Twenty years ago, I was here in Israel during the 50th anniversary celebrations. As a reminder, that was the only time (so far) that there was actually a two-day Yom Haatzmaut, in itself a unique experience. I watched those celebrations from my father’s z”l hospital room at Hadassah Ein Kerem, where he was recovering from by-pass surgery. Although I was twice removed from the festivities, being both a tourist and the son of a patient, I nevertheless quietly celebrated the skill of the doctors and the caring of the staff who were with us rather than with family, who, as it turns out, gave my father another ten years of life in this land that he loved.
Ten years ago, during the 60th anniversary, my wife and I were also here, visiting and enjoying that very special time. Also spending time here then was President George Bush. His visit and the resulting inability to go where you wanted to when you wanted to actually ended up on a positive note. Giving up on getting to our destination, we parked the car, and started walking, ending up at the nearby artist area, Chutzot Hayotzer. It was there that we first met David Moss, one of the most creative artists we have known, some of whose magnificent creations grace our bookshelves in our Yerushalayim apartment.
Ten years later, we are again here, for #70, but now the feelings are completely different. It may seem like hubris to say that after only two and one-half years since we made aliyah, we are a part of this people and this place, but the fact that we made a choice to be a part of life here does make a profound difference in our outlook. When I look at visitors, I have to stop myself from being so smug and realize that it was not so long ago that I was them. And yet, I cannot help myself, I do feel different. I have committed myself to the ideal that is this place, the ideal that is being celebrated for the 70th time, and for me, that makes all the difference. I now look back at all the years I participated in Yom Haatzmaut celebrations in the USA, at all the Israel Day parades I watched standing on 5th Avenue, and marvel at how meaningful it was then, not really knowing at the time that these were at best only poor substitutes. I know that I will always be part of the “Anglo” sub-group, that Hebrew will always be a second language, yet somehow feel that I do belong. I am no longer admiring the candy store, looking in through the window. I am actually inside the store.
Obviously, no one can tell where they will be, or what will be when #80 comes around. But if I merit to see it, I will again get to cherish the feeling that I have become part of this destiny.