Today is Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day), when Israel mourns for those who have died in the wars we have been in throughout the existence of this country – at least one every decade. Tomorrow is Yom Haazmaut (Independence Day), but today is a day of sadness and reflection.
It’s a strange day for an Israeli left winger. On one hand, I can appreciate the great losses that the people of Israel have sustained in order to get and maintain its existence. Every single one of my adult relatives, including my mother, has been in a war – and they could have been among the ones we are mourning today. And there have been times over the last 60 years that without the lives sacrificed in war, there would be no Israel.
On the other hand, I don’t believe in war, in principle. And perhaps more (personally) disturbing, I don’t find myself proud of this country very often, making it hard to engage in any national holiday. There are so many things wrong with Israel today, from corruption everywhere you look to a nationwide obsession with consumerism to human rights violations and absolute hypocrisy on a number of levels, in particular the prevention of a marginalized population’s pursuit of independence.
The truth is, none of the above reasons are reasons not to respect Remembrance Day. And really, I do. There are two sirens that blare throughout the country – one the night before, and one in the morning. And in that time, I thought about the fact that no matter what, lives were lost and today is a day respect those lives, and the families who lost loved ones. Israel being as small as it is, every single person has a connection to some kind of tragedy, or has a loved one who might have been lost. The effect is that this day is much more personal for all of us.
I guess the ‘other hand’ argument applies more to tomorrow’s holiday, Independence Day. Of course I appreciate Israel, I wouldn’t be living here if I didn’t. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that for the most part, I am not – and, for the record, this is painful to admit – for the most part, I am not proud of Israel, of being Israeli. The government is transparently corrupt, hypocritical religious and right-wing people are trying to rule the country, the army is taking advantage of its power and its ability to exploit Palestinians in Israel and the territories as well as to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, even when Israel was founded on the ideal that a group should have the right to their own country. I don’t like to be associated with corrupt, consumerist, uncaring and exploitative governments, and unfortunately that’s what we have these days.
The Israel I was raised on isn’t the Israel I live in today. Sometimes I think that if I lived somewhere else (read: not the most controversial city in the country and possibly the world), it would be more like that place I thought I was moving to. But maybe the Israel I was raised on, the country that my mom left when she married my dad almost 30 years ago, just doesn’t exist anymore. That’s a more depressing thought than anything else. Can it go back to what it was? I still see parts of it, here and there. And there are wonderful things about the land and culture. That’s what I focus on.