On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of resolution 181 (33 states in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions), the plan for the partition of Palestine, recommended by the majority of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This is the most important date in Israel’s path to independence, and many Israeli cities commemorate the date in their streets’ names (in Jerusalem, 2 blocks from our house). UNSCOP was appointed seven months earlier, after Great Britain, which ruled the country on the basis of a League of Nations Mandate, decided that in light of the growing resistance and violent opposition to its rule, it was unwilling to continue on the existing basis, and handed the whole issue over to the UN. The UN Committee reached the conclusion that the Mandate for Palestine should be terminated, and most of its members recommended the establishment in the territory of Mandatory Palestine of an Arab state and a Jewish state, while internationalizing the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area. The resolution sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims to the Mandate territory of two competing nationalist movements, Zionism and Arab nationalism, as well as to resolve the plight of Jews displaced as a result of the Holocaust.
The majority of the leadership of the Jewish community in Palestine (Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency) agreed to accept the plan, since it recognized the right of the Jewish people to a state and not only a “national home” as stated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 Mandate for Palestine. The plan was rejected by leaders of the Arab community (the Palestine Arab Higher Committee) who were supported in their rejection by the states of the Arab League.
The adoption of the partition resolution by the General Assembly was received by the Jewish community with great joy and thousands went out to the streets to celebrate (my parents were in Tel Aviv that night), even though it was clear that the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs would embark on a relentless war against the realization of the plan to establish a Jewish state. War (1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine) broke out the next day and the partition plan was never implemented by the Security Council.
Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m.
November 30, 1947
Dearest Mother, Dad and Naomi,
I walked in a semi-daze through the crowds of happy faces, through the deafening singing, “David, Melech Yisrael, Chai, Chai ve Kayam” [David, King of Israel, Lives, Lives and Exists.] past the British tanks and jeeps piled high with pyramids of flag-waving, cheering children. I dodged motor cycles, wagons, cars and trucks which were racing madly up and down King George V Street, missing each other miraculously, their running boards and headlights overflowing with layer upon layer of elated happy people. I pushed my way past the crying, kissing tumultuous crowds and the exultant shouts of “Mazal Tov” [congratulations] and came back to the quiet of my room ….to try to share with you this never to be forgotten night…
Your loving daughter,
The complete letter is at
The United Kingdom announced its intention to unilaterally withdraw from Palestine by 15 May 1948. On Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat, the day before the British were to complete their withdrawal, the Jewish community in Palestine declared independence and the establishment of the State of Israel and five Arab armies crossed into the former Mandate as the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War or Israel’s War of Independence.
And now 63 years later, we reach November 29, 2010.
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