Yom HaAtzmaut gives me a bit of an identity crisis. Not because I don’t feel Israeli, but because by nature, I do not feel patriotic.
This was true for me when I was a full-time American citizen, and it’s true for me here in Israel.
I don’t get turned on by independence.
I understand the arrogance, the blasphemy of this statement.
And I’m afraid to admit it out loud.
Intellectually, I understand the naivete underlying my dispassion. I am aware of the privilege that permits me to express it.
I know that I am blessed to never have lived under the threat of tyranny; to have never lost a husband or a child to battle. I know that I am fortunate to have always lived in a democracy and in a time when women had equal rights, if not equal pay.
Yes, I know I am blessed.
But even these words sound hollow.
I hear them in my head and I acknowledge them as correct and true.
I am blessed.
But I don’t feel these words the way I do when my child’s fever has broken; when my husband’s plane lands safely after a business trip; when the car in the other lane just narrowly misses hitting ours.
No matter how I analyze it, “blessed” and “grateful” mean less to me when it comes to country.
Is it callous to not feel patriotic? Is it traitorous? I feel that way sometimes. Especially on days like today.
Is it still possible to love your country even if you don’t feel the tingly sensation, the lump in your throat, when you sing the National Anthem?
Can you still be grateful for its existence and its beauty and its wonders if you don’t cry when you stand in her honor?
Can you love your country without solemnity?
I think so.
There are times in my life when I’ve wanted to feel something I don’t.
Whether it was at a funeral or on a first date or … on a national holiday.
I can’t make the feeling come.
But I find that by opening my heart to the love of others – and to their grief — I do experience it second-hand. By observing and taking part in their expressions of love, a whiff of it permeates my center.
This trace, this hint, is certainly not as powerful as if I generated it on my own. But it’s deep and meaningful just the same.
When my daughter runs home with her plastic Israeli flag to attach to our car window, I truly revel in her glee.
When my neighbors begin to hang their cloth ones from their stoops — and we hang ours– I feel proud of my community, and a part of something bigger than me.
When the children gather to practice their song and dance tribute, I watch them and smile.
I envy them, even.
It’s true, I may not be a patriot in the standard sense of the word.
But I’m not an anarchist or an ingrate.
Just a lucky girl living in a country celebrating freedom.
And isn’t this — aren’t I — what we hope for when we sacrifice what we sacrifice in the name of freedom?
Aren’t we hoping that one day a girl will feel safe enough to love her country in vain?
May we all one day love our country, and our independence, with the ease and comfort of an old, married couple.
Of a girl who has only ever known freedom.