Monday, April 23, 2007

Flying the flag?

A somewhat limp flag on the adjacent Bank Leumi building, taken from the rooftop.

"An atmosphere of disappointment, despondency and anxiety prevails in Israel in its 59th year," wrote the editorial team today’s Ha’aretz

And it’s true, all true, but still it is Independence Day and so, after oohing and aahing at the fireworks from the rooftop and watching the military ceremony at Mount Herzl (why do our soldiers always look so uncomfortable when marching?) that morphed into a mass choreographed medley of Israel’s Eurovision entries (the North Koreans do it better), we took a swing through the neighbourhood.

In Neve Tsedek the residents of Stein Street had brought in a DJ (playing a hyped up version of the weepy mizrahi hit “Without you I am actually nothing”) and were holding a street party. Kids ran around wielding inflatable plastic hammers while their parents danced. We shook a leg and moved on to Florentin where there was another street party in progress. This time the music was a sort of hip-hop Brazilian and a group of guys who looked like they should be doing capoeira were actually kicking around a deflated football (?!). The locals had opened bastot (stalls) selling arak and lemonade and grilled corn on the cob. Music was pouring out of the bars and the streets were beginning to fill up.

We’d had enough and went home to watch reruns of Eretz Nehederet (It’s A Wonderful Country) satirical show which is more of reference point for many Israelis today than the well worn patriotic rituals.

Gidon Levy explained why he decided not to fly the flag this Independence Day. “…The flag became increasingly distant from me; the national flag became the flag of extreme nationalism” But as he admitted, all his neighbours, despite the despondency, were still flying the flag.

The flag I have was a freebie sponsored by a bank - another sign of the times. I'll tie it to a pole on the rooftop for tomorrow's Independence Day mangal (barbecue) with friends on the rooftop. Maybe it doesn't symbolise much pride anymore and maybe, at only 59, it already feels ragged and tatty, but it's still the only one we've got.

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