Up to now my “only in Israel” contributions were made to the Facebook group of the same name describing experiences such as the following:
Only in Israel… I am sitting on a patch of beach in Tel Aviv with a handful of ulpan students. It is the end of an intensive course and we all prepared (in Hebrew) a story for our last gathering. One of the students is a young man of East Asian origin who spoke a beautiful Hebrew and was the envy of all. “Tell them what you studied at Berkeley” encourages his instructor. “Yiddish” responds the young man. “Go ahead,” says his instructor, “sing the song you learned.” This young man of East Asian descent, having studied Yiddish in Berkeley, attending ulpan in Tel Aviv, begins to sing Oyfn Pripetshik (Yiddish: אויפן פריפעטשיק ) (English: translation: On the cooking stove) a song written by M.M. Warshawsky (1848–1907).
As a result of the vote to have a National Aliyah Day, I am inspired to write a different type of “Only in Israel.” I say only because no other country needs to have a separate day to “thank” its citizens for being there. In those countries that honor the multi-cultural fabric of their society and want to acknowledge the contributions of the immigrant population, it is done on the country’s national birthday.
“Posters celebrating immigrants’ contribution to life in the UK are being put up across the country after a successful crowd-funding appeal.
The “I am an immigrant” campaign was launched by Movement Against Xenophobia, part of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrant.”
In Israel we have demonstrated our anger at the lack of an immigration infrastructure and gaps in services supporting immigrants’ needs. We have spoken loudly about racism and discrimination in our country. We do this because as a society we want to uphold our values and we have the democratic means to do so; primarily with votes.
Our Knesset includes elected officials who represent different minorities. We have the means and opportunity to develop and grow in a true “light unto other nations” way. But what is reflected in our National Aliyah Day is a bigger problem; our identity.
Before Israel, Jews did not have the choice we have today; to live as a Jew within an existing national community or live in Israel. Now we do. And what do we do with that choice? We expect gratitude if we “give up” our lives in another country and make Israel our home.
That is why this day reeks of aliyah promotional marketing. Sure we need Jews to return to Israel but for the same reason we fought to establish this country; to have a Jewish state.
A handful of Jews come after a war which tried to wipe Jews off the face of the earth (not of the first time). We establish the modern state of Israel and 68 years later (even earlier) you have its citizens say that calling Israel a Jewish state is racist. Genocide is racist, not establishing a spot on this earth where you can find refuge from the countries within which you are a target for being a Jew. In Israel, at least we are defending ourselves with our army and by voting freely for our government.
Every Jew has their story. We are not called wandering Jews for nothing. You have Jews who have been in this land for multiple generations, you have Jews who have lived here, left and returned (maybe even more than once) and you have Jews who have lived here and left to live somewhere else. At the same time, we are witnessing the miracle of the return of Jews from “lost” tribes and from the four corners of the earth.
I am going to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut and thank all those who made it possible and continue to make it possible for me to live as a Jew in Israel. I will not celebrate aliyah as a National Day because it is redundant and unnecessary.