To Israel, with utmost love and devotion–
Today I got all dressed up in blue and white, said full hallel with a bracha, and ate a cupcake with an Israeli flag in it. I’d been looking forward to this day for a long time, as I’ll officially be Israeli in about four months (!). But something doesn’t feel quite right.
Who really has independence in Israel?
~ The citizenry, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line?
~ The military–100% conscripted, some of whom sent to do unimaginable tasks? The conscientious objectors who are arrested and imprisoned?
~ The original chalutzim, the majority of whom are Holocaust survivors, now a poverty-stricken elderly community that has to do battle for survival, this time with the government they help found?
~ The Arab-Israeli community? What kind of a headtrip is it to get a day off work and go to a friend’s barbecue while your cousins are stuck in Gaza under lock and key, mourning Al-Naqba?
~ The “liberated” disengagees of Gush Katif, the vast majority of whom have yet to be re-settled and receive what they were promised?
~ The Bedouins, who, despite paying taxes and serving in the army, receives virtually no rights and has never received compensation for losing their Negev homes time and time again?
~ The government and the upper-classes, caught in this system of corruption and factionalism that denies the principles the State was founded on?
~ The “working women”, 3,000 of whom a year are trafficked through Israel and live as sex slaves?
~ The charedi community, inextricably dependent on the very State they decry the independence of?
~ The Ethiopian olim, stuck below the color line in the land of their dreams?
~ The anglo olim, watching as the country of their dreams, whatever these dreams are, changes from day to day and makes these dreams so difficult?
Who is independent?
Answer: all of us are
Despite the weaknesses of the government of Israel, weaknesses that have led to the breakdown of normal freedoms for virtually all of its citizens–I believe that there is still abundant hope, in the independent actions of grassroots efforts.
We’re connected to Israel, despite its many flaws, because of the picture in our minds, in our souls, of what the land and its people mean to us. It’s an unexplainable feeling of belonging, of spiritual resonance, walking down the cobbled streets with arms outstretched to the blue, blue dream of sky. And it’s very hard to bridge this feeling to the facts on the ground as they exist for many of Israel’s citizens.
Please don’t misunderstand this post as simply griping stating that there is nothing worthwhile about living in Israel. For a great many people, it is a wonderful place to live. The disconnect occurs in connecting the vision of Yom Haatzmaut to the lack of socioeconomic and political security so many people live with in Israel.
On this Yom Haatzmaut, it is our duty not to simply go to barbecues, eat falafel, go through the self-congratulatory motions…..but to internalize the value of atzmaut, independence, and vow to work towards making Israel a land of real, vital independence for all of its citizens.
Yom Haatzmaut, viewed this way, is a yearly check-in on where we stand, and what our responsibilities are to do more for the sake of the kind of independence that matters–where it transforms peoples’ day-to-day lives for the better, gradually shaping the harsh realities of the land to reflect the picture of our minds that led us to celebrate this day in the first place.
It’s when we own our fundamentally independent status as ethical individuals, despite our status within the State, towards helping one another.
So this Yom Haatzmaut and until next year’s, let’s pledge to do something to get involved in atzmaut. Check out the links below for some ideas, please post more in Comments:
Israeli Task Force on Human Trafficking
Bustan: Sustainable Community Action for Land and People
Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews
Table to Table: Rescuing Food for Israel’s Hungry
Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel