February 17, 2020

Israel and Nov. 29

“The Vote,” the best show in town, opened at 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 29 and, after 23 acts, closed down 60 minutes later.

During that one hour, speakers, actors, musicians, singers and dancers commemorated the day, 65 years ago, when the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

Less than six months later, the State of Israel was reborn.

In a seamless mix of historical remembrances, the day — and preceding years of persecution and struggle — came alive in words, film clips, re-enactments, and, most of all, in songs and dances of the era.

A large picture and the spirit of Theodor Herzl hovered over the audience as Rabbi David Wolpe and guitarist Ari Herstand invoked Herzl’s exhortation to the Zionist Congress and the Jewish people, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

Israeli Consul General David Siegel and Judea Pearl spoke vividly of that November day in 1947 when the Jewish world held its collective breath as 58 nations voted yes, no or abstain on the partition of Palestine resolution.

The Rev. Alexei Smith of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, as well as Mormon and Protestant representatives in the audience, served as reminders that many Christians actively supported the nationhood struggle of their Jewish brethren.

Actress Naomi Ackerman and singers Mike Burstyn and Noa Dori entertained in repeated appearances, and the talented youngsters of the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble and the MATI Kids Choir kept spirits high at the American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein closed the evening with a poignant reminder that, only hours earlier, another United Nations vote had overwhelmingly backed a demand to upgrade the Palestinian status in the world body.

Amazingly, the entire show had been written and produced in three weeks by Craig Taubman and the staff at his Craig ‘N Co., and premiered without a single run-through or dress rehearsal.

In something close to a biblical miracle, rabbis, diplomats and performers voluntarily limited the lengths of their presentations to two to three minutes each.

The evening’s only negative notes were the many empty spaces left in the 474-seat Gindi Auditorium. Tickets were free, and 600 had been quickly distributed to the first-comers, leaving later applicants out of luck.

Yet a quarter of the ticket holders failed to show up, and the loss was theirs.

The seeds of the commemoration were planted in the pages of the Jewish Journal four years ago by Judea Pearl, UCLA professor, one of the world’s foremost authorities on artificial intelligence, and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, created to commemorate his journalist son, who was killed by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.

In an 2008 op-ed in the Journal, titled “The Forgotten Miracle,” and a follow-up article a year later, Pearl called the 1947 U.N. vote “perhaps the most significant event in Jewish history since the Exodus from Egypt,” and “a new chapter in world history.”

He expressed deep chagrin that no Jewish organization, institution or academic center had seen fit to commemorate the event and called for a Jewish Thanksgiving Day to express gratitude to the 33 nations that had voted for the 1947 U.N. resolution.

It took the next four years to realize at least part of Pearl’s vision, and during that time, he pressed the idea around town to just about every major Jewish institution and Israeli outpost.

“All the leaders I talked to thought it was just a great idea, but they didn’t have the budget or the staff or the time to pitch in,” Pearl said in an interview last week.

Finally, the local Israeli Leadership Council and its CEO, Sagi Balasha, picked up on the concept a couple of months ago, engaged Taubman and put the show on the road.

Pearl, who thinks big, is now aiming for annual celebrations on Nov. 29 in Jewish communities throughout the world.

“Wouldn’t it be great if the consul generals of the 33 nations were invited to a celebration each year to express the Jewish community’s thanks?” Pearl asked.

“Or if Jewish student groups on American campuses invited their counterparts from the 33 countries?” It would be a Thanksgiving Day, Pearl said, in which the Jewish community remembers, and reminds others, of the day world opinion took the decisive step to enable the birth of Israel.