Next Tuesday evening at sundown, folks here are going to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the departure of the British High Commissioner from Eretz Yisrael and the declaration in Tel Aviv by David ben Gurion of the State of Israel. In Hebrew, this day is known as Yom Atzma’út – Independence Day.
The first time I came to this country was for a parade on Yom Atzma’út, the 25th celebration of the country’s independence. The parade ran down King George V Street in Jerusalem and featured tanks, half-tracks and missiles, many of them captured from the Egyptians or Syrians (and therefore the Russians) six years earlier. It was very controversial in the world’s press and with the leaders of the world who fulminated that the arrogant Sheenies dared show off their weapons of war in Jerusalem, a place they had no right to be in.
The locals didn’t care. Photographs of the heroes of the day, flags and soft plastic hammers all sold by the millions, and pride ran high in the Land of Israel. There was a practice parade along King George V Street a couple of nights before and a crowd came out to watch. I was in that crowd. Standing nearby was a young kid with a Canadian accent whose family had moved here to live. He was watching also and explaining to me in detail all the different weapons he saw and what they could do. It astounded me then that a nine-year-old boy could have that much knowledge of weaponry. Now such a thing does not astound me.
This was in 1973. It was several months before Yom Kippur and the war that changed the character of this nation permanently, the war that brought great powers to closely focus their attention on this tiny sliver of real estate in a manner they had never done before. Rumors of war were sweeping the country in the spring. The rumors were that there would be war that summer or fall. The fellow whose family I stayed with said cryptically as I left for the airport to return to New York, “I’ll see you in the fall.” The news didn’t necessarily report in detail the massive Egyptian and Syrian arms build-up taking place but folks knew. The government didn’t want to report the truth, but you can’t really keep a secret here. Not in this country.
I had spent all my bar mitzva money to come here in the spring of 1973 – just to see a parade. When the war broke out that fall, my bank account was empty. Otherwise, I certainly would have come to help, and possibly stay.
I eventually did come to stay – with my wife and sons. And 33 years later this country has gone down hill in many ways. Pride? There is no pride here. There is only bewilderment, as one part of the populace fervently believes that ejecting Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria is the right thing to do, and another portion rejects this expulsion just as fervently. There are a lot more cars here than there used to be. But there is a lot more poverty also. Independence? A joke! More than one Israeli leader has said that were it not for America, this country could not last one day.
A parade? Give me a break! The army and police are too busy training to bust Jewish heads to parade with their weapons down King George V Street. Besides, what would ‘world opinion’ say? The Americans would never tolerate a military parade in the middle of Jerusalem! Today’s leaders have forgotten entirely how to use the ‘etzbá m’shuléshet’ – the middle finger – except against fellow Jews.
But no matter! Everybody will be buying a mangál (low Mongolian barbecue grill) for $8.00, and bags of charcoal for $2.00, and they’ll be buying chicken dogs and turkey dogs and soda. It’s a sin to waste. Since the State is giving us all a day off from work, let’s party!!
But for once, let’s be honest about it. We’re really celebrating “Dependence Day.” The “heroes” of today, our government, still can’t bear to tell the truth – but we know. You can’t hide the truth in this country. This, at least, hasn’t changed.
The proper way to celebrate Dependence Day is with a parade. Yes, a parade. Israeli soldiers should march smartly, unarmed, down the Tel Aviv street in front of the American Embassy. It’s a narrow street, so they need only go five abreast. It can be a long parade snaking southwards from the rich neighborhoods where the locals can’t wait for a policy of making fellow Jews homeless – now called convergence – to bring them peace. The soldiers should march with their heads uncovered, so that the American Ambassador and delegates of the EU can see that no religious messianic maniacs have been allowed to bring filth to the purity of Israeli arms.
No skull caps should be seen on the cream of our youth. It would be too Jewish. They should be led by the Prime Minister, and all of his flunkies, particularly the members of the “religious” parties betraying the Torah and their fellow Jews for money and seats in the cabinet. Behind them should be an honor guard carrying flags of loyalty – the American flag and the European Union flag. The last row of the honor guard can carry Israeli flags – a sop to satisfy the locals.
That would be truth. That would be honesty – brutal honesty.