded a long wail, then died with a last complaint. Israel's 30th anniversary celebration was underway.
In the silence that followed, the chant of Arab muezzins, calling the faithful to evening prayer, drifted in from beyond the floodlights - a grim reminder that East Jersualem remains "hostile."
The ceremony went like an army drill. President Ephraim Katzir lighted the ceremonial torch. The chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, made a tense speech attributing Israel's 30 years of independence to the spirit of sacrifice among its citizens.
The ancient kaddish prayer for the dead followed. Then Katzir's escorts fired up their new motorcycles and the crowd broke for the exits.
Absent was the joy of some ceremonies, in years past, that ended with dancing in the streets. But also absent were the sorrow and pain of loss that followed the October War of 1973.
Absent was the dream that created this state against impossible odds. And absent too was a new dream to infuse the next 30 years.
Where are the dreams that Israelis made of, now that she is 30 years old? Not in he clockwork spectacles, not in the F-15 flyby. Perhaps in the few in the crowd who wait patiently to get to the Wailing Wall, perhaps in the thousands who traipse from the square back to kibbutzim or development towns, to Jerusalem apartments or West Bank hilltops. Perhaps somewhere waiting to be formed.
Where, where are the dreams?
In the late sunlight streaming across the balcony that overlooks the Jerusalem hills, amid the curios collected at his diplomatic posts, among the framed and autographed pictures - Ben-Gurion, Sharet, Meir, Dayan – with all that is familiarly his, Shaul Ramati is at home.
Ramati, mustachioed and urbane, is a foreign ministry man, a good talker. In these long afternoon chats, he is also at home. His left hand settles, now and then, on a bottle of bourbon at his side, as a good driver's hand will sometimes play, unconsciously and lightly, on the gearshift.
Ramati is ambassador to the Jews outside Israel – an official keeper of dreams.
He has a speech for honorific occasions, a speech designed to rekindle the dream. He has just refurbished it for this occasion.
"Israel is my mother," says a portion of the speech. "She bore me in terrible labor, unbelievable suffering. Her birth pangs seemed never ending – Pharoah, Amalek, Sargon, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Antiochus, Titus, the massacring crusader, Torquemada, Chmielnicki and then the crowning agony of Hitler the beast. Yet she survived all her tortures and gave me the priceless gift of being born a Jew. With her milk, I imbibed my Jewish sense of right and wrong, the dream of a world of brotherhood at peace. How puny any effort or sacrifice I can make to help her sons and daughters live after the agony of fire, sword, Auschwitz, which she went through that they might be born."
Lately the job has presented problems. Some Jews in America are upset with Menachem Begin – does he really want peace? they ask – and Ramati must deal with the doubt. This too is familiar. Ramati speaks with confident grace:
The armistice lines, Resolution 242, the Allon plan – all slide by like expressway signs. Ramati negotiates the curves.
But what of the dreams? Where is Israel going? This is an unfamiliar turn.
"Well, I don't know... I'm not worried about it," Ramati says. It's just that they're not so obvious. They're not so clear today. Before, everything was so stark. So clear."
Ramati leans forward, as if to peer through gloom. The room has gotten dark. No one has thought of lights.
"Production, maybe," he says. "Better production, technology.
"It will come to it. It will come to it. We deal with our problems here, you know.
"Before, it was the army. Everyone was in the army. Even before that, when the challenge was kibbutz, everyone went to kibbutz. I don't mean everyone. I mean the best people.
"In the end, they find the answers," he says. "They find the ends. I mean, they question. God forbid if they should ever stop. But I don't worry. Any society, basically, you have to judge on its elite, on the part that does things. And that part you can still find in Israel."
The lights come on as Esther Ramati, Shaul's wife, returns.
"Wonderful," she announces, stepping into the room. "Really, everybody was there, and the phone wouldn't stop ringing."
Mrs. Ramati has been visiting David Hagoel, the West Bank military commander who was dismissed after some soldiers teargassed Arab youngsters in their schoolrooms.
"Wonderful," she says again. "Meir Kahane was making a demonstration. This he doesn't need. But really, so many friends, and the food."
"There is the spirit of Israel," says Ramati. "Here we stick together, especially when there's trouble."
Hagoel's case has jogged Ramati's memory. "Yes, the Gush Emunim," he says, naming the very conservative settlers who wish to establish permanent Israeli control over occupied Arab lands.
"I must say, with all the criticism I may have of the Gush Emunim, I must say, this is the spirit. The spirit is right.
"Call them fanatical: what's fanatical about them? People have such short memories.
"I see this in a sweep, you see, since 1948. There are others who see it in a longer sweep. But as deputy operations officer in the central front, I remember – this was '48, '49 – sitting with a map and putting pins in the map of where we would put settlements when we took this territory. And then seeing those settlements go up. And now, now it's so Israeli nobody even thinks about it.
"I mean, what was Zionism?" he says. "The idea was to settle our land. Not A Land – that was decided when we rejected Uganda – but Our Land. Yes, perhaps the Gush Emunim. This is the spirit."
She did not so much walk away from the wall as retreat, edging backward, looking down, tier shawl made her shapeless. The sun had worked on her face. She might have been any age over 30.
In the quiet hour before dawn, the women's portion of the Holy Wall was empty. She was startled when she was hailed, and shy.
"It isn't really praying, good praying, I never learned," she said. "But I asked, I asked for my son's education.
"I have one son, Reuven. He is 7 and already he reads perfect, perfect. I like to see him just holding the book.
"I do not read. My husband, yes, but ... well, you will laugh. He reads with the letters on their heads. You see, in Yemen, we did not have so many books. So one boy learned from the bottom of the book and his friend learned from the top of the book. You see. So my husband was at the top of the book and the letters stand on their heads."
She laughed, looking down, as if it might not be appropriate. She looked up to find another person laughing. She laughed out loud, with glee. She might have been younger after all.
"I do not think you have this in America," she said. "Oh, I would like him to study there..." And she looked back, without thinking, at the ancient Wall, where prayers often beseech God to do specific acts.
"For the country? No, I did not ask. I mean, no one thing. Just to be here. I think, as it was for me, that is the most important. A place when, really, there was no other place. Where could he have grown up? To be a fine man. To be an educated man…"
On the gravel path that runs between the house trailers for the eight families and the pre-fabricated huts that house the 25 "singles," Talia Gur sat playing with her daughters and talking about Shiloh.
Hadas, who is 2, was crawling all over her mother's lap. Shilah (after Shiloh), at five months, was still in a stroller. Between them, Mrs. Gur had her hands full.
No matter. After visits from 100 reporters, Talia Gur could talk about settlements amidst an earthquake.
Shiloh has been at the center of controversy about settlements on the West Bank since it was set up, under Gush Emunim's aegis, in the midst of peace negotiations between
Egypt and Israel almost four months ago.
The Carter Administration's reaction to Shiloh is well known. It moved Maxim Gur, Talia's husband, to clear a few rocks in front of their house trailer and plant a scraggly little pine in Carter's honor. Now, a makeshift plaque proclaims the tree and its surrounding bare spot: "Obstacle to Peace Square."
The Begin government, embarrassed at the uproar, withheld its blessing from Shiloh as a settlement. Instead, the government refers to Shiloh as an archeological dig.
There is no digging at Shiloh. There are only the house trailers and pre-fabs and the tents of the soldiers who guard the place, perched near the top of a rocky hill. The rich green and brown patchwork of the Arab farmers' fields climbs from the valley to the barbed wire fence.
Shiloh has no lands to work. The settlers commute to work in Jerusalem, 50 minutes away. Talia Gur, 29, in dress and earrings, just back from her job as a scientific librarian at Hebrew University, seems an unlikely pioneer.
She is willing to accept the mantle of the Zionist dream, but with reservation.
"It's the same, yes," she said of this old dream. "Only the way we want to live is different. Maybe I think more about myself than if I settled the country 30 years ago.
"Then it was brand new, the idea of this country. We don't have the idea of starting from nothing. They were willing to live in very bad conditions also, and we are not. We always know that this is temporary. We will have all nice houses and modern kitchens and all.
"Oh, no, everyone his own house; no question about that. We don't want this collective thing. No."
She stopped for a moment, absorbed in the travails of Shilah, who had got her legs tangled in the stroller. From somewhere in the olive trees below came the song of birds, just audible above the clatter of the generator that powers the lights, the toasters and the televisions.
There are problems, she said. She sleeps with an Uzi submachine gun in reach.
"Two or three weeks ago, the Arabs tried to put a roadblock down there."
And what happened?
"Soldiers came and took them and brought them here and then they phoned the military government and some people came and took them," she said with a shrug.
"Also, sometimes the generator doesn't work and then we don't have electricity. And then the army doesn't bring the water in time and we have no water. But these are small things.
"Mostly, it's the very bad feeling that we don't know what will happen to us, whether we will be recongnized by the government. That is the most important," she said.
"We could get houses, and maybe a factory so the people will have work here and will not have to travel to far places. Everything. A good road here..."
Mrs. Gur said the settlers met once in a while to talk about Shiloh.
"We have meetings, yes," she said, laughing, "and we fight about what time the Peugeot should go to Jerusalem and why doesn't the generator work. What else?
"But not about the future, not that way, no. That never happened.
"Me?" she said, slumped for a moment as she considered her own hopes, and frowning at a distant set of hills. "I think in 30 years... a city. A very big city."
Suddenly, there was a ruckus from behind the pre-fabs. From between two of the cement boxes a young donkey loped into view, trailing a rope from one hind leg.
Two young settlers charged onto the path, puffing after the donkey and yelling with glee. One of them, Yishai Schecter, put on a burst of speed. His pistol flapped on his hip and his yarmulke flapped from a bobby pin as he grabbed the animal around the neck. Donkey and settlers slid to a halt in the stones.
Schecter and his friend, Eli Schwartz, tied the rope from the hind leg to a foreleg so the donkey could not move. The process took some time. Having lived for their 19 years together in B'nai B'rak, a Tel Aviv suburb, Schecter and Schwartz never had fooled with donkeys before.
They bought the donkey an hour earlier in the nearest Arab village, said Schwartz. "We call him Abdullah, after the Arab who sold him."
A couple of jokes about Arabs and donkeys drew chuckles from the little group that gathered to see.
"No, it's just a pleasure donkey," said Schecter. He and Schwartz lifted the donkey's forelegs and posed like proud parents for a picture. Someone suggested the donkey might not see the humor of it all.
"It's an Arab donkey." Schecter said with a grin. "Maybe it doesn't understand jokes."
He began to comb the donkey's back with a pocket comb while he talked about the settlement.
"To build the country," he said in English, "…to have the Jews return to their land."
His friend interjected, in Hebrew:
"It's a good thing this is for America. That's where they really go for that stuff)."
Schecter discovered to his dismay that Abdullah's coat still yielded a cloud of dust when rubbed.
"You'll have to beat him with a broom," said Schwartz.
"Or a vacuum cleaner," said a soldier looking on.
"Yeah, modern agriculture," Schwartz said to laughter all around.
Abdullah, meanwhile, was chewing on the young barley he discovered growing all around the prefabs.
Whose field was this? Schecter was asked.
"Whose country is it?" he replied.
"You're going now? You want me to wait? It's not many calls you get for the Wall at this hour," the cab driver, Yoram ben Zvi, nee Herbert Copperman, said. "I'll wait, it's O.K. How long? O.K., all right, whenever…you're not a religious, no, you don't look like a religious. Sure, dreams are something that everybody's got.
"It may be all I got, considering the price of things. I mean, there's a dream: that I shouldn't have to take the gold out of my teeth to pay for a new windshield wiper. Spare parts,
"But really, you want to know. Come on, all right, I'll walk down with you. You really want to know. You're going to think I'm crazy.
"I want to be in Cophenhagen; that's the dream. I told you about Copenhagen, yes? That I was there. I was in paradise.
"But not really to be in Copenhagen. My wife would never go; that's why I'm back here in the first place.
"This is an Israeli" – he cupped his palm into a bowl shape and bobbed it in front of his chest a few times, as if to measure the weight of his wife's Israelihood.
"But to have people for one day act here like the people in Copenhagen, this would be a dream. You know how much you hear a car horn there? Never. There's a line of cars that won't move, the people in the back think, 'Well, the man in the front must want to move as much as I do, so, if there's a chance to move, he'll move.' Do they nyeeeeehhhh, with the horn? No. This is the way to live. Easy, nice to each other.
"Here, they yell if you breathe their air. I understand it, I really do; this is my home too. Everyone has to show 'I am Jew, I am beautiful, I am so smart.' I understand that. But, for me, the other way.
"Here, it's making me old. I am not so old. Go ahead, tell me how old I am. The other day – How old? Not bad. It's 37. The other day, a guy guesses 50, really. He must have been 100.
"You're right, it's a place to be alone. I'll be in the car, O.K.?"
By sunset, the men had gathered, as they do every night, at the lone cafe of Abu Ghosh.
The village nestles in the hills west of Jerusalem with a grace born of age. During the Middle Ages, it was called Kiryat ci Enab, the Town of the Grape. The town and everybody in the town has been called Abu Ghosh since a landowning family of that name took it over about 200 years ago.
In recent years, the town has held a special distinction because a generation of Israelis, passing on the Jerusalem to Tel Aviv road, remarked to friends and visitors: "There is Abu Ghosh, a town where the Arabs are very friendly to Israel. They were a big help in the war of independence. There's great cooperation with these Arabs even now."
Half a dozen men were in the circle at the cafe. But only one spoke, the mayor, Musa Abu Ghosh, a quiet, dapper man of 60 who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and is therefore called Haj Musa.
"Yes. I remember very well 1948, and I remember that night. I listened to the radio, right up there," said Haj Musa. He pointed to his house, up the hill.
"We were very happy. We thought our situation would improve," he said. "Yes, we had hopes that the village would be in better shape than it is today. A secondary school, we still do not have one. A little hospital, we still do not have one..."
"A cultural center," said Mahmoud Rashid Abu Ghosh brightly, Haj Musa silenced him with a quick look.
There was something hanging in the air. Haj Musa was being canny.
"And that life would be easier and better than it is today," he was saying. "These were our dreams, but, of course, not everything you dream is realized."
He paused for a moment while everyone watched. Then he seemed to make up his mind.
"We deserve to have it better," he said. "The relations between Abu Ghosh and Israel always were good. But the cooperation was not fulfilled. We have the right to vote, but in land matters, we are considered absentees, like other Arab) villages.
"All the agricultural lands are taken by the Israel Land Authority," he said, "Near Latrun, for instance. Between 40.000 and 50,000 dunams (10,000 to 12,000 acres).
"Yes, some got compensation. But 70 Israeli pounds (54.50) a dunam." These days, a dunam near Jerusalem sells for 200,000 pounds.
But the mayor did not want to harp. He rejected all comparisons of his complaints with those of other Arab villages.
"Abu Ghosh has never had ties with the other villages," he said, "We are one family – more than 3,000 cousins in this village – and we don't care about other villages. We care about ourselves. Anyway, the government wouldn't like it. And they are far from this area, the other villages. They are remote."
He would not talk about the help the village gave the Jews under the British mandate, about the stories Israelis tell of Jewish prisoners hidden by villagers and arms smuggled to Jewish fighters.
"If the Haj won't tell you, then I will," said an Egyptian Jew who lives nearby, a regular in the Abu Ghosh circle who introduces himself only as David. "Abu Ghosh sold some of its lands before independence to help buy arms for the Jews."
Haj Musa told David not to talk of such things.
"I will tell you about about Abu Ghosh," said Haj Musa. "We have no trouble. We are all family. We never have a robbery, we never have fights. The biggest criminal in the world could come here and he would act like a rabbit."
To reinforce his point, and perhaps his authority, Haj Musa pulled away the jacket of his suit to reveal a blunt black Belgian automatic pistol. This was a mark of special consideration indeed. It is a rare Arab who gets to wear a gun in Israel.
Then Haj Musa was called away by an old man in a checkered headcloth who had brought a municipal problem.
A thin, nervous man leaned forward and began to talk, fast and low.
"The Mukhtar has to talk like a Mukhtar," said Muhammed Ibrahim Abe Ghosh, 38. "But I talk open cards."
"I heard when you asked him about 30 years ago, about the independence day. It reminds me of a Yorzcil (the annual remembrance of the dead).
"We had property. It is just like the father you have the Yorzeit for," he said. "In 1948, when they erected the state, immediately they took the land. This indepdendence is on my account. On this day, I remember that I have nothing.
"I live with my family of seven in one room, 3 by 4 meters, because I have no land, or, rather, I have land – 5,000 dunams together with my father and brothers, not far away from here – but I cannot enter it."
Haj Musa drew up his chair again. He sniffed the trouble immediately. Ibrahim leaned foreward and said, very low, "It's a second Rhodesia, in short."
"It is true," Haj Musa said. "There is still cooperation. But they took our lands, so how can we cooperate?" He inclined toward Ibrahim, as if to sanction elaboration.
"The Haj said it ahead of me," said Ibrahim. "What can I say? I am not a government official. But when I am at home with seven in one room, my Jewish friend lives with 140 square meters and all the amenities. And he comes from Hungary or some other part of Europe last week.
"My father and my cousins helped this country. So what are we talking about? There are no rights. Is this democracy?
"I don't hate Jews, but I also have the right to live as a human being. This is my dream for the next 30 years – a full human being, not really for me, but for my children.
"Right, Mr. Mayor?" said Ibrahim.
Haj Musa inclined his head again, this time half bow, half nod, and said: "Correct."
On Weizman Boulevard, in Kiryat Bialik, Shlomo Anbi strolls with obvious pride and pleasure. It is a town to make a founder proud.
Like Kiryat Bialik as a whole, the wide pathway that leads to the municipal hall is alive with spring gardens. An elderly couple sit, contented, on a bench. A father trots by with a protective hand upon the fender of his young son's bicycle. Man and boy are heading toward the exhibition of local artists which is part of the 30th anniversary celebrations.
Anbi is expansive. He mixes history with directions, the dreams of his youth with a tour guide's patter.
"So, now we'll turn down here," he says. "You see, here they are packing the onions. We still have 75 families on our agricultural settlement. This is very important. Onions are very good this year, very good.
"So, at that time, when I came in 1920 from this little town in Austria, I was sort of the advance guard. At that time, we didn't dream of a known state, but we knew about the idea of the Jewish fatherland," he says.
"We wanted a few things. We wanted, first of all, to be a free people; we wanted our own language; we wanted our own history; we wanted our own literature. We got fed up dining at the table of other cultures.
"We also wanted to reconstruct our people. What does it mean? There's a very nice comprehensive school, built with the help of an American. Here's nice athletic fields.
"Economically," said Anbi, "it means we did not want to continue to be a people of merchants and peddlers. We wanted to learn to till the soil, to build our own houses. In short, to do all works and trades that a normal people need for their existence."
"You see, you in America did not get the experience that we got in Poland and Germany, hut the Jew there was the most despised of people," he said. "So, to regain the consciousness of being a nation among nations, you had to give a chance for those people to live their lives without any pressure from outside. And how did we do it here?
"Well, take for example this little town that we call Kiryat Bialik," he said. Anbi was really rolling now. His arms described great ambits in air.
"In 1933, came the influx of German Jews who came because Hitler came to power. We got a strip of soil here. For the start, we got about 150 dunams. We came down here first time, you didn't see anything but sand and sagebrush.
"I remember the first time we visited, we asked ourselves, 'How the hell are we going to live here?' There was nothing to see. Sand, yes, but not even level.
"To build a garden city, that was the dream. A garden town to live in," he said. "You see, if you have a piece of land and you plant a tree yourself, then you can see how the tree is growing and how he spreads his branches, and how he gives shade when the sun beats on you. Then, too, you have put down your roots in the ground."
Anbi pushed open his own garden gate and led the tour into the cozy house. Coffee and cake and grandsons await.
Certainly, there are problems, Anbi said, sinking into a chair. There are the integration of immigrants, and closing the gap between Jews from Arab countries and their European brethren. The town has grown to 25,000, the streets are wide, and there is not so much garden space.
"But all will be taken care of, in time. That, too, is in the dream.
And his grandsons? Is there a piece of his dream left for them?
"Yes," he says with sudden force. "To survive. To survive and develop and preserve. If there would have been a state at the time of Hitler, there would have been no Holocaust and six million would not have died."
"But if I say the nation has to survive," Anbi said, "there's too many problems involved. This gives whole generations tasks and mission, hard work and worthwhile living."
Udi Stoler, 17, his grandson, disagrees. Better to live in a time of difficult tasks, difficult but clear. His own dream right now is peace. He will be in the army soon.
Zvi Stoler, 19, already is in the army. He too would prefer a clearer mission. "There is just not as much now," he said. "The times are changing and the aims are changing."
Shlomo Anbi seemed nettled.
"Look, there's not so many ideals today. What is the ideal?" he said. "Communism, it's not any longer an ideal. Socialism, is it an ideal? To go to the moon? Even the moon is already captured."
Anbi said Zvi is serving in an army kibbutz, "a great contribution not only for Israel, but for the world."
"Bankrupt," said Zvi softly.
"O.K. grandfather," he added, "I am going to tell you why I am building a kibbutz. It's a financial security. You have security from the medical point of view. It's a very nice way of life, and that's all."
Zvi spoke quietly, steadily, glancing at his grandfather now and then to make sure no hurt showed in the old man's eyes. Methodically, he ticked off dreams he cannot accept – pioneering, religion, even peace. And Israel?
"Under certain conditions, I will leave Israel," Zvi said. "I am not going to kill myself. I will leave. But while I am here I will always fight, as the price of my survival here."
"But what you say is only a solution for five years or 10 or 15," Udi said. "You must look for a real solution, and the only permanent one is peace."
"O.K. so it's a question of time then," Zvi retorted, "I do not have any solution for this. Sorry. There is an opinion in my age group and with most of my friends – eat and drink because tomorrow you die. It eats on you, you know, that in a few hours Begin may say this or that and you will be fighting in Lebanon and you may never come back. So I'm sorry that I can't believe in peace."
"Nobody believed either in 1948," Udi said.
"That's right, Zvika," Anbi agreed. "Do you know how many Jews we had in 1948? Nobody thought we could do it."
He folded his yarmulke carefully and put it in a side pocket. He remembered to put a coin in the box marked "tzadalca" – righteousness. His slow steps carried him over the big stone plaza that abuts The Wall, not in a straight line toward the exit, but around in a gentle arc.
The big plaza is quiet, solemn, eery in the klieglight glare.
Touch the hoary stones, strangely cold and mute after all that men have lavished in warmth and sound, smooth from a million kisses, redolent of what? Of something. Of a million dreams.
In the cracks, a million papers – balled up bus tickets and business cards, pieces of dreams left behind.
Some tell a little story – a plea for good health scrawled on an electrocardiogram; a prayer on the back of an army leave pass: "Bless you God that we may get off early on Friday and go home." There is an occasional "shopping list." There is a prayer, stapled 10 times, urging God to give the Jews "a chance to heal from the Holocaust."
When the old man spoke, his voice was firm.
"To say the prayers right here, in the sight of all, with fear from no one, this is a dream come true. To be a nation, unafraid, and here, above all, here.
"I think right now, I have not any bigger dream than this. This is my dream and I have it in my hand already."
He gestured and said, "Sit down for a moment. Yes, we shall both go soon. I think I am too satisfied to be of help to you... but tell me, what do they say? Does everyone have a dream to tell?
"Does nobody say it is enough to have a country for the Jews who were strangers for 2,000 years? ..."