Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Israel @ 60 - Thoughts

So Israel is Sixty. My 3 yr old asked me today, "Is that big?" So of course, on the one hand, thinking about the fragile,fledgling State fighting for its life in 1948, the young country attacked in 1973, a country that has done so much in so short a time, sixty is really old. On the other hand in the span of time, we're just beginning!

What is there to say at this time? So much has been written on the topic. I would like to make two points.

1. There are always the pessimists and the optimists (see my last post!). I am sorry but I have to count myself in the latter group. I always see the cup half full when it comes to Israel.

Last week, both Galei Tzahal and Channel 1 did contests to find the song that epitomised sixty years of Israel. With Galei Tzahal the top song was Shir HaReut - a beautiful song about loss and friendship in war (written by Haim Guri in 1948.) Second came Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. In fact Yerushalayim Shel Zahav was the top song on Channel 1. (The second was "Children of '73 which we can discuss in a minute.)

Israelis did not choose some wild pop song. Israelis are rooted in Jerusalem, in their past and in their heritage. Despite a great amount of desperation with our leadership which is seen as corrupt or lacking vision and depth, Israelis know that there is much to celebrate at 60. They also appreciate what the true values are, and why we are here.

Today the Guardian (link) has an interesting article about the eclipse of the promise of Peace. The song that came in second - Children of '73 - is precisely about that idea (link). But as opposed to one other blogger (link) I would like to suggest that that song is actually very much where Israel is at present.

The song expresses the reality that at one point in time Israelis felt that peace would be around the corner. Nowadays, we realise it is much more complicated, far more elusive. (Even Peres said today that he never expected Kasaams from Gaza after the Hitnatkut! (link)) And yet the kids in the song still serve in the Army and still live in Israel and still build their future here! To my mind the song expresses the frustrations of reality and the complexities of living here. (The song isn't perfect... it has much arrogance, but that is for another time.)

So what do we do when Peace seems elusive? What do we do when a woman sees her father, and then her husband, and now her son, go to war?

Here is the point I think needs making. In fact Olmert made this point at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony today (Give credit where it is due!). We will succeed here ONLY if we know WHY we are here. We cannot succeed if we fail to believe that we belong here. We cannot become an ordinary country. This is a place that for the foreseeable future we shall have to fight over. If you are looking for a comfortable calm ride, this is not happening so soon. (Although, we are, many of us, living at very comfortable living standards!)

But this is the best place in the world for a Jew. Why? Because it is ours. Because here we all care about each other. Because here we fight over OUR issues. Because here we live in our holy land, promised to us by God, because here I tread in the footsteps of my History, because here we turn on the radio and hear Hebrew... Because we belong here! It is right.

Every Israeli needs to know this. Every Israeli must be imbued with Jewish Pride and Zionism. Israel needs to invest heavily in education, Judaism and Zionism to fight against cynicism and PostZionism, to revive some of that old-school Zionism, so that every Israeli believes that this is the correct place to be and understands why it is worthy to be here. To reconnect with Judaism, to love the country. And then BeEzrat Hashem, we will be OK for another 60. This is paramount.

we have so much good. But the National Spirit is crucial, critical.

2. But here is a second point. I wrote about it also in last years post here.

Israel at 60. Wow! We have so much to thank God for. So much to be appreciative! For simply our survival! For the pleasure of over 6 million Jews who can live in their land, for a booming economy, for Israel being able to be a refuge for Russian Jews and Ethiopian Jews. For Israel being the education centre for World Jewry, whether in Mir or Ponovezh or Brisk, Gush or Shaalvim, Hebrew University or Hartman Institute, or Schechter - they are all here! For Israel giving pride and confidence to the Jewish People around the world. For the Kotel, and the Golan and the Negev and the Kinneret.

Hodu Lashem ki Tov, Ki LeOlam Hasdo!

Yom Atzmaut Sameach!

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