It is late April and we are in the midst of the brilliantly colored landscape of Eretz Yisrael. Nature has provided most of the palette. Muted cloudless sky. Profoundly green leaves and grass. Cheerful flowers of every description and hue. Birds from who knows where heading to who knows where. I just saw one who is a stranger to me. He’s not from Herzliya or New Jersey. Just a traveler stopping for some refreshment.
The outside air is so cool and refreshing, just perfect for a stroll in the fields and woods, and even city streets, of this beautiful land. Soon summer will set upon us and walks outside will be brutally hot with blazing unfriendly sun and no respite from cooling rain or breeze. But now, as every year, we are at perfection. We’ve stopped reciting the prayer for wind and rain and replaced it with the prayer for dew. Our siddurim understand the natural pace of this place.
Not all the colors are gifts of mother nature. Some are gifts of human hearts. Blue and white. The entire country is being festooned with flags. Flags of Israel. Some are cloth and some are plastic. All are new and lavishly arrayed. Everywhere.
You can find flags on cars (often two), apartments, houses, stores, downtown shopping areas. Everywhere. They grow quickly, exponentially. They seem to speak to us. Stop your arguing chaverim. We can share, all of us, this dual commemoration, as we reach our 69th anniversary as a free and independent nation. We won’t solve all of our problems today. Maybe ever. But you hang your flags. I hang mine. In this we are united.
This country is changing so fast that it boggles the mind. The startup nation. We are so technically superior to just about anywhere else in the world. Our economy is soaring for so many. Sadly, as in all countries, not yet for all. There are cranes everywhere, not just the bird-cranes in the Hula but the building-cranes that populate our land. Apartments in high-rise buildings are bought before the first bulldozer has cleared the land. Old cottages are replaced by luxurious skyscrapers. We are a nation on the move. On the go. Super highways all over. My husband always says you can judge a country’s wealth by its trash. When we lived in Jerusalem and celebrated Israel’s 25th anniversary, nothing of any value was ever trashed. Too wasteful. Things that were broken were repaired, not replaced. Now, the garbage is a treasure trove. Just yesterday I saw two perfectly good living room chairs sitting in the garbage area of our building. Years ago they wouldn’t have been there, and if they had, they’d have disappeared in an instant. Today they are still there.
Every Shabbat we share dinner with family. My sister or I make lavish meals. The crowd, with little kids, is rowdy. The chitchat is, at first, routine. And then politics arrive. It’s like opening the door for Eliahu Ha Navi. Here it comes. We represent, in our family, every perspective from pretty right to very left. My husband and I consider ourselves to be centrist. Needless to say, each of us is totally convinced that our way is the correct way. That our way will bring peace. That the other ways are wrong, hopeless, naive. In our family, at least, goodwill prevails. We argue nicely. We change subjects. We don’t become confrontational. After all, winning the argument is impossible anyway. No one ever changes his opinion. Or hers. No one.
It’s, therefore, no secret that this amazing center of Jewish life in the 21st century is boiling. Not beneath the surface. Right up there on the surface. We’re building. We’re creating. We’re growing. But we miss the most important commodity that any nation can have: peace. We call it shalom. And it tantalizes us. We want it so badly. We don’t want to add to the memorials on Yom Hazikaron. We want our soldiers to grow old with their children and grandchildren. We don’t want to remember them. We want them to stay here on this beautiful and tiny spot of land and live to old age. We want to love them in real time.
And so we now look forward to the uniquely Israeli way of celebrating our Independence Day. It’s not like July 4, which is a single day, separated from Memorial Day by more than a month. Here, first we honor those who died for our nation. We treasure their memories. We watch the videos on TV showing their lives, poignant and painful videos of young people from birth on. We see britot, b’nai mitzvah. We see romance. We see kidding around and graduating. We see them with parents, friends, grandparents and siblings. We get to know each of them …..and then we lose them. Forever. We cry. We remember. There are no Memorial Day sales or barbeques. It would not be fitting. It is a day of solemnity. An entire nation mourns.
And only then, the next day, do the celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut begin. A crazy day filled with festivity. How far we have come in 69 years. We will never forget those, mostly youngsters, who made the dream a reality. But we laugh and rejoice and pray that our 70th year will be the year of peace we have yearned for. Finally.