Israel readies for anniversary

May 12, 2008 4:49:23 PM PDT
In a region where there's usually not too much to celebrate, preparations under way Monday for a big celebration.It is the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel.

It is safe to say that since the birth of Israel in 1948, peace there has been, for the most part, an elusive dream.

Will this be the year things finally change? Many people hope so.

We sent Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett 6,000 miles away to Jerusalem to cover the anniversary. He has more on the story.

Some thought the nation wouldn't last 60 days, let alone 60 years. But in a part of the world where there is so much uncertainty, what started out as a Zionist dream has also become a struggle.

It is something most Israelis think about every day, in one way or another, whether they realize it or not.

"I'm here because it's my homeland," Israeli resident Mikhail Czaczkes said.

Czaczkes was born in Israel. Judy and Sam Himmelfarb are Americans who moved there nine years ago.

"When I drove down the streets and I saw the Israeli flag and I started to cry, I said to myself, I never cried when I saw the American flag," Judy said.

"That's why we came," Sam said. "To live the Zionist dream."

After the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the allies partitioned Palestine to David Ben-Gurion and his followers a portion of their Biblical homeland. When the Jews declared their independence, they were attacked by their Arab neighbors.

"I found myself caught up in a war, a war of the Jewish people to survive," Zipporah Porath said.

Porath grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She was in Israel as a student in 1948 and volunteered as a medic in the war.

When it was over, she chose to stay in Israel for good.

"Everybody was being bombarded by letters from their parents, and I remember writing, 'Back off,'" she said. "'You brought me up as a Zionist. I'm here where it's happening, and I have no intention of leaving.' I sure wasn't going to leave at the moment when I could stand up and be counted."

That was 60 years ago. Much has changed since then, and much has not. President Bush arrives this week to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian officials. But peace remains just as elusive now as it was then.