The smell of spring in the air, flower are blooming, birds are loud in the morning sun and we, the first generation Israelis, know in our hearts that the ‘sad days’ are coming. The ‘sad days’ that is how we called them back in school. The days in mid-April, when you come to school dressed in blue jeans and white shirt as formal as it would get in Israel back in the 70’s, to pay your respect to the victims… and there were so many of them. On these days you stop all your doings to the sound of the siren in the middle of the day, street, school wherever you are. You stop, stand, and remember. At home, the radio and television played sad songs of people who will never come back from the war and the love that was lost, all day long… Lots of agony and sorrow would pile up in our young souls. We knew what was expected of us and how important these days were to our future, parents, our homeland and nation. We were raised to be patriot. Patriots, who will be loyal to their nation who will serve it with pride and honor and give all they can, so that Israel would be proud and successful. And so it was.
These sad days always come three in a row so we may all remember and internalize the sequence of events that led to the UN resolution in November 1947 when the partition of the land was approved and Israel became the home of the Jews. Therefore the first day of the three is the Holocaust Day. On this day we remember the six million victims. Black and white movies footage of the war broadcasted on wide TV screens. Line of innocent people waiting to be gassed or shut to death; children, elders, women and men. We stood with tears as the siren sounded throughout the country and mourned the devastation and cruelty that humans could inflict upon others.
By the time we digested the horror of the Holocaust, came the Fallen Day, which in recent years was consolidated together with the Victims of Terror Day. In this day the sadness hits every cord in our hearts. So many of us lost family member or dear friend or know someone close who lost someone dear in one of our numerous wars; so many of them 1948, 1956, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1982, 1991 (first Intifada), 2000 (second Intifada), 2006, too painful to count. So when the siren sounded through out the country that day, we saw in our mind those young soldiers faces that were missed so much.
When I think of how much sadness we had to endure until the sad days were over, it was not a surprise that some of us school kids, and I among them, regarded Yom Ha’aztmaut although important but yet another sad day with another siren. Nevertheless were told and strongly encouraged to celebrate the birth of our nation. Israel first generation Israelis were asked to go out to the streets, sing and dance in joy since history is finally on our side and now we are free and safe in our land…although we secretly knew that it was safe only until the next war broke or the next terror attack hit.
That is why you might agree with me when I say, we are the emotional patriot. We are not just loyal citizens who care, but we love our Israel so much like a beloved child that we yearn to have after so many years of being apart and protect it from all harm, especially when harm was just around the corner. From the 50’s till the mid 70’s so many love songs were written for this homeland that this unique genera could almost compete with the regular love songs between a man and a woman that were written during that time. This might sound a bit awkward for many of you, who would find this attachment or patriotism rather extreme. But when you grow up with such passionate narrative of love, sacrifice and final victory it is hard to stay indifferent and non-committed.
Often times when I attend a service in American synagogues, I read the special prayer for Israel that is written with so much hope and care, and I think to myself that maybe we, the first generation Israelis, are not the only ones who carry that deep love to this special place. Maybe there are others people Jews and non Jews as well, that need to see Israel flourish and succeed. Democratic, diverse and peaceful.
This week my beloved Israel celebrates its 69th birthday and as a dear and important part of my life I want to wish her lots of love, health prosperity and success. But this is a country and it needs more or maybe different kind of wishes.
So my beloved Israel, I wish you will know your strengths and weaknesses and choose to strengthen the weak links in your democracy. In spite of all your surroundings keep your democracy alive and strong and beware of the radical and extreme elements within your borders. Please keep all the people who reside within your borders educated, healthy and safe because your future is reflected of their faces. Don’t fall into mediocrity keep thinking outside the box and be the inspiration to the world that only you can be. You are unique, nestling in bible’s history, beautiful, diverse, and still young. But most importantly don’t forget you are loved more than you can ever imagine by so many around the world who needs you to succeed and prevail against all odds. Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach!
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