Culture, Israel, Justice, Religion

Yom Haatzmaut vs. Atzmaut Amitit

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

7 thoughts on “Yom Haatzmaut vs. Atzmaut Amitit

  1. As offensive as it may initially sound, we should be thankful (and yes, thankful enough to say Hallel with a bracha and not observe the mourning minchagim of the omer) that we have such problems. Not that the problems are good and we MUST work to improve Israel’s economic and social problems (and I thank you for pointing them out as too often we ignore them and this is a major interest — in fact my MA — of mine), but rather that after 2,000 years of NOT having to deal with these issues because we were subsurvient to foreign rulers, today we (the Jewish people) our sovereign (and thus we have to deal with the problems sovereignty brings).

  2. “Absolutely–so let’s start dealing with them.”
    Right, like nobody ever thought of dealing with them till you showed up.
    I LOOOOVE arrogant smug “progressives.”
    I didn’t see anyone on your list who lost the freedom to walk because they were paralyzed by a suicide bomb.
    Or a scholar who lost the freedom to participate in the intellectual life of his chosen field, or the athlete who can’t rise to the top of her sport, because of some stupid malicious anti-Israel boycott.

  3. way to make this about how bad the “goyim” are, instead of what our responsibilities are, yehudit.
    last i heard, judaism didn’t teach that you ignore your moral obligations just because some shmuck out there hates you.

  4. deity– exactly.
    and that makes me very glad that you and your husband are making aliya… we’ll miss you guys though.
    alan– also agreed, well said.

  5. 1. Putting “anglo Olim”, poor things, in the same post with people with *real* problems, is offensive.
    2. The original halutzim came here way before the holocaust, therefore none of them are holocaust survivors. few (Shimon Peres is an example) are alive.
    3. Sticky Zionism is not a turn-on.
    4. Israeli Arabs mourn the naqba.
    5. Anti-Israel boycotts are not “stupid”. sometimes they make some sense.

  6. While “your cousins are stuck in Gaza under lock and key, mourning Al-Naqba,” they should also remember how it happened. Palestinians had been murdering innocent Jews since 1920. In 1948, Palestinians laid siege to Jerusalem in order to starve its 100,000 Jews. The Jewish army had to fight its way to Jerusalem to prevent mass starvation. Palestinians in the path of the Jewish army fled.
    Israel had no way of knowing which of these Palestinian refugees had been murdering innocent Jews & which had not. To have allowed all Palestinian refugees to return would have meant that the murderers would have returned, too, & resumed murdering innocent Jews.

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