In recent years I find myself spending Independence Day mostly at
On the eve of Independence Day I watch the lighting of the beacons
ceremony on TV, and then watch the fireworks on Mount Herzl from my veranda, and
later in the evening the fireworks in Safra Square from my bedroom
The lighting of the beacons ceremony always reminds me of our
greatest national shortcoming – lack of discipline and precision. Though the
drill formations are undoubtedly imaginative, in North Korea or China the
commander in charge would no doubt be executed for such lack of
The problem, I believe, is an Israeli form of
individualism, which also explains why we are very poor at classical ballet, and
an empire when it comes to modern dance. Strangely enough, this individualism
goes hand in hand with a herd instinct, which also manifests itself on
When I was still a teenager, in the early years of the
state, I used to go out with my friends to dance on the streets on the evening
before Independence Day and the annual military parade. As Haifaites we used to
start the evening in the center on Mount Carmel, and then walk down on the steps
to Hadar Hacarmel. This was before the popular celebrations were commercialized,
with well-known singers receiving tens of thousands of shekels for singing two
or three songs before moving on to the next city or town for a similar sum;
before the era of plastic hammers and sprayed foam (made in China); and before
youngsters believed that “having fun” meant going on a drinking binge.
Independence Day itself, I sometimes go out for a walk, passing by hundreds, or
perhaps thousands of people stuffing themselves with barbequed meat, and looking
like what they really need is some physical exercise. It always amazes me that
people enjoy preparing their mangalim (barbecues) in parks and open spaces in
town. But people seem to be enjoying themselves. When my children were small, we
used to go out with friends into the woods around Jerusalem – I guess that what
one does on Independence Day also depends on the age of one’s children, and how
old one is.
With regards to celebrations on Independence Day itself, I
remember with fondness the Mongolian independence day celebrations in Ulan Batar
– the capital of Mongolia – which I visited in July 2005.
performances by popular singers, and plastic hammers (made in China) in the city
square, were similar to what goes on here in Israel. However, the main form of
celebration is popular sports competitions, in which everyone – literally
everyone, including children and senior citizens – can participate. The
competitions are in local forms of sport (none of them Olympic categories), and
there are separate competitions for professionals and amateurs. It is certainly
a much healthier form of celebration than what we do, though there is also a lot
of eating going on (and the drinking of fermented horse milk).
that at this point my right-wing critics will say: “Well, what do you expect of
a left-wing ‘enemy of the people’ – of course she does not enjoy Independence
Day. All she and her ilk want is to give the Palestinians their own independence
day, and see the Zionist endeavor go down the drain.”
Well, this is not
the case. What I really dislike is being told how to celebrate, and what
constitutes “fun.” I accept the fact that religious holidays have more or less
fixed ceremonies and traditions, but with all due respect, Independence Day is
not a religious holiday.
Since I was born before the establishment of the
state, and was old enough when it happened to understand the monumental nature
of the event, I certainly appreciate and value our independence, and know the
cost in blood and toil that led to it, and is still being invested for its
preservation. This does not mean I am pleased with everything that goes on in
our state, but this is besides the point.
While for me the celebration of
Independence Day itself was this year, as in previous years, a rather ambivalent
experience, two days after the official celebrations I experienced what I would
consider a most meaningful and satisfying form of celebration.
Thursday, I took part in a botanical excursion in the area between Psagot and
Migron in Samaria. Though I am doubtful that this area will remain within the
boundaries of the State of Israel after a permanent settlement is attained with
the Palestinians, I am not one of those who refuse to venture into the
territories that are, after all, part of the land of our forefathers.
group I hike with is made up of both right-wingers and left-wingers, national
religious and secular, Gush Emunim settlers and Shomer Hatzair
Our love for flowers, plants, trees and the landscapes of
Eretz Yisrael is what unites us, and that seems to be part of a broader shared
The excursions occasionally involve some pretty
tough hiking, and we frequently require each others’ help. In this case, we
walked along a cliff that had apparently never been investigated botanically
before, and had to cross a winding stream consisting mainly of the partially
purified sewage water of Ramallah about half a dozen times. Everyone gave a
helping hand so no one would trip and fall into the water, or tumble down from
It was in the course of the five hours of tiring walking that
I suddenly realized that this situation expressed my sense of celebrating
Independence Day, despite the controversial status of the area we were walking
through, and the political and religious diversity of the group. What made this
so was the feeling of togetherness, and the ability to rely on each
To me it is this that represents the true spirit of Independence
The writer is a retired Knesset employee.
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