Even Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, cannot pass without politics and the persistent conflict interceding into the country’s celebration. It is truly remarkable that even after 68 years, Israelis remain so wound up that even a momentary pause like Independence Day gets saturated with various political turns.
- The hottest political news addresses once again with whether or not the Zionist Union will or will not join a Unity Government and thus perhaps split the Party. At the same time, Netanyahu and Herzog can’t take a day off from political jabbing.
- One of the winners of this year’s Israel Prize, officially presented on this day, is Professor David Schulman, renowned scholar of religion, literature, and culture in southern India. He announces that he intends to give his monetary award money to an organization with which he has been working for over fifteen years, Ta’ayush, dedicated to Arab-Jewish partnership. He indicated that he almost refused the award because of the continuing occupation policy of the Government.
- Religious zealots choose Independence Day to once again march to the Temple Mount. They fail, but succeed in causing a predictable disruption.
- Politicians galore from the Prime Minister down choose this day to take a moment to revive various attacks at some of their political opponents.
- Charedi Jews do not even acknowledge the day despite the fact that by virtue of the existence of the State of Israel, their way of life and that of their families, for the most part, is thriving. They are living in a democracy with full rights and benefits with many of them still not pulling their full weight in the system.
- Israeli Arabs continue to use this day as the Yawm an-Nakba, Nakba Day or the Day of the Catastrophe; the day on which thousands of Arabs march demanding the resettling of the expulsion of Arabs in 1947-48. Israelis Arabs still do not feel sufficiently part of the country and society although all the polls have shown they prefer life in Israel to that on the West Bank. Israeli Arabs still suffer discrimination and inequality but the quality of their lives are improving and are far better than most of their counterpart’s.
Why can’t the one thing that one thinks about on Israeli Independence Day be that one worries that the bar-b-cue will collapse; that someone’s meat will get burnt; or that someone will run out of food because of surprise guests arrive?