Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel
Deb Housen-Couriel, an alumna of the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program, is now its Director. An attorney and former senior official in Israel’s Communications Department, she made aliyah from Massachusetts to Israel following her college graduation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many years I have felt that this day, or more precisely, the hours leading up to this day, are an exercise in ambiguity. There is no Erev Chag with the familiar rituals of afternoon preparations, tefillot if we make it, sundown over the Judaean hills, back home for too much supper. Yom HaAtzmaut starts sometime, at some utterly undefined and undefinable moment, in the middle of the day. You know this if you live here, and you remember this if you have been in Israel during the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut. Sometime around noon, the songs on the radio start to move from somber to festive; more people come into in the shops to stock up on barbecue essentials; and there’s less hesitation about walking into a restaurant or café. The sirens of remembrance and mourning are behind us, gravesite visits have been made. By late afternoon, we’re completely there, ready to fully celebrate.
Only this year, it feels somehow different. Our Prime Minister is (yet again) under serious suspicion of grave misdoings, names of his potential successors are in the air and there is open discussion of coalition maneuverings to follow this government’s downfall. The Condoleeza – promised negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are, at best, a well-kept security secret, and at worst a publicity stunt. We all know conclusively, by now, that Israel’s state coffers owe elderly survivors of the Shoah untold amounts of indemnification, monies that should have been paid out years ago, with an open and generous hand to those most in need.
The list of ambiguities, of mis-steps, goes on and on. And yet we truly have so much to be glad of, thankful for, and proud of, in this wonderful country.
Yom Atzmaut may in fact be that time when, as Israelis and as Jews, we acknowledge the very ambiguity that sets the tone for me on this day.