2017-05-24 / Voice at the Shore

Yitzak Sharon brings Israeli Independence Day to life, recalling life in Israel in 48

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Stockton Professor Yitzak Sharon recounts what it was like to live as a child in Jerusalem when Israel declared its independence in 1948. Stockton Professor Yitzak Sharon recounts what it was like to live as a child in Jerusalem when Israel declared its independence in 1948. Nearly 200 people of all ages came out to celebrate Israel’s birthday in a combined celebration of Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) on May 1 at Shirat Hayam in Ventnor. The evening, both spiritual and spirited, began with a service honoring those who fell defending the State of Israel and ended with a joyous celebration featuring delicious Israeli fare, music and dancing.

A highlight of the evening was Stockton University Professor Yitzak Sharon’s personal account of what it was like to live in Palestine and then Israel when it became a state. Sharon, who teaches physics and Jewish studies, was born in 1936 and grew up in “Palestine under the British Mandate” until the age of 12. There, as a child, he witnessed the Holocaust from afar.

He recalled that his goal and that of other children he grew up with “was a collective one: To help build our Jewish State, not our individual dreams.”

“I will never forget listening to the vote for Israel’s statehood” in the United Nations, said Sharon, recalling that although it was the middle of the night when the results were announced, he and everyone else in what was then Palestine was listening. He and his friends “kept the tally” as the votes were cast, anxiously counting up those voting for statehood (33 countries), against it (13) and abstaining (10).

“When the vote was over, most everyone in Jerusalem ran into the streets,” Sharon recounted. The Jews of Jerusalem danced and sang together, and restaurants and liquor stores gave away free food and drink.

While the Jews rejoiced, the Arab world, which did not accept the United Nations vote, mobilized to attack.

Sharon, who was in 7th grade at the time, was unable to go to school; in order to get there, he had to pass through Arab neighborhoods where it wasn’t safe. Ultimately, school was cancelled for the remainder of the year.

David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the new State of Israel on May 14, 1948, even while “Israel was surrounded, bombarded and fighting to survive,” said Sharon. Yet everyone still felt overwhelmed by the fact that after 2000 years, the Jews finally had a Jewish state to call home.

In Jerusalem, people banded together in the name of survival. Although his family’s home was small, they nevertheless opened it to many in need of a safe place to stay. “We were fighting to survive,” Sharon recalled.

Arabs in Jerusalem captured the Old City, the Western Wall, and the Jewish Quarter. Jews, “outnumbered and outgunned, fought for their lives,” as ammunition, food and water ran low.

With the city of Jerusalem under constant bombardment, Sharon said his parents insisted that he remain at home and indoors. He recalled that the Jews continued fighting right up until a ceasefire was declared. 

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