As the jubilee celebrations of Jerusalem Day are winding down, it’s easy to forget that Jerusalem was once a divided city.
The reality for the seat of God’s eternal throne on November 29, 1947, as laid out in UN Resolution 181(II), known as the Partition Plan, was far different than its reality at the end of the War of Independence on March 10, 1949.
Jerusalem, the capital that according to Psalm 122:3 united its residents and visitors and was a city united in all forms, wasn’t meant to have a single portion of it be part the renewed, future State of Israel.
Twenty years after the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel felt they had the wind knocked out of their sails. What went from a Jewish national home in all of historic Palestine became a territory smaller than Connecticut, much smaller than today’s comparison of the State of Israel to the US state of New Jersey. And Jerusalem was meant to be under an international regime.
While the Arab leadership rejected outright any plan to share the land with their Abrahamic cousins, the Jewish leadership, which also had dominant voices advocating for an all-or-nothing state, ultimately accepted the 1937 Peel Commission’s resolutions for further negotiations on the future of the land.
Future-first prime minister and first president David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann respectively, felt that even though they too were set back by the downgrade, the only way forward was to continue negotiating and hope that with more deliberations, something bigger would grow out of their desire to have a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, as small as it may be.
Ben-Gurion had recorded this emotion in a letter to his son in 1937.
“A state on only part of the land isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning,” he wrote to his son, Amos. “The establishment of a state, even if it’s only a partial one, will serve as a powerful lever in our historic efforts to redeem the entire country.
“We will bring into the state all the Jews that we are allowed to bring in, according to our deep belief that it will be possible to bring in more than two million,” he said. “We will organize a sophisticated defense force, an elite army. I have no doubt that our army will be one of the best in the world – and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in the rest of the country. Whether by agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbors or in any other way.”
When 70 years ago, on November 29, 1947, the UN Partition Plan passed with a two-thirds majority, approving a Jewish state and an Arab state, in the majority of communities in the Jewish world, the atmosphere was jubilant. It was the beginning of a state, as small and fragile as it may be, but a state nonetheless, with a two-thirds majority of support from the international body representing the families of the Earth.
The plan, outright rejected by the Arabs in Palestine and other Arab states, was never implemented, though, with civil war breaking out the very next day on November 30, and the War of Independence breaking out six months later after Ben-Gurion declared independence and the British left the Holy Land for good.
But the fact that Resolution 181(II) never saw the light of day is not without significance. For the Land of Israel can never be divided. The eternal covenant made to the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is just that – eternal. “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:15).
Despite this divine assurance, patience is key.
If it means only getting a sliver of land in 1947, wait until the war is over in 1949 to see how much more territory would be gained. If it means going without the Eternal City of Jerusalem, have patience. Wait another 19 years to see how much more will be returned to the rightful owners. Even if it means seeing portions of that land being given up, have patience, for this too is for the good.
Redemption comes little by little. Forwards and backwards. Some steps bigger than others. The 1947 Partition Plan was a major step forward, but it was just a single step.
This is just the beginning:
“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites. Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites” (Genesis 15:18-20).