Here and there

Memorial Day and Independence Day provided their annual demands for reflection.
There were lots of ceremonies and long speeches, which I missed with firm resolve. I've heard what is said on these days, and have internalized the feelings.
Fortunately I could avoid being one of the million Israelis visiting military cemeteries. Varda lit a candle for two cousins, numerous friends, and a student who chose the wrong time to eat lunch at a university cafeteria during the Second Intifada.
We continued a family tradition on the evening that begins Independence Day with dinner on a relative's rooftop in Modiin, followed by watching that city's fireworks from a hilltop spot not yet covered with apartments.
I had more than my equal share of Israeli wine at dinner, which helped with the political discussion. None were happy with the present government, but none were close to certain that there was a candidate ripe to replace the sitting Prime Minister in the foreseeable future.
Comments were sharper about the opportunities in the country that I used to call home. Three politicians too old for the job are still in the race, with the two leaders each having records far from admirable. Neither seems capable of improving social indicators in major cities.that make Israel  a paradise in comparison, and Palestinian cities in the West Bank not all that bad.
The Americans I know live well, but in neighborhoods or suburbs separated from social and economic conditions closer to the Third World than the First, with taxes too low for the country to operate like the best of western Europe, and limited interest in helping those so low as to be described as the underclass. 
American Memorial Days are times for shopping and parades. Many of those who have died in recent years had volunteered for lack of anything better to do, or in the hope of parlaying a few years of national service into opportunities for moving into a better part of a severely fractured society. 
What has come to my mailbox over the last couple of days does not make me rethink the move that I made more than 40 years ago.
One came from a West Point Graduate, sent to me by a friend who served as a combat pilot in Vietnam, lamenting what Barack Obama has done to the US military and the country's international standing. It's a long and angry piece, which uses as its springboard, the  Secretary of the Army Directive to Worldwide Army Commands: "Balance Lactation Support and Readiness" Those concerned can read it here.
A video by an attractive and articulate young woman takes on Hillary, detailing lots of reasons over a long career to end her diatribe with a four letter word.
Also from an Internet friend I received a Twitter from James Woods, "The world is fighting Islamic terrorism, starvation, and disease, but democrats are fighting for men to pee in the ladies' room. #insanity"
The Economist weighed in against Donald Trump.
"Donald Trump, businessman: Scourge, not saviour Donald Trump is certainly wealthy, even though he pretends to be much richer than he is. But as a businessman, his track record is mixed. Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks, Trump University and the Trump foray into football are only some of his crashes. His litigious, debt-laden and risky way of doing business is not much of an advertisement for him as CEO of the nation"
The degrees of truth apparent in those various attacks reflect American friends' frustration as having to choose between sleaze and incompetence, following two Presidents who sought to govern large parts of the world despite their ignorance and inexperience.
Israel is a lot smaller, somewhat poorer, and a lot different militarily than the US or its European friends, but in many ways it is a more attractive society. Israelis argue about the quality of their government, in the context of a former Prime Minister jailed for corruption, and a former President for rape. 
Most of the time, however, Israel's leadership argues its way to decent ways of dealing with severe challenges, against the background of Jewish history that often was bad.
Friends and family members with roots in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, various parts of Africa, as well as the former Soviet Union live decently, and arguably more secure than Europeans and Americans. 
Israel's record in dealing with Palestinian violence has not been cheap in human terms, but is at least as credible as Europe's recent experience with Islamic violence, and the chronic carnage in American cities. Some of the US bloodshed is Islamic in origin, and much more the result of free enterprise in drugs and firearms. 
One of the items in Thursday's mail both warmed my heart but limited the pleasure felt about this country's 68 years of success. 
It came from a Palestinian, with whom I had good relations over the course of his earning three degrees at the Hebrew University. We have had continued contacts and friendship as he teaches in a West Bank university. He sends me electronic cards on the occasional of all Israeli and religious holidays, and I do the same on the occasion of Muslim holidays.
His message to me on Thursday,, 
שיהיה יום עצמאות שמח בסימן התקווה למפנה היסטורי ולשלום בין העמים
(May you have a joyous Independence Day with the hope that it symbolizes a historic turning point and peace between nations.)
My response
אני מודה ומשתתף בברכות, עם עצב ששנינו לא יכולים לחגוג בשמחות דומות
(I thank you, join in the blessings, with sadness that both of us cannot celebrate something similar.)
History goes on. We can express joy and/or disappointment as to where we are, do what we can to understand Israelis, Palestinians, and others important to us, pity those who politics confines them to unattractive candidates, nasty campaigns, and little prospect for improvement, and hope that things will become better than we expect.
Comments welcome
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected]