With all my appreciation for the video of Israel’s achievement being circulated on the Net in conjunction with Israeli Independence Day called “Israel – Defying all Odds” (granted that some of the rankings of the achievements are questionable), I have some serious problems with the concluding statement which notes that there are 26 countries that describe themselves as Muslim, 18 that describes themselves as Christian, and only one Jewish country. That implies that the definition of Israel is based upon religion, whereas the founders–from Herzl through Ben-Gurion, Weizmann and Jabotinsky–saw Israel as the state of the Jewish nation or people. That’s also what Netanyahu means when he asks that people recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The last thing we need is for the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict to become a Jewish-Moslem religious conflict.
Yesterday evening I participated in an Alternative Memorial Day ceremony at the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv, a growing phenomenon, with at least 1,000 people, most of them in their 20s.
It was a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony for all the people who have fallen on both sides, with artists, poets and activists. I was particularly moved by the presentation by Bassam Aramin, the Palestinian co-director of Combatants for Peace, whose 8 year old daughter Abir was killed by IDF soldiers on her way to school. He said that he longs for the day when all Palestinians will stand for two minutes of silence on Yom Hashoa, in memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, which he called the most evil event in world history, something which he did in the privacy of his office in Ramallah. He longs for a day when Israelis and Palestinians, living in peace, will stand together to remember the fallen on both sides.
Another one of the people who made a powerful, moving presentation at the evening was Rami Peled-Elhanan, whose 14 year old daughter was killed in a suicide bombing in the nearby Ben-Yehuda promenade in Jerusalem.
Bassam held up a joint photo of Abir and Smadar, moving the audience to tears.
And for the second time in three days, I heard a performance of the late Meir Ariel’s powerful 1967 counterpoint to Naomi Shemer’s Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Yerushalayim Shel Barzel (Jerusalem of Iron). Ariel, who grew up in Kibbutz Mishmarot, was a paratrooper in ’67 who became known as the “Singing Paratrooper.” He wrote his version of the song in the middle of the war–which became very popular with the soldiers–to declare that war is not just glory, and that the true goal for Jerusalem is not liberation but peace.
As the siren just sounded at 10 a.m., I just stood in memory of those who fell, those who I knew in my IDF units, including my deputy commander, from the neighboring kibbutzim, fellow students, a senior lecturer at TAU, relatives of friends and all those I didn’t know.
I wish all a meaningful Yom Hazikaron, and a Yom Atzmaut Sameach,