The 1947 UN Partition Plan would be one of the final hurdles in ending a 2000-year exile for the Jews. Zionists around the world rejoiced as the news came in. The majority of UN member states believed in establishing a state for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland. Though all UN General Assembly resolutions are in reality more recommendation than law, this resolution gave the Jewish Agency the last push in its many steps toward statehood. Israel declared independence just six months later. It also established the idea of two states for two peoples. The plan was not without flaws; both Jews and Arabs would have to give up territory in order to bring the two-state partition to fruition. The Jews accepted the plan, and the Palestinians, backed by the Arab League, rejected it. To date, no reconciliation plan has been successful. And while we know that Israel's near 70-year history has been marred with immeasurable conflict and strife, we mark this anniversary with joy. This coming May, we will kvell at all the many accomplishments our young country has made. Medicine, science, hi-tech, the arts, you name it — Israel has advanced it.
The Partition Plan, in its way, represented so much of Hadassah's mission and work coming to fruition: The Zionist dream we interminably worked for was recognized by the United Nations. Zionism would no longer be merely a far-off aspiration; it would be a reality. Additionally, the Partition Plan provided a place for both Jews and Arabs to live in dignity and security. Henrietta Szold believed steadfastly in two things: first and foremost, the right of the Jews to have a state in the land of Israel, and, secondly, that all living in that land deserved top-notch medical care regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
When the Arab League rejected the plan outright and the Jews embraced it, there was great unrest. Arab troops blocked the access road to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, as well as Hebrew University. In an effort to get much needed medical personnel and equipment to the hospital, Hadassah sent a convoy of 105 people, two ambulances, medical and military equipment, escorted by two Haganah (pre-State Israeli military forces) armored vehicles through the only remaining narrow road through an Arab neighborhood. The convoy was ambushed, and 79 were brutally murdered. This is a profoundly tragic moment in our organization's history, made ever more bitter by the fact that Henrietta Szold welcomed all patients without discrimination.
While the battle for Independence raged, Hadassah clinics helped the wounded and infirm, and served as a diplomatic model for the possibility of coexistence. To this day, the Hadassah Medical Organization provides care to anyone in need and strives to be a beacon of peace in the region. We know that even though we have a strong state of Israel, Zionism's mission is not over. We engage in practical Zionism every day through philanthropic endeavors, efforts to engage our members in learning about Zionism, Judaism and Israel advocacy, we provide paths to making Aliyah, and programs for young people to go to Israel for a gap year to deepen their connections to Israel and Zionism, to name a few. So on November 29, 2017, the 70th anniversary of the plan that would inscribe our claim to statehood, we recognize the complexities of our history as we mark this day with pride.
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