Michael Boyden

No Time to Celebrate

Kohelet teaches that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

In exactly one month’s time Israel is due to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, but this is no time to celebrate, but rather to mourn.

Under normal circumstances, we would flock to the municipal celebrations to listen to Israel’s most popular singers, enjoy the firework displays, invite family and friends to barbecues, see the lighting of the Twelve Torches and watch the air force flypast, but this year is different.

Israel is in no mood to celebrate. The war in Gaza has not been won. Air raid sirens are still being heard every day in the Galilee and elsewhere, and, most important of all, the hostages are still being held captive by Hamas.
At public events, including weddings, there is frequently reference to our prayer for the return of the hostages, because they are constantly in our thoughts.

After the horrific events of October 7 in which 1,194 people were murdered, 240 kidnapped and close to 5,000 injured, there is little reason to celebrate. The war has not been won, Hamas has not been wiped out, and most of the hostages, both dead and alive, are still being held captive.

And if that were not enough, some 100,000 Israelis, who have been displaced from their homes in the north and the south, are still living in temporary accommodation with no idea when and if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Many have lost their livelihoods.

If the Psalmist asked “How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”, then we must surely wonder how we can sing and celebrate in a land that is in mourning, when the threat of an escalation in the fighting and wide-scale devastation hangs over us.

Understandably, Bibi wants to project an image of “business as usual”, but Miri Regev has already announced that the Torch Lighting ceremony will be filmed in advance without an audience, presumably out of concern that the public would use the opportunity to protest against the government and call for elections.

The cemeteries will be full to overflowing on Memorial Day, but the passage to Yom Ha’atzmaut will not be easy at a time when there is little cause for celebration.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.