Americans, who give Israel billions of dollars each year, may be interested to know that May and June are monumentally difficult months in the collective memories of Israelis and Palestinians. Personally, each year when May rolls around I am reminded of the first time I spoke to Palestinians about the events of 1948. It was in the year 2001 or 2002, during a meeting of local Jews and Palestinians in San Diego.
I felt that I knew everything there was to know about that period in our joint history because my father, Matti Peled, was a captain in the pre-state Zionist militia, the Haganah. He fought in what we Israelis call the War of Independence. Then, two decades later he was among the generals who planned and executed the 1967 Six-Day War.
The 1948 war, called the Catastrophe, or Nakba in Arabic, was Israel’s War of Independence, and both are commemorated during the month of May. In June Israelis celebrated the 1967 war, considered a massive victory for Israel. Palestinians mourn what they call the “Naksa,” which means setback in Arabic. Today is the Naksa’s 56th anniversary.