How do you feel about Israel@75?
Celebratory? Worried? Passed out in a ditch somewhere from too much Arak?
This past Tuesday was Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. There was something different in the dry, salty, falafel-smelling air this year, though. Not only was it a big year - Israel turned 75! - but it’s in the midst of anti-government demonstrations against Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul.
The buzz in my Jewish circles was that this year’s celebrations felt bittersweet; we’re proud of all that Israel has accomplished yet don’t want her to lose her democracy. These days, Israel’s unique trilemma of maintaining a Jewish majority while being a democracy within its 1967 borders is at the forefront of Jews’ minds.
I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with Israel lately, how my views have shifted slightly throughout my Jewish journey, starting with receiving education from right-leaning organizations, to broadening my views by reading more perspectives (my favorite being Yossi Klein Halevi’s but more on him another time!). Fast forward to my visit to Israel last year when my Arab taxi driver was pulled over to have his identity checked and he and I spoke about what life was like there for him. He told me to never forget what I saw there that day.
I’ve always been an ardent, proud Zionist. I support security and will likely defend Israel during conflicts because I read beyond the headlines. And the more I learn about religion and Jewish history in this chapter of my life, the more I see how important she is to us in a way that didn’t click with me years prior.
What’s shifted slightly is what I take into consideration now, and how much more important a democracy is to Israel. She needs it because we care about her well-being, for all people. Because we need the Jewish nation to uphold Jewish values.
Having said that, it’s a miracle Israel is the nation it is today! After 2,000 years of exile, our people live in the 4th happiest country in the world with the most museums per capita AND upside-down coffee. Baruch Hashem!
I asked on social media how people feel about Israel’s Independence this year, and the variety of responses was just what I expected. Do you identify with one (or a few!) in particular?
“This year feels like every year for me, the politics in Israel has stopped affecting me and I just love celebrating the meaning, culture and the history of Israel. I will be attending community Yom haatzmaut celebrations in my community and like I always do - educate others about Israel and enjoy the Israeli culture!”
“I'm pretty indifferent. I don't really think Israel is morally correct for their overwhelming use of force against Palestinians. I also disagree with their aggressive settling. Although they have a right to exist it seems like there's no end to the violence.”
“I prefer to hold aside my concerns on the day of Israel’s 75th birthday! It’s a moment to celebrate the great miracle of our people’s return to the ancestral homeland despite millennia of oppression and attempted extermination. Keeping politics aside, that is extremely remarkable and has never happened any other time in history. Of course we can focus on everything wrong with the country every other day in the year, but Independence Day is to me a day of gratitude and joy!”
“I feel very confident that Israel will come through this difficult time and be stronger and more Democratic than ever!”
“Loving Israel as a kid was so easy and I don’t think it was just because I was a kid, Israel was a bipartisan that everyone in Congress supported. Now support is partisan and I feel like I have to choose between my leftist values and my strong desire to Israel supported strongly by the US.”
“It is a PRIVILEGE to be able to celebrate 75 years of the state of Israel. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have yearned for a place to call home, and now, through major sacrifice, we have one. We do not turn our back on it because right now they are having issues. Imagine it like a child. You love that child and celebrate that child at all milestones, even if they perhaps aren't on their best behavior. You don't cancel a birthday party because a kid may have done something you are unhappy about. You celebrate them, lift them up, and then work on what needs fixing.
Anyone who feels the need to run around being like "well, I really hate Bibi and the chareidim so I'm going to outwardly discuss how terrible things in Israel are" need to check their own privilege. How lucky are you to live in a place where you feel secure enough to not think that maybe one day, you too will need to live in this place that you believe to be fraught with issues.
“I’m old. I remember Israel’s 50th.”
“Celebratory but worried about court change vote.”
Thank you to everyone who responded. Your answers really reflect the vast opinions on this sensitive but important topic. Still, I hope we can agree on two things: 1) any place where Jews can live safely is a cause for celebration, and 2) “Bibi and the Chareidim” would make a great band name!
This alternative rocker is my favorite Israeli musician! His lyrics tend to be dark and moody, and I always have to Google Translate them so they get me to really think about the lyrics. The end of this song, which translates to something like “I go back and go up there” takes me away.
There will be more of him in this ‘nu’sletter…
What are your Shabbat plans? Excited to get back to my usual MJE crowd. Shabbat Shalom!