Dec. 18, 1947 — Trans Pioneer Gila Goldstein Born
Gila Goldstein, who in the 1960s becomes the first Israeli to have sex reassignment surgery, is born as Abraham Goldstein in Turin, Italy. The family immigrates to Israel a few years later, and Goldstein begins identifying as a girl and using the name Gila by 1960. She becomes a dancer, a singer and an actress. She is a leading LGBT activist and in 1975 helps found Aguda, Israel’s first support organization for LGBT youths.
Dec. 19, 1936 — A.B. Yehoshua Born
Avraham B. Yehoshua, who becomes one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, is born in Jerusalem, where his family goes back at least five generations. Influenced by such authors as Franz Kafka, William Faulkner and S.Y. Agnon, Yehoshua leads a new wave of Israeli writers with novels including “The Lover,” “Mr. Mani” and “The Late Divorce.” He wins the Bialik Prize, the Israel Prize and two National Jewish Book Awards.
Dec. 20, 1936 — Toscanini Arrives in Palestine
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini, considered one of the virtuoso conductors of the 20th century, arrives at the airport in Lod to conduct the opening performance of the Palestine Philharmonic six days later before a sold-out crowd of 3,000 people. Toscanini, a prominent critic of fascism and the Nazis, provides instant credibility for the orchestra and helps attract musicians.
Dec. 21, 1973 — Peace Conference Held in Geneva
A Middle East peace conference opens in Geneva under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union, although U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger keeps the Soviets in the dark about progress made in private by Israel and Egypt toward their 1974 Disengagement Agreement. Syria skips the conference because Israel refuses to recognize the PLO as the Palestinians’ representative. The conference ends Dec. 29 and never reconvenes.
Dec. 22, 1938 — Rambam Hospital Opens
The British Government Hospital of Haifa, now the Rambam Health Care Campus, opens with 225 beds at the foot of Mount Carmel. The British high commissioner for Palestine, Harold MacMichael, hails the hospital as the “finest medical institution in the Middle East.” Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Erich Mendelsohn-designed building, MacMichael hails the hospital as a reflection of Haifa’s growth and multiculturalism.
Dec. 23, 1907 — Stern Gang Founder Born
Avraham Stern, who becomes one of the most wanted members of the Jewish underground fighting British rule in Palestine, is born into a Zionist family in Suwalki, Poland. Stern joins the Haganah in 1929, but he and a few others break away to form the more radical Irgun in 1931. After the Irgun suspends anti-British activities in 1940, he forms Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, to continue violence. He is killed in a British raid in 1942.
Dec. 24, 1969 — Missile Boats Smuggled out of France
Israel uses a fake shipping company as a front to purchase five military boats and sneaks them out of Cherbourg, France, defeating a French arms embargo enacted after the June 1967 war. Israel had ordered the naval craft from shipbuilder Felix Amiot before the war, but French President Charles de Gaulle prevented the their delivery when they were ready. The boats arrive in Haifa on Dec. 31.
Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education.