Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29, 1947

My father, Ben Shaicovitch, was in the visitors' gallery at the U.N. the night the vote was taken.  He was in New York "on business" and managed somehow to secure a ticket.  "When France voted yes, I knew we had the majority and I cried."

Born in Bialystok, my father was a Zionist, a Shomer Hatzair youth leader in immigrant Montreal, then the national president of the more bourgeois Zionist Men's Organization in the 1950s; as "business" prospered, socialist convictions waned. Yet he always told his children that his "great mistake" was not joining his haverim, who founded Kibbutz Kfar Menachem in the late 1930s--a mistake that always struck us as turning his children into consolation prizes, but never mind.

He died in 1971. Witnessing the U.N. vote was the most significant moment in a life he grew to think insignificant.  I can't imagine what he would have made of his younger son, conceived in May 1948, and named Ben-Zion Israel, celebrating Mahmoud Abbas's initiative and how the same General Assembly is 65 years later conferring, in effect, international recognition of statehood on Palestine. I would like to believe (but don't really) that, like many of us in Jerusalem, he would have come to see that the Hebrew cultural revolution Zionists like Ben Shaicovitch aspired to is also being celebrated in, or at least, potentially salvaged by, this resolution; that the loss of Abbas and the leadership he represents would be as much a catastrophe for Israelis as for Palestinians.

So here is a little reassurance for you Daddy, or is it now Ben, a kind of tribute to your dreams and fears: the full hour of Abbas explaining his determination to get to peace with Ehud Olmert during their 36 meetings in 2008.  The recording was made when I interviewed Abbas for an article on the subject, but it's important to hear his voice.  Obviously, I still hear yours.