Posted by Emily Chrapot on 15 April 2010 at 1:52pm
I have just returned from a trip to Israel, and as the country approaches it’s 62nd Independence Day, I have reflected on what independence means to my perception of Israel.
As someone who has only ever known a time when Israel existed (I was born just after Israel’s 35th Independence Day), it is hard for me to step into the shoes of someone who remembers what the world was like before the establishment of the State.
When I try, I am reminded of a story I heard while visiting the Palmach Museum a few years ago. The story tells of a young Palmach member, who had managed to make his way to Palestine before the outbreak of World War II. When the war was over, the Palmach took Holocaust survivors by boat to Palestine. By chance, the young man was reunited with his sister, who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust but bore the scars of seeing her entire family taken away to the camps, never to return.
As the boat approached the harbour in Haifa, a British Naval patrol spotted them and asked for authorisation. The Palmach, raising the Israeli flag high above the ship declared, “we do not need authorisation to enter our own country”. The boat was subsequently captured and the survivors were taken off at the port in Haifa where they were put onto another boat to take them to jail in Cyprus. This was a crushing blow to people who had already endured years trapped inside four walls.
The young man said that his sister had taken only twenty steps onto Israeli soil but this was enough for her to know she was at home. The story touched me so much that I have never forgotten it.
It is stories like these that remind us why independence is so important, why the very existence of the State of Israel is so important.
But what does all of this mean today? Perhaps not knowing a world without Israel has allowed me to take the country for granted. I spend much of my time writing about Israel and the way in which the world sees her, that I often forget that how the country actually functions on an internal level.
Perhaps one of Israel’s most celebrated authors Amos Oz put it best when he said, “If you compare Israel to the magnitude of its dreams, it is a disappointment. But this is not about the nature of Israel; it’s about the nature of dreams. Israel is a dream come true, and as such it is destined to taste sour – because it is fulfilled.”
But perhaps he got it wrong. Perhaps, it is not destined to taste sour at all. Either way, I know that when it comes time to sing the Hatikva at this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations, I will happily sing about the two thousand years that as Jews we never lost the hope “to be a free people in our own land”, and celebrate the 62 years since that hope was realised.
Please join us at the Yom Ha’atzmaut Community Concert on Monday 19 April 2010 at the Arts Centre. Click here for more details.
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