“I have no other land — אין לי ארץ אחרת.” (Ehud Manor)
“The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground — קול דמי אחיך צועקים אלי מן האדמה.” (Genesis 4:10)
The Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony this year was breathtaking. Israelis and Palestinians who have paid the greatest possible price in this devastating conflict, mourning together with their ostensible enemies. And all I could think as I sat there was: These are my people. All of them. The people of this land.
So many of those we mourn on Yom HaZikaron were killed in wars with neighboring countries, which saw countless losses on both sides. It makes me sad that soldiers from surrounding nations died in those wars across from our soldiers, but I feel no need to mourn them, certainly not on Yom HaZikaron. They are not my people. They have their own countries, their own lands, which are not mine.
Palestinians are different. They are here, in and of this land, interspersed among us. This land is saturated with the pain of their loss alongside our own — our brothers’ and sisters’ blood is intermingled with the blood of their sisters and brothers as it cries out from the ground to us all. And like most Israelis, they too have no other land, no citizenship elsewhere, nowhere to go no matter how bad things might get here. We are all here to stay. Our destinies are linked, our lives and futures intertwined.
After years of working alongside so many courageous Palestinian friends for a future here in which blood – all blood – will cease to cry out from the ground, I can no longer think of them the way I think of the Jordanians and Egyptians and Syrians who came, fought us, and went back to their own sovereign lands. No. We Israelis and Palestinians belong to this land together, we live and breathe and fight and love and die alongside each other. And so it’s not that I feel it’s unreasonable to have a day for us to mourn our own – it’s just that I experience “my own” so differently from most of those around me. I can’t help but mourn all whose blood cries out from this holy ground, all who died here in this land because they have no other land.
The next evening I attended, in person, a transition ceremony from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut. At the close of the ceremony we sang Shir HaMaalot and then Hatikvah: “When God returned the captives of Zion, we were like dreamers, our mouths filled with laughter, our tongues with joy”… “Our hope is not yet lost, to be a free people in our Land.”
The unbridled joy at being in community, with close to a hundred people dancing together for the first time in over a year, seemed to swirl together in an infectious euphoria with the overflowing joy of the Jewish people being miraculously at home in our land. And I felt like an insider and an outsider at the same time. I, who chose and choose every day to live here, who, in fact, does have the option of another land — I couldn’t and can’t be fully in the joy bursting out all around me. Because although we are, thank God, a free people in our land, so many people in this land are not free.
Standing in Jerusalem singing “l’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim hab’nuyah – next year in Jerusalem, rebuilt,” I felt so strongly that we are deep in Yerushalayim shel mata, the earthly Jerusalem, full of all the faults and defects and massive shortcomings caused by our flawed humanity. I wanted to shatter a glass as we do amidst our utmost joy at weddings, to shock us into remembering always that Jerusalem, the way it should be, is not even close to being rebuilt.
As I stood there with my eyes closed during Hatikvah I could almost touch a vision of what it could look like to be celebrating as joyously as we were, but in a Jerusalem where all who belong to this land, all whose brothers’ and sisters’ blood ties them to this ground, all who have no other land — were free people in our land.
Bimhera beyameinu – may it be our will, soon and in our lifetimes.