Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Make Yom Yerushalayim a National Holiday!

We didn't really need an offical poll to tell us that Yom Yerushalayim goes by unmarked by the majority of Israelis. Ynet published this poll:

Some 65 percent of Israeli Jews do not celebrate Jerusalem Day, which marks the city’s reunification 40 years ago, while 35 percent celebrate the event, a poll conducted by Ynet and the Gesher organization revealed.
The poll was carried out among 500 respondents who constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish Hebrew-speaking population in Israel.
According to the poll, most religious Zionists (67 percent) celebrate Jerusalem Day, compared to only 23 percent of non-religious Israelis, 24 percent of haredim and 63 percent of observant Jews.

Yes ... it is only the masorti (sephardi traditional) community and the dati-leumi (kippas seruga) community who mark this day. The crowd in the streets of Jerusalem bears this out. The Charedim have ambivalent attitudes to creating new festive days, and also to acts performed by the secular Medinat Yisrael. The secular public... certainly the younger generation, are very distant from Jewish heritage and feel alienated from the reality of Jerusalem. How many times have I heard of chilonim's fear, yes fear (!) of Jerusalem, perceiving it as being filled with Arabs and Haredim, a place in which they are likely to be stoned. The intifada didn't help in that regard. For the years 2000-2005, most secular schools didn't even send their students on class trips to Jerusalem!

In the lead-up to this 40th year celebration of Yom Yerushalyim, watching TV and reading the papers. We have the usual bandwagon of left-wingers who sound so down on themselves as they bemoan Jerusalem, as a place in which arabs are oppressed, or simply a backwards provincial place, or a crucible of extremism, and so forth. The TV certainly doesn't sound like it is gearing up for a party!

Now, I am all for open discussion, self-criticism and free debate. But there is also a time simply for celebration! (Why do we Jews have such difficulty just celebrating. Do we always have to examine and pick everthing apart?) The simple fact is this: Jews yearned to return to Jeruslaem for 1900 years. Today, 40 years ago, the kotel and the Old city (never mind Hevron and Ma'arat Hamachpela, Shilo, Kever Rachel in Bethlehem, Bet El) all came under Jewish sovereignty. Is that not a reason to be happy? Yes I know the politics and demographics of Jerusalem are complicated! But everything is complicated. There is a time to celebrate and a time to solve problems! Today, we should be happy!

40 years ago, the nation understood that the return to the Kotel was cause for rejoicing. Today, certain sectors fail to see this. Many people are simply disconnected from Jerusalem!

And there are political ramifications too. It would appear that regarding the Kotel there is wide consensus. (This week we heard that 96% of the Jewish Israeli public will not relinquish the kotel even for a Peace deal... see the entire poll - it is very interesting.) However, beyond the kotel, if we do not wish to see Har Habayit given to a future Palestinian State, if we wish to see Jerusalem as united in the future, then we must work (and fight the forces of the extreme Left) to boost the connection of ALL Israelis with Yerushalayim.

The answer is education. Wars can be won by armies, but the real battle is for the MEMORY of historical events. We need to help people see why Jerusalem is special and what it represents to the Jews and to the world! What is the best way to send a message that this is a historic day of incredible Jewish and Zionistic significance? - Make Yom Yerushalayim a public holiday. Then kids will have to learn about it in school. Then it will be in everyone's calendar. Then the collective memory will be forced to absorb this day as a celebration. And when the entire country gets a day off, the mood is good, and Jerusalem Day automatically becomes a happy day. The calendar is a very powerful thing. It indicates what is important. A public holiday for Jerusalem Day would send a message , loud and clear, that a Jewish Jerusalem is a momentous thing.

Make Yom Yerushalayim a Public Holiday and the pieces will fall into place! You'll see.

1 comment:

Rebecca M said...

I wonder if there is also a circle effect. If more people felt connected to the holiday, there would be more diverse celebrations; if there were more diverse celebrations, people would be more eager to celebrate/learn/discuss, rather than just let is pass by.

When I was in Israel last year I did not celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, because I didn't have a framework in which I felt comfortable doing so.

I checked out rikud d'galim, but it was:

1) dominated by a very right wing atmosphere-- orange ribbons tied to everything and everyone! I didn't think I could participate without appearing to sign on to things I don't agree with. I'm very glad we did not lose in '67, and I'm glad I can visit the old city. But if I saw a non-suicidal way to do so, I'd be willing to give it all back in a heartbeat.

2) gender, gender, gender. Tzniut is one thing, but when it turns into most of the girls just squeezing as close as they could get to watch the boys, rather than doing there own celebration, something is messed up.

Granted, I'd just completed two days of photographing Jerusalem's most beautiful lookout points for SPNI, which was wonderful, and my own private Yom Yerushalayim in my book. But it left me "Jerusalem'ed out"r