I hope the momentous event will lead to a Palestinian State like the State of Israel that we celebrated in 1948. I would love to see people work toward a stable coexistence. My years in Israel (1963-1965) made me fall in love with the Middle East and its people. Oh yes, there were many problems on both sides. Coming from a country where the political parties would never mistreat women (snark!) I did find problems there. I have never been a materialist. While I lived in Israel the country was socialist. My family of four got complete medical coverage for $10.00 per month. That included everything including non-prescription drugs, dental care, eyeglasses etc, etc. Yes times have changed. So has Israel. I wanted to stay and live on a kibbutz while I worked in science at the Weizmann Institute. My wife did not share my enthusiasm and then the Vietnam war made me come home early to resist it. Read on below the break and I'll tell you why I was seduced by the culture. See if these features have any meaning to you now.
Fresh out of graduate school at the University of Chicago we packed a trunk and some suitcases and headed for the apartment in Rehovot that my mentors had set up for us. The beds were wire cots with horsehair mattresses. We washed diapers in the bathtub. The food was wonderful. The people were so gracious. My wife (first) was not happy and we made do. There was much that appealed to me. We bought a brand new VW Bug and traveled all around on weekends. The second year we saw an ad in the Post for a house we could afford. It was the house of the family going to the US as the scientific attache from Israel. Yes we could afford it. It was a paradise. Why could we afford it? I was on a USPHS Postdoctoral fellowship that paid about $6,500.00 a year with dependent allowance and I made as much as my mentors it seemed.
Then there were the Arabs. There were Israeli Arabs mainly. The Palestinians were mostly out of sight in very ugly refugee camps. Most of those camps were in the nearby Arab countries for these people were to be political pawns. The standard of living in Israel at that time was appealing to me. I thought we in America were squandering resources and living too high on the hog. In the trunk we took there we put some toys for our kids. A Tonka truck and a doll and a few other things. We were shocked when our kids were looked on as rich! They never lacked for playmates and soon spoke Hebrew at their level very well.
We had a new car. Cars were plentiful enough but the VW Bug and other "small" cars were the common ones. Driving the short distance from Rehovot to Tel Aviv often was a long trip due to the horse and donkey carts on the road.
I think there were but a handful of stop lights in Tel Aviv if that many. One of the best meals I had in my life was up near the Galil. We ate at a kiosk on a hillside looking at olive groves as far as the eye could see. The meal was homemade wine and cheese and some olives and flat bread. Our host was an old Arab.
I used to take my kids on a hike into the orange groves to a Biblical Tel (a mound under which were the ruins of civilizations). Gezer was its name. On it a Bedouin family had a herd of sheep. The patriarch watched us walk there time and time again. One day he motioned to me to come. He opened the flap to his tent and motioned for us to sit on the cushions. He brought me coffee. We drank and looked at each other studying. Then he motioned to tell us it was time to go. We thanked him as best we were able without words. We saw him many times after that and exchanged friendly waves and nods.
I often wondered how the Palestinians fit into that picture before they left everything behind and became refugees.
I am glad my first wife did not want to stay. Things have changed. I am glad for what the UN did today. I hope other kinds of change will compensate for the horrible ones that have come to pass.