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Going on 71

With a hug, Israel Prize winners Miriam Peretz and David Grossman embody the visceral truths all Israelis know
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R) with Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz during the ceremony at the International Conference Center (ICC) in Jerusalem on April 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R) with Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz during the ceremony at the International Conference Center (ICC) in Jerusalem on April 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The parties are over, and it’s time to clean up.

Street sweepers are removing coals and paper cups and forgotten blue and white paraphernalia from the parks and sidewalks. Municipality workers are taking down the grand sets of various state ceremonies, turning what was Exquisite and Amazing back into nails and poles and plastic sheets. Store owners are removing flags from their displays.

The glitter is gone. The posters are gone. The music is different now.

Cinderella’s clock struck midnight, and everyday Israel is revealed.

Real-life Israel was here all along, of course. It pulsed and shined underneath the glitter and the spectacle, and within the ceremonies and the speeches. It hummed within the old songs we sang, and the national memories we resurrected to inspire us. It smiled through the joy on our faces as we danced in the streets and greeted strangers and watched fireworks across the sky.

And now, stripped from its holiday finery, our Israel is ready for us to see it unadorned, and marvel.

Because our Israel is beautiful even when the glitter is removed.

The sun shines here. It shines on green fields and earnest faces, and people disagreeing with such passion, with such strength. Israel is ours to better and to nurture. And as we argue about the “how” of it, our passion says “we love you,” says “we care.”

Sometimes, the sun can be scorching. And the disagreements can be scorching, too. But it’s up to us to do better, and yesterday’s festivities showed us that we can.

A woman hugged a man on a stage yesterday; hugged him across a chasm oh-so wide. And when Miriam Peretz (Sephardic, right-wing, religious) hugged David Grossman (Ashkenazi, left-wing, secular), people cheered — and cried. Because politics aside, this woman and this man share the same fate and know the same visceral truths.

They both lost sons in Israel’s wars.

They both know that you can’t earn a country just with blood and losses. You have to build it up and make it better, and so become worthy of the sacrifices of the dead.

And they both work hard, so so hard, to do just that.

In yesterday’s festive Israel, a woman hugged a man on a stage, and the audience cheered and cried. And now that the party is over, it’s time to stop being the audience; it’s our turn to work, and work hard.

We will continue to disagree, of course. Because we love it here. Because we care.

But, as the that eloquent hug reminded us, my Israel is only “mine” in that I must always take responsibility to personally better it. But in all the other ways that count, it’s never mine, it’s ours.

About the Author
Rachel is a lifelong resident of Jerusalem and a keen observer of its colorful spiritual and human scene. She recently completed her M.A in American History, and continues to explore questions of religion, emotions, and social relations both in history and in real life.
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