Israel still far from peace at 60

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Israeli historian Yosef Gorny owes his life to three strokes of good fortune, or so he says.

First, an errant German bomb destroyed his family's home near Warsaw in 1939, sending him fleeing with his parents into Russian-occupied Poland.

Next, Russian dictator Josef Stalin decided to transport 200,000 Jews from Poland to Siberia – the Gorny family among them.

By these fortuitous means, the trio managed to avoid the fate of millions of other Jews who perished in Nazi death camps during World War II.

Finally, with the war at an end, the 13-year-old and his parents made their way across Asia and Europe to Palestine, arriving illegally in 1947, only to be promptly clamped in detention.

It didn't matter. They were safe and, before long, they were free.

"We were wandering Jews," said Gorny, now 74 and a grandfather of five. "But we always had a target."

And that target was Israel.

On Thursday, the Jewish state will mark its 60th anniversary, and the day will be an occasion for stock-taking and as well as for celebration, for there is much to lament as well as honour in the country's six turbulent decades.

If David Ben-Gurion – Israel's first prime minister – were to return to life and gaze upon what has become of the nation he helped to create, would he be pleased or disheartened?

"I think that Ben-Gurion would be happy and sorry as well," said Gorny.

That assessment might well describe this country on the eve of its diamond anniversary – a land of happiness and of sorrow as well....

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