Remember when Yom Ha-atzma’ut used to be easy?
Nowadays it seems like you’ve got three choices..
You can follow our co-blogger Chorus of Apes and go all Nakba on us. You can go all “neo-Zionist” instead and lose yourself in congratulatory paroxysms of pride and militaristic extremism. See here for example. Or finally, you can waffle and prevaricate between the other two alternatives, watching any tribal joy you once felt drain out through myriad cuts of national guilt and historical revision.
The last option seems most popular in progressive Jewish circles these days. My roommates objected to my proposal for a Yom Ha-Atzma’ut House Party by saying they wanted to avoid propaganda or the appearance of it. “Maybe we should have something about the nakba too.” “We don’t want to look right wing.” “How about we go to a Brit Tzedek talk instead.” Something about Independence Day made us uncomfortable.
Yom Ha-atzma’ut looks a little funny these days. Between the alliance of Electronic Intifada and Kahane Chai to forever tarnish the word “Zionism,” and the casual abuse of patriotism by fear-mongering Republicans in the US, the idea of “national pride” has become suspect. Every 60th Birthday congratulation needs a “but..”, and every praise of the Jewish State re-born in the Jewish Homeland comes with a “however..” We’re cynical and jaded, and don’t want to buy into anything that smacks of conservative forces or creeping 21st century totalitarianism.
So we want to kill the myth of the Third Comonwealth, scuff the shine on the Zionist dream, give us nothing-but-the-facts-ma’am and add another social justice cause to the bottom of the list.
But I’m thinking that Yom Ha-atzma’ut is not something to do half-assed. Righteous foundation myths and tribal pride aren’t just kids’ stories: they’re the moral stories that give us our ideals.
Remember (if you’re American) when you first learned what really happened when the Pilgrims hit Plymouth rock. When that cartoon fantasy of harmony and shared wealth dissolved into the broken treaties of the colonists, and the cold hard earth they dug into to rob Native graves. I think that a large part of that sting,  that rage, (that righteous indignation, if you will) was the disappointment that the reality did not live up to the myth.
People we’d been taught to honor had let us down. The founding parents of institutions we’d be taught to respect and identify with had behaved in despicable ways. Which is sort of ironic, I guess. Or at least depressing.
But the real, glorious irony is that the myths never did let us down. These lies are the tales that taught us what to believe in. The myths are the prosecutor’s finger. When we hear about Israeli crimes and mistakes, whether during the War of Indepedence or today, it’s the myths that shout loudest “this was wrong. This must be remedied.” It’s the Declaration of Indepedence which was never fulfilled which kicks us in the gut and demands more effort on our part.
Our myths are our moral foundation, and I believe, something to celebrate whole-heartedly. So this is a (slightly belated) Yom Ha-Atzma’ut Same’ach from me to you, with no ifs, ands, or buts. Happy Independence Day. Make the dream a reality.