western wall haredi flag 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day of doubt and uncertainty for me. I do not mean "what do I think of the State?". I mean how do I celebrate that?
By nature I am a very patriotic person. I love Eretz Yisrael and I love Medinat Yisrael. I sometimes do not like things a particular government does, going against values I think should be promoted, but as a state, I love this country.
Sometimes we forget 61 years later, but the state was founded with the goal of creating a homeland for the Jewish people. Nobody wanted us back then. Now we look back and say we could have lived anywhere. But when we say that, we are saying it with the perspective and history of 61 years which would have been completely different were it not for the State of Israel.
The state gave us the ability to live as Jews in our own country, and it also gave us the ability to live as Jews in other countries. Ask any Holocaust survivor, ask anybody who was around at the formation of the state, and they will describe to you how everything was different in Western countries after the state was founded.
Nowadays we have the freedom and forgetfulness to gripe about how bad the state is, while ignoring the fact that it is only because we have a state that we have the ability to live as Jews freely. Yes, even in the United States.
So what is my doubt and uncertainty? I live in and am part of the greater haredi world. I fall within a specific niche of ideas and beliefs - perhaps mixed with more open-mindedness than the average haredi, more liberalism, more Zionism, independence, etc., but part of the general haredi world.
As I said, I am a patriot. I love Israel. On Yom Ha'atzmaut I feel the pride and patriotism bursting out, just as I feel the sorrow on Remembrance Day, and just as I feel the weight of history on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yet because I am part of the general haredi world, that sense of pride has to be suppressed to a certain extent - more than I would like. If not, then there would be repercussions.
It is my decision to be part of that world, and therefore my own fault, to a certain extent; but I do not think I am in a unique situation.
WHAT IS ONE to do? I feel the pride, but I am not allowed to celebrate. Even worse, I do not know why. Other than a few platitudes about how the state is secular, I have no idea why the rabbis are at best so ambiguous, or perhaps "ambivalent" is more accurate, to the state and Independence Day.
I am not claiming the rabbis should declare that we all recite Hallel on the holiday. That does not interest me, as it's a purely halachic debate, and I am fine with whichever side you put yourself on. If you feel it is halachicly right to say Hallel, say it. If not, don't say it. I can accept both opinions.
I am talking about the general celebrating of the day. One could refrain from reciting Hallel yet still wave the flag and be joyous about the momentous occasion.
So why don't we in the general haredi world? Why are we afraid that if we wave the flag we will be ostracized? Why will we be ostracized if we wave the flag?
I don't know.
The rabbis and shuls all plan learning programs on Yom Ha'atzmaut for those men who are normally at work but have the day off. It is great to be able to spend part of the day learning. These special study sessions are often on interesting topics. But do they ever plan one on the topic of Yom Ha'atzmaut? Do they ever explain to us that it is okay to celebrate somehow - or if it is not okay, then why not? All I know is that it is not accepted, but I have no idea why.
The mere existence of the state has given us so much that I have no understanding of why it is wrong to celebrate it. It seems that if the special study session was on the topic of Yom Ha'atzmaut (either explaining why it is right or wrong to celebrate), aside from the fact that the yeshiva hosting such a session would likely be packed because so many people want to hear a Torah discussion on the subject, many people would know how to approach the day properly - with direction from their rabbi via the session.
The way it is, people want to celebrate somehow, think they cannot, don't know why and have no one to turn to. They think that if they ask, then they will look too much like a Zionist and their kids will be thrown out of school, they will be chased out of the neighborhood/community or just thought of as being too modern.
Why can we not get guidance on this?
The writer, a systems administrator living in Beit Shemesh with his wife Shifra and seven children, blogs at lifeinisrael.blogspot.com.