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Galilee Diary: Independence Day II

Galilee Diary: Independence Day II

If you will it, it will not remain just a dream.
    -Theodor Herzl

So I had a little too much to drink at the Independence Day picnic and my head was spinning so I lay down on the grass for a minute…

There were sirens blaring and lights flashing, and the word went around that the prime minister of the State of Israel was making a surprise Yom Ha'atzma'ut visit to Shorashim. What excitement! Fortunately, our sound guy had set up a PA system for the kids' skit, so the PM was able to step up and immediately begin to speak.

"Chag Sameach to you all! I am very pleased to be able to address you, citizens of Shorashim, directly on this joyous day when we celebrate the 87th anniversary of the creation of the first independent Jewish state in two thousand years. And I want to thank you for your contributions to the difficult process of the past two decades. For it was just twenty years ago, in 2015, when we reached a crucial turning point in our history, when we chose a new leadership: a leadership of dialogue, of hope, a leadership that looked forward instead of backward, whose motto was not "never again!" but rather "what can we become?" You, the representatives of liberal Judaism, played a crucial role in the transformation that occurred. From a bleak time of stagnation and pessimism, of "no one to talk to (inside or out)," we moved to a mode of hope, of vision, of optimism worthy of the heirs of Herzl. And I do not exaggerate when I say that if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be where we are today!

"And where are we today? Let me recount the changes of these two decades:

  • The new leadership of twenty years ago, young and idealistic, led a large-scale community organizing effort that generated a national civil dialogue about the vision of the Jewish state, and shifted the discourse from one of fear and embattlement to a constructive search for solutions.
  • The messianism that had driven politics was transformed from one of romantic nationalism (blood and soil) to one of human redemption (tikkun olam).
  • A model of religion based on communities was accepted. The chief rabbinate and the entire government religious bureaucracy were dismantled, and religion moved to the private sphere.
  • The Jewishness of the state was clarified as primarily cultural (mainly language and calendar) and a major effort to eliminate discrimination against minorities was made. Residential and educational integration were part of this project.
  • These internal developments helped change the terms of the discourse with the Palestinians from one of competitive victimhood to one of cooperative development.
  • And so, agreement was reached to accept the partition of cis-Jordanian Palestine into two countries - Israel and Palestine, with mutual recognition, agreed borders, treaties governing refugees' claims, reciprocal guarantees of partial cultural autonomy for minorities on both sides of the border, and sharing of water and other resources. This was accompanied by a painful but constructive Truth and Reconciliation process to defuse historical resentments.
  • The rocky but ultimately successful process of democratization of other nations in the region, together with the settling of the Israel-Palestine conflict, allowed economic cooperation and cultural exchange that have enriched all of our lives and made Israel into a true "light unto the nations…"

And then a neighbor's kid tripped over me in the dark, and I was left with a splitting headache, and a vague memory of hope.

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