Later, in the kitchen, Sara says,
memory. After the seminar, she invit-
"We have been married for more
ed a reporter to her home in
than 50 years, and he is still court-
Jerusalem to talk "properly."
ing me like its the first day."
The first thing a visitor to Sara's
In their small and tidy apart-
home hears is Marlene Dietrich's
the couple keeps an orderly
voice, along with the typical scratchy
of pictures from the war, n
sounds of old recordings
one photo, they are in a Jeep. Zvi is
"It's 'Lily Marlene,"' she explains,
wearing the kafia of an Arab who
"the greatest war love song of all
was killed in a clash and Sara is
times. A German soldier wrote it in
wearing short khaki pants.
1915 for his Jewish lover, and all the
But Sara insists that although
armies marched to it."
are nostalgic, they managed to
On the wall of Sara and Zvi's
on with their lives.
home is a copy of Israel's Declaration
"We are not like the alte kockers
of Independence; bookshelves are
(old ones) who are stuck in the
lined with Israeli history books.
1940s. They still think along the
Why, Sara is asked, is it so impor-
lines of 'a good Arab is a dead
tant for her to keep talking about
what happened 55 years ago?
"For most of them, those were
Because, she replies energetically,
glory days, and they haven't
"the War of Independence was the
changed at all. They are still in the
formative experience of our lives."
trenches, they can't see and can't
Sara reads from a letter she sent
hear. They never considered, is it
her parents 24 hours after the State
really necessary to keep fighting?"
of Israel was declared:
Sara, who became a teacher after
"Well, it has happened. But there
war, says she is still tormented
are already victims . . . I live in con-
stant anxiety. I got a free ride to
"I wonder how come I didn't ask
Jerusalem; the city is celebrating. We
myself all sorts of questions. For
danced and sang until dawn. The
instance, what happened with the
British are kissing Jewish people,
Arabs? I didn't think about transfer
wishing good luck. It was good,
or expulsion. I was single then, I
though disaster and sadness already
no children. I didn't think
sifted into the happiness."
how they ran away, and
The next morning, Sara was draft-
ed into the army.
"But after we got married, we
"We were stationed in an empty
Sara and Zvi Novoplansky during
lived in Ein Karem, which was an
Arabic villa on Hdchalutz (Pioneer)
the early years of the state.
abandoned Arab village. In the
Street, five houses away from where
basement, I found baby strollers
we are sitting right now Then, it was
and torn embroidered dresses. I felt
the end of the world.
It was 1950.
"We had to guard the area, watching through firing
"Twenty-five years later, I went to an Arab village to
holes as the Arab Legion took out their shells, loaded
and fired. Snipers were shooting.constandy. Although I order kitchen cabinets. I met a refugee from Ein
Karem. I told him I used to live there, and I felt awful.
didn't fight in the front with the men, I had a gun and
I don't feel like a criminal, this is the reality. But it
sometimes I used it."
A 'FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE'
She continues: "Some despaired and feared we
The day after her visitor left, Sara calls.
would all be slaughtered. I believed we would win, but
Sara Novoplansky was one of the few women attend-
"I've been thinking a lot about what you asked," she
I knew we would pay a heavy price. Some days, we
ing Bar-On's seminar. Israeli-born, she started military
"about why the War of Independence was such a
had more than 200 casualties.
training at 14 and joined the Haganah at 20 — just in
moment of our lives. This is my answer:
time for the war.
in what \ ve did, there was innocence,
In 1949, she met her husband, Zvi, now 79. Zvi lost
an immense fraternity and comradeship. We really felt
when it was over, my knees started trembling."
his family in Poland, fought there as a partisan, then
like there was this crack in history that we managed to
Zvi enters the room. "Did you reach Jerusalem yet?"
joined the Israeli army and was wounded during bat-
enter for the first time in 2,000 years. We felt it was a
he asks teasingly. -.
tles in the southern part of the country.
huge mission, and we are lucky we took part in it." ❑
"Shush, Zvi, don't disturb us." she snipes back.
Sara has a big smile, a sharp tongue and a clear
— who was born in 1954 — questioned what he sees
as Israel's constant choice of force to deal with the
But Nachmias, who keeps a copy of Golani's book
(a gift for helping with research) on his coffee table,
says the historian is missing the point.
"He is just clueless," Nachmias says. "Our final vic-
tory cannot be taken for granted. If he wants the
truth, there are people among us who can tell it. It's
not too late. But the 'New Historians' just want to get
attention and catch the headlines."
Golani admits he used to feel "some sort of pleasure"
in telling veterans of the 1948 war: "Stop telling tales,
things were not the way you remember them.
"Now I'm more gentle, I try to coat the rough truths
with honey. I give empathy, but then I argue with
memory. This is my job as an historian."
Golani, who heads Haifa University's Department of
Eretz Israel studies, gets angry reactions when he says
things like "the British weren't as bad as people think,
we owe the founding of Israel to them" or "the Jews
had a clear military advantage [in 1948]."
Nevertheless, he defends the need to re-examine the
"It's as relevant as tomorrow's elections; 1948 is our
birth experience, and if we were born in sin, does it
also mean that we live in sin? This is a very real ques-
tion, and the fact that the old generation won't be here
for long may make it easier to look at it in a more
complex way in the future.
"If we decide," Golani argues, "to respect the fact
that we are partly responsible for the refugee problem,
it will have not only huge political and economical
implications, but also a great moral significance."
The "New Historians" have also criticized other
aspects of the 1948 war and its aftermath. For exam-
ple, Ilan Pappe, a political scientist at Haifa University,
has argued that Britain's real aim in the dying days of
the Palestine mandate was to abort the birth of a
Palestinian state, not a Jewish state.
And journalist Tom Segev has interpreted archival
documents to suggest that the Ashkenazi Zionist lead-
ership discriminated against new Jewish immigrants
from Arab countries in the 1950s.