For me Yom Ha’atzmaut is a personal microcosm of Israel itself – full of pride, contradictions, arguments, passion, celebration and reflection. Over here in Australia it’s a series of concerts, school assemblies and community gatherings to mark the occasion. Although there are festivities aplenty, somehow it feels a bit empty.
Maybe it’s the distance of being in the other end of the world. Maybe it’s the foreignness because I’ve never lived in Israel for a long period, let alone been in Israel for a Yom Ha’atzmaut. Or maybe, like a friend of mine discovered a while back, it’s the lip-service Zionism we often give in the Diaspora. I remember he told me that half way through the Yom Ha’atzmaut concert he was attending some 15 years ago, he realised despite the Hebrew, the songs and the lauding of our homeland, not one of the participants had any real inclination to move to Israel. And so he decided to be different and soon after made Aliyah which is where he still lives today. His decision and all the other spirited people’s decision to make Aliyah (including over half my immediate family) seem to have a magnetic effect on my own Zionism and desire to live in the Land.
And so, when I really press myself to think of reasons why I’m not in Israel, I’m struck with a bad case of “maybe-itis”.
Maybe I won’t be able to find work easily?
Maybe my kids won’t adjust to the lifestyle?
Maybe I will miss having Sundays off?
Or any other maybe reason of security, compulsory military service, culture, climate or housing. No doubt it’s a theme many in the Diaspora can relate to.
But somehow this year, things feel different. The maybes remain, but the emotions are more purposeful. The milestone of 70 years somehow seems to refocus the maybes toward a broader, optimistic direction.
Maybe Chareidi Jews will gradually open their society to share their talents with the world?
Maybe secular Jews will embrace the broadness of Judaism and not fear the being labelled “religious”?
Maybe the maybes that are stopping us from being a reunited people in our homeland will start to fade?
Maybe it’s not too late to realise that we can make most things better simply by choosing to do so?
Maybe we’ll realise that how well we treat each other is the key of repairing the world?
Israel was built on dreams, possibilities, potential, prophecies and promises. Essentially it was founded on maybes! But with each passing milestone, the doubts evaporate and the uncertainty drains away. Israel is a sanctuary for our people and a haven for innovation and improvement. Not without its maybes, Israel increasingly is becoming more definitive in a Jewish and global sense. So even if you can’t be in Israel for legitimate non-maybe reasons – raise a glass, sing a song and at the very least spare a thought for a very special place full of very special people. I definitely believe it’ll make your Yom Ha’atzmaut more than lip-services and maybes!