Thursday, April 23

Independence Day - 67 Years - Yom Ha'atzmaut

Flag of Israel. Shows a Magen David (“Sh...
Flag of Israel. Shows a Magen David (“Shield of David”) between two stripes. The Shield of David is a traditional Jewish symbol. The stripes symbolize a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Israel is celebrating its 67th year of independence. Lots of pageantry, TV shows speeches, firework displays and traditional barbecues. The public parks are packed to capacity with picnickers who litter the parks without any consideration for the environment. Litter bugs leave garbage in the parks in every bit of square space available. My desire on Independence Day is rain to dampen the spirits of barbecuing litterers to keep them at home in order to give a breathing space for the environment.

The litter bugging picnickers bring their accessories such as loudspeakers, blaring at a decibel rate that almost bursts the eardrums. Civic consciousness and consideration for others is on the bottom rung of their frolicking agenda. The scene in the public parks and nature spots is macabre if not bizarre.

 Another characteristic of Independence Day is that approximately 20% of Israel's citizens do not feel any identification with Israel's independence. This is sad. We have not done enough to bring many of Israel's minority non-Jewish citizens closer to a common civil identification with Israel as their country no less than it is for Jewish Israelis. The narrative of both  peoples should be taught in schools  in an objective manner. This would help to heal the historical rift between the two peoples The Independence Day celebrations are viewed by the Arab community as "the Naqba (Catastrophe(

In the diaspora, Jews, who are citizens of the countries of their birth, share a common civil identity with the majority non-Jewish citizens. There is no conflict of interests. Many Jewish citizens living in the diaspora are supportive of Israel, but have no desire to immigrate to Israel. They enjoy their standard of living and quality of life. Many who are traditional or observant have a very satisfying Jewish communal life affiliated with the synagogue, where they are members.

 While most Arab citizens are loyal to Israel, they do not share the Jewish majority's identity with Israel and its symbols. This is very noticeable on Independence Day. There is no Israeli pageantry displayed on the street light poles or hanging from the homes of Arab citizens. There is even a certain fear entering the Arab villages and displaying Israeli flags on one's vehicles, which could be viewed as a provocation by the Arab villagers. It is as if Israel is divided into two entities - Jewish and Arab, with a schism between the two communities which is disadvantageous to both.

How can we unite the various communities in Israel so that a common patriotism is forged between all irrespective of race, color and creed? Perhaps a start can be made in education by establishing integrated schools from the age of 6 years until matriculation. All Israel's citizens should be taught the same common secular subjects including the Hebrew, Arabic and English languages as compulsory subjects. When it comes to religious studies, each religious group should have its own religious leader teaching a few hours a week the precepts of the various faiths to each religious group. This is similar to the state schools in the diaspora, where the rabbi, priest or imam gives lessons to the various religious groups in each class.

The national anthem of Israel should remain unchanged, but an additional stanza or two could be added to represent the non-Jewish minorities. If this is done with discretion by a composer the result could also help initiate a common patriotism. It will also improve relationships between all Israel's citizens without compromising on each group's heritage. Additional symbols like olives and the olive tree could also be incorporated into a common Israeli heritage inclusive of all groups.

 When South Africa became a democracy in 1995 under late President Nelson Mandela, the national anthem became all-embracing of a multiracial society and united all South Africans. The South African National Anthem was re-arranged by Jeanne Zaidel Rudolph and is a great success. This example could be taken by Israel. The ingenuity of a composer that can arrange Hatikvah with a tune that can keep the old as well as adding the new in an all-embracing musical arrangement can go a long way in uniting a very fragmented society into a common loyalty.

We all need to pledge ourselves in creating a just and fair society in a very tough part of the planet - The Middle East! 

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