The Makings of History / Reeling in the years
This year marks the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, the first 'price tag' attack, the extradition of an alleged Soviet spy from Israel to the U.S., the first Lebanon war, and more.
Dave and Kate Haslett reside in Devon, England, and put out guide books about writing and publishing for authors and journalists. Dave is an author himself: novels, scholarly studies, screenplays. He wrote his first book when he was 13: an illustrated study entitled "Freshwater Tropical Fish." His wife is a former librarian. Based on this wealth of experience, they know there is not a single writer or journalist who has not found himself sitting in front of his computer, scratching his head in a panic, trying to squeeze out of himself a topic for a book or an article - and finding he is simply unable to come up one. The writer's world threatens to collapse: Brain cells have run dry, words fail him. His career is over.
That is the moment to turn to Kate and Dave Haslett: They offer for sale on the Internet countless topics that can be used to fill up books and articles. It's not difficult either, they promise in one of their guides: You can start and finish writing a whole book in a single weekend.
Once a year the couple also publishes a "Date-A-Base Book," where reporters whose muse has betrayed them can find thousands of upcoming "round" dates - such as the 600th anniversary of Joan of Arc's birth, for example. It is really important not to wait till the last minute, the Hasletts warn, since it takes a few weeks to research the anniversary that the reporter will seek to pitch to his editor as a subject for an article. Therefore, you should get a move on and buy the "Date-A-Base Book" early.
The public standing of historic figures and events is determined in a manner very similar to that of people and events in the present: The more famous they already are, the better chance they have of becoming even more famous. Historical celebrities who are highly popular in the media are Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci and also Tutankhamun. It's a matter of public relations: The directors of the Cairo Museum manage every few months, for instance, to sell to the global media a "new discovery" about the royal mummy. And then there's Hitler, of course; he tops the list. Observers who are following the U.S. presidential primaries have commented that each of the candidates has mentioned World War II at least once already during the debates .
Any self-respecting historian who considers himself a serious scholar will not choose to attach himself to "round" dates, since what difference does it make whether this is the 499th year or the 500th since the birth of King Henry of Portugal? (By the way, he was called "the modest one," although in Jewish history, Henry is remembered as a terrifying Inquisitor. )
And so this year we will talk even more than any other year about the Titanic, it being the centennial of its sinking. This year it will be 75 years since the Basque town of Guernica was bombed by the Germans, and 70 years since the Wannsee Conference in Berlin, whose participants laid the administrative foundation for annihilating the Jews. Queen Elizabeth will mark her Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
This coming summer will also mark the centennial of what may be described as the first attempted "price tag" operation against Arabs in the Land of Israel. It happened after Bedouin in the Hadera region attacked one of the members of the Hashomer organization and stole his gun. The man, Zvi Nadav, and four of his friends, set out to take vengeance on the Bedouin, but were discovered en route, and after a shootout managed to escape. It will be 70 years since Avraham "Yair" Stern was gunned down by British policemen, and 50 years since Adolf Eichmann was put to death.
The year 1962 was a dramatic one: Robert Soblen - an American Jew who was accused of being a Soviet spy - was extradited from Israel to the United States and committed suicide on the way. Also that year the boy Yossele Schumacher, who was kidnapped in Israel and taken to New York, was returned home. There may have been a connection between the two cases: In return for Israel's extradition of Soblen, Mossad agents were allowed to take Yossele out of America.
This year will be 30 years since the start of Israel's first Lebanon war, and this week was the 15th anniversary of the Hebron Agreement. The date did not receive special attention: 15 years are not a sufficiently round number.
This week was also marked by much talk about the next general elections. The Labor Party has good historical reason to work to have them moved up. If the election takes place at the time scheduled by law, October 2013, it will coincide with the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, on its 40th anniversary. Some TV stations have already begun production of the films they intend to air on the occasion. Labor's new chair, Shelly Yachimovich, cannot want possibly everyone to be talking on the eve of elections about Golda Meir.