The Makings of History Septembers to Remember

September is a month with eccentricities of its own: It always insists on beginning on the same of day of the week as the month of December.

Tom Segev
Tom Segev
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Tom Segev
Tom Segev

In the weekly newspaper I read as a child, Mishmar Layeladim, there was a regular feature called "Did You Know?" From it I learned - and to this day have not forgotten - that in British history there were 11 days during which nothing at all happened: from Friday, September 3, 1752 to Wednesday, September 13, 1752. My newspaper explained: In that month the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar. The transition from the Julian calendar, which dated back to the days of ancient Rome, necessitated a "jump" from September 2 to September 14, thus producing 11 days "with no history."

September is a month with eccentricities of its own: It always insists on beginning on the same of day of the week as the month of December. Furthermore, it does not "allow" any other month to end on the same day of the week it does. One could also construct a theory regarding the possibility that the dog days of August also block the course of history, which in September seems to reawaken. Until the deep slumber of winter, there is not much time - hence September's hyperactive personality.

'The Book of Hours' by the Limbourg brothers.

In any case, the month of September has provided history with quite a number of front-page headlines, among them many related to the Land of Israel. One September has even gone down in history as "Black September" - in 1970, when Israel helped Jordan suppress a Palestinian attempt to take over the Hashemite kingdom. In the wake of that, a terrible and vengeful organization arose, with the same name.

The regional conflict over the Land of Israel began to take shape after the British conquest, beginning in September 1918; the Mandate officially began in September 1922. David Ben-Gurion was the strongman of the Histadrut labor federation then, and had come to Palestine in September 1906.

The same month also featured prominently in the events of World War II and the Holocaust, among them the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws (1935 ) and the signing of the Munich Agreement (1938 ). The war itself began on September 1, 1939. Italian planes bombed Tel Aviv in September 1940. The defeat of Germany appeared on the horizon in the second phase of the Battle of Stalingrad, beginning in September 1942; the first American soldiers were deployed in Germany in September 1944.

Twenty member states of the United Nations celebrate the anniversaries of their day of independence in September - and this year it is likely they will be joined by Palestinians celebrating theirs, which for some reason is making this a month to be afraid of.

This could have been a wonderful September: President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, could have flown to New York equipped with suitable quotations from Ben-Gurion - for example, some comments from September 1934. At that time Ben-Gurion was conducting talks with Arab leaders, among them one of the mufti's close associates, Musa Alami. According to Ben-Gurion, the two agreed that "the full realization of the aspiration of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel does not contradict the aspiration of the Arab people; on the contrary, the two aspirations complement each other."

During World War I, and again just prior to World War II, Ben-Gurion fantasized in his diary about the possibility that the world would no longer be organized into nation states, and in this spirit he wrote: "Sovereign Jewish rule in part of the land, or all of the land ... will still not solve the problem, because we will be facing the Arab problem. [Even] a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan will not solve the entire problem, because Arabs will remain in the land and surrounding it ... The historical solution is a Hebrew Land of Israel connected to an Arab federation. This would afford genuine satisfaction to the dynamic of these two peoples."

As an interim solution, Ben-Gurion supported partitioning the land into two states. Peres could read these two quotations out in the UN hall, congratulate the Palestinians in the "cradle of their independence," call for all the countries of the world to vote in favor of their country - and raise his hand with them. That picture could have become a historical icon, but all the signs indicate that that isn't going to happen; not this month.

This month, the UN marks the International Day of Peace; in September 1978 the Camp David agreement was signed. Anwar Sadat replaced Gamal Abdel Nasser as president of Egypt in September 1970. Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat met for the first time in September 1996.

But in a general overview of the history of the Middle Eastern conflict, September looks like a terrible month: The Swedish count Folke Bernadotte, who was trying to make peace here, was assassinated in Jerusalem in September 1948; the slaughter at the Munich Olympics was carried out in September 1972; and the massacre at Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps, in September 1982.

And, of course, it was in this month a decade ago that New York's World Trade Center was destroyed.



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