Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy Birthday !!


Sixty years ago today - by the Hebrew calendar - the State of Israel was declared by Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.

Twenty three years ago today - by the secular calendar - my son Yehuda was born, also in Tel Aviv.

So I wish to wish both Israel and Yehuda a happy birthday.

But I decided to leave Israel - 19 years ago now - partly to save Yehuda from Israel. Even then, one could see the closed mindedness of most Israelis when it came to Palestinians (though then most Isarelis still called them simply "aravim" - Arabs.) Most Israelis where happy to live there lives and simply ignore what was going on in the occupied territories - the land grabs, the water rationing, the separate development, the high unemployment. Most Israelis where happy to benefit from cheap Arab labour, as long it was hidden - in the back rooms of restaurants and hotels or on construction sites. Most Israelis never noticed that Arab neighbourhoods - even in mixed Jewish Arab cities within the old pre-67 Israel, where run down and lacked basic infrastructure and services found in Jewish neighbourhoods. Most Israelis where surprised when the first intefada broke out!

I had decided to leave even before the first intefada broke out, but when it did I changed my mind (for awhile.) I was sure (how naive I was) that now, finally, the majority of Israelis would see and realize how unjustly they where treating Palestinians, and move to correct that. Of course I was wrong, and even though the first intefada was a true popular uprising, using demonstrations and stones and strikes - not guns - it only hardened the heart of most Israelis, or at least the government. Yitzhak Rabin famously promised to "crush the bones" of Palestinian demonstrators.

A lot has changed in the 19 years since I left Israel. One million Russian Jews have immigrated to Israel. The economy has boomed. Israeli culture has thrived. The economic situation of the Palestinians has gotten worse. The security situation of Israelis Jews has gotten worse. The security situation of the Palestinians has gotten worse.

And my son Yehuda has grown into a fine young man. He has good progressive values. He is smart. And he is hard working and ambitious - though not always fields that make me comfortable.

His Hebrew skill have faded - though not entirely. He led a fantastic seder just a few weeks ago: with his non-Jewish girl friend at his side.

I don't really know how (not what) he feels about Israel - though I am sure whatever it is it is less intense than what I feel. That is - after all - sort of what I wished for him when we moved away. Not to get caught up in the "bad karma" of Israeli society. And he hasn't.

So, happy birthday Israel. May you live up to the dreams of your founders.

And, happy birthday Yehuda. May you live up to the dreams of your father.

I wish the best for both of you.

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