Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Independence Day

Today marks Israel's 62nd year as an independent country. There has never been peace. There will likely never be peace. At least not in any timeframe that feels worth talking about.

Of course, last night Israel celebrated the anniversary with ceremony, speeches, fireworks. In Israel, there are more festivities the night between Memorial Day and Independence Day than on both New Year's Eves combined (the Jewish and the calendar). Our neighborhood erected a stage in its center surrounded by rides for the children, acrobats, booths selling every kind of cake, cookie, drink, candy imaginable. For two hours, officials including Tel Aviv's mayor (who lives in our neighborhood) delivered speeches extolling their as much as Israel's accomplishments, followed by dance and singing performances put on by local children's groups includng the Scouts (Tsofeem), dance groups, school groups. Behind them all, video and pictures of army personnel, local heroes, interspersed with images from the dancing and crowds played on two giant screens. Fifteen minutes of fireworks followed. And all this just for our neighborhood! Afterward, my husband and I went to a nearby party for drinks, more food, dancing that went on well into the early hours of morning.

I love the entire two days for its earnestness. There is no irony in all this exhibition. I also am sad, because nothing changes. After sixty two years, nothing has changed, it seems to me. Israel exists but always on a precipice.

I included a brief poem written by poet Aryeh Sivan. Sivan has written 14 (14!) books of poetry and a novel. Today he was awarded Israel's highest literary honor, The Israel Prize. Very few of his poems have been translated into English. Sivan wrote the poem below more than 25 years ago. It could have been written today.

                To the memory of Zvi Hurvitz:
                 Pioneer, commander, and bereaved father.

To be cocked like a rifle, the hand
clutching a pistol, to walk
in a closed, harsh line, even after
the cheeks are filled with dust,
and the seared flesh is fallen away, and the eyes can no longer
focus on a target.

There is a saying: a loaded gun is bound to fire.
Not true.
In the Land of Israel, anything can happen:
a broken pin, a spring rusted through,

or, the sudden cancellation of your orders, without explanation,
as it once happened to Abraham on Mount Moriah.

Translation by M. Salomon

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