Tuesday, May 02, 2006

יום העצמאות - Israel turns 58 - Iyar 5, 5766

A few hours ago, many people in Israel began their celebrations of Independence Day. To mark the occasion, Ha'aretz has published a number of reflections on the country's achievements and failures. Here are just a few of them.

Bradley Burston, left-of-center advocate for Israeli Anglophones, invites us all to "begin the next Israel" in a piece titled "Leftists who love Israel" He admonishes both those on the right and the left to come to terms with that entity. Burston also gave a little shout out to the Bay area:
Let the left be resigned. It won't be the Jew-free West Bank that Jews in Berkeley might like to see.
Tony Judt writes about "The country that wouldn't grow up" - a critique that we should all take seriously, though I still think he lacks a certain kind of sympathy and perspective. Furthermore, the charge that
the State of Israel remains curiously (and among Western-style democracies, uniquely) immature.
to me typifies the view of the European and American (Jewish or non-Jewish) liberal who is terribly out of touch with what is going on either in Israeli society or in the larger Middle Eastern context. Israel is simply not a European country!

I recently read some reflections by Tom Segev about remarks made by the conductor Daniel Barenboim on BBC, which I think are pertinent:
To illustrate the European nature of Israeli society, [Barenboim] told this anecdote: When the violinist Jascha Heifetz came to play in Israel, the taxi driver asked him which cadenza he would include in a certain Beethoven concerto.

But that was in the 1950s. Today a man like Heifetz wouldn't take a taxi and the driver wouldn't be able to talk to him about cadenzas. Because in the years after Barenboim's childhood in Haifa and Tel Aviv, Israel has taken on a clearly Middle Eastern character: Mizrahiyut has become a part of its identity. Evidently, citizen of the world Barenboim isn't aware of this. He rightly calls for more teaching of the Arabic language, but very many Israelis are currently fluent in Arabic. Many of them learned the language during their army service in the territories, and their knowledge of the language didn't do much to give them more of an affinity for the Palestinians. Similarly, the Hebrew that Palestinians learn as prisoners in Israeli jails doesn't endear Israel to them that much, either.
Yoel Marcus also has some nice things to say in "A doozy of a country."

Anyway, I hope you have a happy Independence Day!

2 comments:

John said...

well, i think he's wrong about his claim that many israelis speak arabic. even most mizrahim don't speak arabic anymore. army service actually doesn't help a lot of people acquire more than a smattering. on the palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, actually, there is a quite a number who've become curiously more understanding of Israel and have learned Hebrew through their stint in prison.

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