The impending outbreak of Israel's 60th Independence Day (coming up on May 8) obviously triggers all sorts of middle-aged contemplations that involve comparing the naive hopes of the youthful past with the complex realities of the over-ripe present and a very uncertain future. In the media we've mostly been subjected to a series of nostalgic flashbacks (like the 'A Song for 60' competition won, predictably by Yerushalayim shel Zahav.
But in the more thinking pages of Ha'aretz at least there are some interesting reflections on where we are where we might be going . Modi Bar On is a TV producer and presenter (who has the image of the ordinary Moti-like bloke) who specialises in using plain language and old footage to dissect Israel through his historical documentary programmes:
'Bar-On is 45. His disappointment with Israel's Independence Day, and the state, is inevitable. "Now, I spend the holiday mainly at home. We used to have a cookout on the lawn. If we happened to drive around, you could see fireworks everywhere. It's become just another one of those holidays, like New Year's Eve, when you 'have' to celebrate, but it doesn't really work... We are Lot's wife. We have become petrified by looking back." Click here for the entire interview.
The most scathing indictment of Israel at 60 (on the Zionist-Israeli side that is) must come from Advocate Ya'akov Weinrot, paradoxically an ultra-successful advocate of the rich and famous, whose clients have included Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu and billionaire/politician Arkady Gydamak. Surprisingly, Weinrot, who , it turns out, in his youth both studied in yeshivas and was a Marxist, spent most of his Ha'aretz interview bemoaning the rampant Thatcherization of Israel and the loss of all values and ideology to the destructive god of the free market. Here are a few extracts from a man who rubs shoulders with the real movers and shakers of Israeli society:"The kibbutz movement was cast aside because it was a central obstacle to the Golden calf, to the god of finance, to Dionysus who has turned into the real god. ... I am sure that the big ideas like equality, like comradeship, like solidarity, are ideas that cannot die, they are ideas that need to rise anew. The idea of equality will arise. The idea of equality must arise.... Thatcherism sees the free market as the main thing, the foundationof all foundations, the God of all gods. Not only does it erase all other values, it conquers the queen at home.... There is no government any more. Capital is the government. Capital rules the entire expanse of experience, it flows through all the hidden veins of society....Here there are about 10-15 families controlling about 55% of all resources. In such a situation, do you really think that decisions are made in the government complex?"
No surprise then that he always looks so unhappy.
The official celebrations have the somewhat Soviet-style theme of "strengthening the nation's children", weakened as they are by a diet of pop idol shows, junk food and sms messages. If you're interested in the official anniversary site in English , here it is. But when I googled, what came up was http://israels60thbirthday.com/ which is subtitled "60 years of Palestinian suffering". Don't read it if you're interested in an Independence Day barbecue untroubled by the thoughts of how Israel's creation was also the crushing and dispersion of Palestinian society.
Some of my more politically active acquaintances will spend Independence Day in Arab villages destroyed during or after the War of Independence, to acknowldege that the liberation of one people resulted in the naqba (disaster) of the other.
The Palestinians themselves are hatching all sorts of plans to spoil the Israeli party and bring attention to themselves. To give one example, more than 100,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are expected to march toward the border with Israel on May 14 in the context of the Palestinian Authority's plan to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel.
Troubled and guilt-ridden as well as happy and proud, we'll be on the rooftop with friends watching the flypast and the flottila, listening to the old songs on the radio and grilling our meat (and organic corn on the cob).
Happy Independence Day(naqba)!!