Till death them did part

I love everything about Israeli weddings. The booze, the schmooze, the dancing, the drinking, the Horah and even the Torah. But what I love most is the ceremony that takes place under the Chuppah as there is something beautiful in the willingness of two people to tie their fate together, from here to eternity. And while the Jewish ceremony is a touching one, I feel that our Christian friends have surpassed us in the wording of the wedding vows. In my opinion, the words “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” best capture the essence of love.

I was at an exhibit in Paris dealing with couples in love when I heard of Ariel Sharon’s death and immediately the matrimonial wedding vows jumped to my mind as it seems that Sharon’s fate and the fate of Israel were tied together till death did them part. Sharon was present in all of Israel’s historical milestones. From the War of Independence to the struggle for peace, the images of Sharon’s scrapbook are the images of Israel’s one as well.

Over the past week, numerous bloggers, commentators, reporters and columnists have tried to summarize Sharon’s life. Most have failed. Not because of poor writing skills or lack of insight but because for better for worse every Israeli had his own Arik Sharon. To the settlers he was a hero turned villain; to the moderate left he was a villain turned hero. To some Sharon was a daring general, to others an indiscriminate killer. To the Arab world he was a murderer turned peacemaker, to the Israeli right he was a hawk turned dove

In the past year Israel has parted from many of its founding fathers, and after the deaths of Ovadia Yosef and Arik Einstein, last week it was Sharon’s turn to leave us. But maybe it was also time for us to let him go.

Israel is a relatively young country and is in a unique situation, some of our founding fathers are still with us today and Israel is used to clinging on to these fathers. This could be the result of our longing for simpler times, for the early decades of Israel’s existence when things were black and white. Israel was good and the Arabs were bad. We were always right and the world was always wrong. There was a shared calling, a shared cause and a shared enemy.  Now everything seems to be colored in gray. The old dichotomies have come crumbling down as yesterday’s terrorists are today’s partners and old enemies have become new allies. As the Arab world around us continues to spiral out of control, we long for the wisdom of our elders.

Or maybe Israel still looks to its founding fathers since the second generation of leaders has proven so disappointing. One was booted out of office after 18 months, the other is believed to be one of the most corrupt politicians in Israel’s history and the third is a leader who has yet to prove leadership skills. After the shameful Presidency of Moshe Katzav, another second generation leader, most Israelis felt there was only one man able to restore dignity to the office of the President, father Shimon Peres.

Yet despite our disappointment from the second generation of leaders, Israel is now 65 and must enter adulthood. Our childhood is over and it’s time to leave the nest.

The first generation of Israeli leaders achieved their goal, establishing the State of Israel and winning its war for survival. Today, Israel’s very existence is no longer threatened. The Arab world has accepted Israel’s existence as a fact and has even offered to accept Israel into the region and normalize relations with it. However, Israel still faces challenges that are just as crucial to its survival as the War of Independence.

First, drawing the borders of this country and achieving lasting peace with our neighbors. We have forced the Palestinians into wedlock and now is the time to grant them an amicable divorce. Secondly, defining the core values of Israeli society and the role the Jewish religion should play in the Jewish State. Lastly, we must integrate all Israeli nations into one. The high tech nation, settler nation, Haredi nation, Palestinian Israeli nation and Hedera to Gedera nation must join to create one thriving society.

Our fathers have taken us this far. The rest is up to us.

About the Author
Ilan Manor is finishing his mass media studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to the Jerusalem Post, +972 Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and On Second Thought magazine. His Hebrew-language blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press.
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