Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why I can wholeheartedly celebrate Israel’s Independence Day

NOTE:  This post was written in response to a facebook post located here.  The style was mimicked on purpose in order to make a point by giving an alternative view of what was presented by using a similar structure. It is not meant to copy the author's words - it's simply using a time honoured tradition of parody - but more for alternative effect than comic. 

It doesn’t matter where I am.  At my children’s Hebrew classes, in the middle of Ahuza street in Ra’anana, or sitting in a hall in faraway Australia.

It doesn’t matter if Israel is at war or not.  It doesn’t matter if the Israeli government has done something that has caused me to shout in exasperation, or if they’ve done something that makes my eyes well up with tears.

It doesn’t matter if I’m feeling patriotic towards my people, wanting to embrace them all, or running away from them, wanting to hide.  But every time I hear the haunting tones of Hatikva, the passion in me stirs.

I get a chill down my spine.

And I feel it – a tingling sensation that pulls at my heart strings, causes my soul to rise up, and makes my spirit fly.

And a gratitude… a true gratitude knowing how lucky both I and my people are to be alive at this moment in time along history’s continuous journey.

And yet, there are Israeli Arabs who do not share my joy.  And I get that – I do.  But I also know there are plenty who do.  Plenty who celebrate the uniqueness of Israel and serve in its Army and its police force fighting to protect this special place on earth.

I’m not immune to those who hate the country.  I hear the shouts.  I hear the chants.  But I also know that unlike the Jewish citizens of Israel, the Arab citizens are hardly alone in this world.  22 Arab countries surround Israel with similar cultures.  Over 50 countries with a majority population of Muslims. 22% of the world’s population is Muslim and just 0.2% is Jewish. 1.5 billion Muslims and just 14 million Jews.  That’s not what’s called being alone in this world.

And in the many countries Jews are dispersed across the globe, they are not demanding their own separate country.  Many are singing the anthems of their countries with pride. And they are singing the anthem of their Jewish homeland with pride too. And many are singing anthems under flags that might not represent them, but they’re singing it anyway.  They are good citizens who do not want to destroy the countries they are in – they just want to live their lives according to the customs.

But history is a cruel teacher and despite the comfort and the warmth of their hosts, the chasm between acceptance and rejection is never far.  Loving the Jews and hating them is just one small step.  Jews were reasonably comfortable in Europe too once upon a time with thriving cultures and strong traditions.  But powerless.  And in a few short years, all of that was decimated, ripped out of this world along with 6 million Jewish souls.

And where was their narrative?  Where was the world rushing to help?  Where were the international committees driven by a sense of justice, trying to save this people of so few? They were quiet, not prepared to get involved in something that did not rate highly on their radar of morality.  And so my people were ignored, left to a cruel fate.

So now today Israel has the strongest military in the Middle East – an army that does not simply exist to hold parades for soldiers who died in conflicts that many people in the world today haven’t even heard of.  They exist, because if they didn’t then Israel wouldn’t exist.
But what of this flag – this flag with the Jewish Star of David smack dab in the centre.  It is a symbol of Jewish sovereignty – that never again will we be at the mercy of a world that does not care. Never again will we depend on empty promises and rhetoric by a world that ignores us in our hour of need.  Never again will our shouts of anguish be met with a wall of silence.

God, I love this country.  This country that gives me hope and pride and honour and… life!  Because I know that should the winds of change turn, and the darkness that is trickling through the world now becomes an avalanche, my cries of desperation will not go unanswered.

Unlike my neighbours who wanted and many still do to destroy this country and snuff out the Jewish presence in the Middle East, Israel didn’t.  It just wanted to live and allows its citizens to live too, to raise children who can live and play, breathing fresh air as free people in a free land – their land.

And for the Arab citizens who mourn the existence of a Jewish country, I do not mourn with you.  I do not celebrate your history and I do not lament your lack of Arab glory in pushing the Jews into the sea in a holy war for Arab honour.

And for the Arab citizens who do celebrate the existence of this Jewish country, then I celebrate with you.  Yes, you’re a minority, but a minority with the same rights to breathe the same fresh air in the same free land.  And if being a minority is not acceptable, then you have the choice to join many countries in which you can become a part of the majority – just as Jews around the world have done when they’ve made Aliyah to Israel – the only country in which they are a majority.

It is wonderful to be a Jew today – a Jew who after 2000 years has a country of their own.  It is wonderful to know that our long history that contains much sadness will be the opposite of our future that contains much hope. And from generation to generation our history will not be ignored, but celebrated.  From Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Samuel to David all the way through to David Ben Gurion to Golda Meir to Binyamin Netanyahu to whoever comes next.

And that’s not wrong.  It is the complete opposite of wrong.  It is just so incredibly right.

We have a homeland – and we are lucky to have that homeland.  That’s something to celebrate, just as the hundreds of millions of Arabs around the Middle East should celebrate their homelands too, rather than be obsessed with destroying mine.

Israel is a Jewish country that should have its Jewish history celebrated too.  And its non Jewish citizens should always be made to feel welcome, because they are part of this country too.  How different that is to the Arab world who rather than allow their minorities to live in peace, decided to expel its Jewish citizens – and wipe out over 2500 years of Jewish presence in their midst.

Arab countries can mourn not being able to destroy Israel.  And Arab citizens can choose to mourn that too.

But we don’t need to mourn our survival.  We don’t need to mourn our stubbornness.  We don’t need to mourn our strength. We don’t need to mourn the return of the indigenous Jewish people to their homeland.  We don’t need to mourn that we have a turned a 2000 year ancient dream into a modern day reality.

Instead we only need to celebrate.

For we are free – a free people living in our free land – the Jewish State of Israel.