Monday, April 16, 2007

The Public Sphere: Chol Hamoed & Yom Hashoah

Tonight is Yom Hashoah.

(For more on the Shoah see this Post)

Yom Hashoah is not something that one can avoid here in ISrael. Every radio station and TV station broadcasts only programming related to the Holocaust! By law, there are no commercials on TV or radio. Public places of entertainment are closed. The entire atmosphere takes on a sombre mood. Tomorrow at 10:00 there is a 2 minute siren that ushers in a moment of contemplation and national silence.

I drove home from work this evening, The radio on every channel discussing the Shoah. Along route 1 - the major Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway there are electronic signs that routinely carry warnings of bad road conditions and traffic alerts. Tonight the electronic sign read so simply:

ולא נשכח

(Let us Remember ... and not Forget!)

Once again I find myself commenting how powerful it is to be a Jew here in our own country. A person lives in many concentric circles: Family; Community; Town; Nation.
In London, I was aware that my Jewish identity could be expressed on the personal, familial and communal plane, but no further. The public zone is neutral, or British in character.
Here in Israel, there is a phenomenal force that never ceases to astound me by its power, and that is the texture of the National, the collective spirit; the ability for a Jewish Israeli culture to affect the "Reshut HaRabim", the פרהסיא; the street, the public zone, the national tone and mood. This is an all-encompassing, and penetrating emotive force.

It manifests itself in positive ways too. On Chol Hamoed, back in London, my Dad went to work. Yes, we ate Matza, or in the Sukka, but the culture of Christmas penetrated the street far more than the atmosphere of Pesach or Sukkot. When one went on a Pesach hike, we felt that we were the only people exisiting in a strange bubble of Pesach. But here, the entire country is overwhelemed by a festive feel. On Pesach we stopped at a gas station and I went into the shop at the Petrol Station to buy a drink. I saw some chocolate that I couldn't believe was Kosher LePesach so I asked about it. The lady behind the counter gave me an offended look as she responded; "Everything here is Kosher LePesach! It's Pesach!"

Everyone feels the powerful atmosphere of the national culture, and when that culture is Jewish, ona sad day like Yom HaShoah, or on a festive day like Pesach, it feels so so right. It feels like home.

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