Thursday, April 23, 2015

What should Israel Independence Day celebrate?

As it has done in the past, Israel for 2015 has chosen to honour women during its most important Independence Day ceremony. Once again, Israel has announced that it will include in this year’s group of honoured women, an Arab-Israeli.
Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel honouring women. I also have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel honouring an Arab-Israeli Muslim. I even have no problem whatsoever with the State of Israel actively singling out women or Arab-Israeli Muslims for such honor. My problem is, I don’t think it’s appropriate to include such honor as part of our Independence Day celebration.
I say this knowing that Ms Lucy Aharish, the Arab-Israeli women who was chosen to be honoured this year, is--in my opinion--an extremely impressive young woman. She is articulate. Her words (at the ceremony) were perfectly chosen for the occasion. Nevertheless, I just don’t think such honor belongs in an Israel Independence Day ceremony. 
I’ll explain why I feel this way. You can read my reasons. Then, you can decide if you agree.
Israel’s Independence Day doesn’t occur as a free-standing holiday. It doesn’t stand by itself on the calendar. It begins immediately following Israel’s Memorial Day.
Israel’s Memorial Day is the moment during the year we remember those who were killed so that we may live freely as Jews in a Jewish state. Following the Holocaust, that was a compelling dream. Given the state of Anti-Semitism and raw Jew-hate in the world today, it’s still compelling.
Memorial Day is also the Day we remember civilian terror victims. We remember them on this Day because, like soldiers, they were killed by enemies who, to this very moment, see every Israeli civilian as a military target.
When we paused to remember those fallen on Memorial Day, and when we listened to speeches about them, we didn’t see or hear a single reference to their having died to protect democracy, equal rights, women’s rights or equality.  They died so that Jews could have their homeland back. They died so that Jews could live freely.
As Memorial Day ended, and as we began to think of our ‘Independence’ picnics and celebrations, we did so knowing that Israelis continue to die so that we as Jews can continue to live. Remembering them reminds us that we can never take for granted our Jewish survival in our Jewish ancestral homeland.
Of course, equality and rights are mentioned in what is commonly called, Israel’s ‘Declaration of Independence’. But those who fought in Israel’s wars didn’t take up arms to defend equal rights or equality—or women’s rights or democracy. They took up arms to defend our Jewish right to return to--and continue to live in--our own Jewish homeland.
Look at the Jewish Israel this way: we aren’t Jewish in Israel because we’re a democracy. We’re a democracy because the Jews won that 1948 war—and continue to win.
That’s why Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East—because we’re Jewish. That’s why Israel is the only country in the Middle East that protects women’s rights—because we’re Jewish. That’s why Israel is the only country in the Middle East without Apartheid laws—because we’re Jewish.
In other words, ‘Jewish’ came before ‘democracy’. That’s why we should celebrate ‘Jewish’ Israel on our Independence Day’, not equality, women’s rights or equal rights.
If Israel so desires, it should honor women and Arab-Israelis. It should declare a ’Woman’s Day’ for example, or an ‘Arab-Israeli Day. Israel could even sponsor an ‘Israel Democracy Day’, to highlight to the world how the Jewish Israel has a political system that is distinctive in its region.
But we shouldn’t muddy our Independence Day ceremonies with issues that are secondary to the on-going Jewish struggle to survive. Our Independence Day should celebrate first things first—and the first thing for Israel has always been the fight to become –and remain--the Jewish state.
We are a democracy in the Middle East only because we are Jewish. Without the continuing Jewish triumph, there’d be no equal rights or women’s rights in Israel.
This is an important distinction because so many in Israel promote ‘democracy’ and ‘equal rights’ above Israel’s Jewishness. Many of these people seem intent upon denying or removing Israel’s Jewishness. For this reason alone, we should be extra careful to keep Independence Day simple, and focused.  We’d have no equal rights, women’s rights, equality or democracy if the Jews had lost any of their wars.
Given the nature of the world war against Jewish Israel, we should keep our eye on the ‘main thing’: we are what we are—and have what we have—only because the Jews keep their Jewish independence.
That’s my opinion. What do you think?  

1 comment:

  1. Yes, we are a Jewish democracy. Although the majority of those who helped to bring that about have been Jewish men, there also were Jewish women, arab men & women, Druzim, and others. What is important, I think, is that we remain a Jewish democracy, and our Yom HaAtzmaut can honor any and all those who helped to bring it about and help it to continue.