Israel Cheers, Palestinians Mourn

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It was a birthday party or a wake, depending on your point of view: Israelis were partying last night and throughout today, gathering in public places to celebrate 50 years of the Jewish state. Over in the West Bank, Palestinians observed an early May Day holiday in a mournful mood. There, the independence celebrated by Israel today is known as “al naqba” -- the catastrophe -- because it turned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into homeless refugees.

Palestinians were barred from entering Israel and East Jerusalem today, which TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad sees as a metaphor for the anniversary. “Israel was a great victory for the Jews, but at the same time it was a punishment for the Palestinians,” says Hamad. Tomorrow’s scheduled meeting between Vice President Gore and Yasser Arafat will turn the attention of both sides back to peace process. As troubled as that process may be, Israelis and Palestinians are infinitely more likely to agree on their future than on their past.