Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
Israeli cabinet minister: Iran may strike Israel as Trump turns screws on Tehran
Israel’s Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz said that Iran may attack Israel through its proxies, or even directly, in retaliation for the increased pressure brought on the Islamic Republic by the United States. Mr. Steinitz is a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet.
“If there’s some sort of conflagration between Iran and the United States, between Iran and its neighbors, I’m not ruling out that they will activate Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad from Gaza, or even that they will try to fire missiles from Iran at the State of Israel,” Steinitz told Ynet.
Most recently, the U.S. announced it was setting up Patriot missile batteries in the Mideast.
Last week, the U.S. declared that its sending the USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber squadron to the Mideast after it had received intelligence reports that Iran intended to attack U.S. forces in the region. The U.S. was not specific but reports later emerged that the intelligence might have concerned Iran moving short-range missiles by boat, possibly as a prelude to an attack.
On Wednesday, Iran threatened an ultimatum to European leaders that if the 2015 nuclear deal wasn’t revisited, it would restart uranium enrichment. Trump slapped additional sanctions on Iran also on Wednesday targeting the country’s iron, steel, aluminum and cooper sectors.
Those sanctions appear to be taking effect. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for unity to overcome conditions that he said could prove harder than during the Iran-Iraq war.
“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period,” Rouhani said. “But during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases.”
Rouhani is reportedly under pressure from Iranian hardliners after the U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal negotiated under his rule. (WIN) Staff
Islamic Jihad: Big Attack on Israel Will Be in the Summer
The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in Gaza has threated to renew its rocket attacks on Israeli targets if there is no progress in the discussions between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire, adding that week’s attacks were only a prelude to a major war against Israel in the summer.
Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the terrorist organization, stated on Saturday that “if Israel does not fulfill its part in the agreement of understandings for a ceasefire, the resistance has the means to compel it to fulfill the agreement.”
Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, are in the process on ironing out the details of a long-term ceasefire, which would entail an Israeli ease on the restrictions on Gaza in return for a cessation of the violence emanating for Gaza.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Friday spoke with UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov on the progress in talks.
In the meantime, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nahle told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news in an interview last week that he foresees an all-encompassing war with Israel that would include rocket fire on all Israeli cities.
The 60-hour Islamic Jihad attack on Israel last week got as far north as Be’er Sheba, but did not include Tel Aviv and its environs.
Nahle further claimed that Israel requested the ceasefire ahead of its Independence Day celebrations. Other reports say that it was Hamas that begged for the ceasefire following the significant blows Israel inflicted on it.
Relating to his organization’s cooperation with Hamas, Nahle said that the two groups coordinated all actions. “The Hamas and Islamic Jihad work shoulder to shoulder,” he said
The Lebanese Hezbollah terror group and his organization were cooperating, and that while his organization maintains contacts with Iran, Tehran was not involved in last week’s attacks on Israel, he claimed. . (United with Israel) Baruch Yedid
Netanyahu: I need more time to form government
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask President Reuven Rivlin for more time to form a new governing majority in the Israeli parliament, according to a statement issued by his Likud party.
In the April 9 Knesset election, Blue and White finished in a tie with the Likud, each winning 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament.
Under the Israeli system, the president – a ceremonial position – chooses who should get the first crack at forming a government.
Despite the tie between the two largest factions, President Rivlin chose Mr. Netanyahu because the incumbent prime minister received the support of a majority of members of Knesset (MKs) in consultations which took place at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to form a governing majority of 65 MKs.
Under Israeli law, the prime minister-designate is granted a 28-day period to form a government coalition, with the right to request a two-week extension.
Mr. Netanyahu is citing a busy period of time that included Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen, and Independence Day as reasons for his inability to consistently maintain contacts with other parties, in addition to the recent round of massive rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
The process of forming a new government includes reaching an agreement on policy guidelines with each of the partners. This coalition would include politically right-wing and religious parties.
Differences in policy among certain parties must be resolved, in particular between the two Haredi Orthodox factions – United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas – and Yisrael Beiteinu, which objects to what it views as religious coercion.
Last week, UTJ called off a meeting with the Likud on forming a coalition to protest the granting of work permits on the Jewish Sabbath for the Eurovision Song Contest, to take place in Tel Aviv this week.
Also at stake in the current talks is the distribution of ministerial positions in the Cabinet and prestigious posts in the Knesset. (WIN) Reuters
Israel TV: US won’t oppose extension of Israeli law to all West Bank settlements
The Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal will provide for all Israeli settlements to remain under Israeli rule in any permanent peace accord, and the administration will not oppose the extension of Israeli law to all West Bank settlements, an Israeli TV report claimed Sunday.
Some 400,000 Israeli Jews live in West Bank settlements, and the Trump plan will recognize that all those Israeli-settled areas “will remain in Israeli hands under a permanent accord,” the Channel 12 report said.
To that end, the report said, “the Americans will not oppose Israeli steps relating to the settlements.” Specifically, while the US will not explicitly back the formal “extension of Israeli sovereignty” to the settlements, or their “annexation,” the report said, it will not object to the “extension of Israeli law” to the settlements.
In the run up to last month’s elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised several times to variously “apply Israeli sovereignty” and/or “extend Israeli law” to all the settlements, and said he hoped he would be able to do so with American support. Sunday’s TV report said that were Israel to extend Israeli law to all the settlements, the US “won’t oppose, or will be okay with, or won’t make a fuss about” such a move.
Netanyahu is now expected to go ahead with just such a process, the TV report noted.
The report was unsourced, and did not include an American response. Administration officials have repeatedly dismissed ostensible leaks about the content of the plan in recent months as unfounded and unreliable.
By way of precedent, Israel in 1981 extended Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967. Seven weeks ago at a White House ceremony, with Netanyahu at his side, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation declaring it “appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights” and that “the United States recognizes that the Golan Heights are part of the State of Israel.”
The administration is set to publish its Israeli-Palestinian proposal next month, after Netanyahu puts together the multi-party coalition he is currently seeking to arrange. Trump’s senior White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has indicated that the plan will address all the core “final status” issues and serve as a detailed “starting point” for resolving the conflict. He has also indicated that it will not provide for a two-state solution — the traditional basis for attempts to resolve the conflict.
Sunday’s report said that under the Trump plan, major Palestinian cities and population centers in the West Bank would remain under Palestinian control.
The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, which it has described as an effort by the US to compel the Palestinians to “surrender” their rights. The PA has been boycotting the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
In the days just before his April 9 election win, Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty to all the settlements — both major blocs and minor outposts — and flatly ruled out Palestinian statehood, which he said would “endanger our existence.”
“I am going to apply Israeli sovereignty, but I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he told Channel 12 on April 6. “From my perspective, each of those settlement points is Israeli. We have responsibility [for them] as the government of Israel. I don’t uproot any, and I won’t transfer them to the sovereignty of the Palestinians. I take care of them all.”
That promise came a day after he told Channel 13 news that he had told Trump he would not evacuate “a single person” from any of the settlements.
Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights had prompted Netanyahu to look into settlement annexation, sources close to Netanyahu said at the time. The timing of such a move, they said said, would follow Trump’s presentation of his peace plan.
If the Palestinian Authority, as expected, rejects the Trump proposal, and Netanyahu says yes to it with certain reservations, the prime minister believes Trump “would give him backing and legitimization to annex or extend Israeli law to all West Bank settlements or at least some of the blocs,” the sources told Channel 13 at the time.
In an interview with Channel 13, he called Trump, “the best friend Israel has had” in the White House, and said the president respects his position, “as I respect his,” when he insists on something.
Over 400,000 Jews live in West Bank settlements. Another 200,000-plus live in East Jerusalem neighborhoods annexed by Israel after the 1967 war.
The prime minister’s stance flies in the face of Palestinian demands for statehood in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu has taken an increasingly hard line against Palestinian statehood, having accepted the idea in principle in a 2009 speech. (the Times of Israel) Staff
Private Investigator: Leifer functions like a normal woman
A private investigator who tracked alleged sex-offender Malka Leifer has said that during the two weeks he and his associates followed her, they did not witness anything that would indicate she does not function like a normal person.
Leifer is standing trial for extradition on 74 counts of sexual abuse in Australia against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer, but has for many years claimed to be mentally unfit to be extradited.
The 51st hearing in the case to determine whether she is indeed fit to stand extradition trial was scheduled for Sunday morning at the Jerusalem District Court, but the defense and prosecution teams agreed that the private investigators and other witnesses slated to give evidence could do so by written submission without cross-examination.
A new hearing was scheduled for Wednesday this week.
Only once these proceedings are completed can the extradition process itself begin, if indeed the judge rules she is fit to stand trial for that
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, one of the witnesses, private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi – who carried out a private investigation of Leifer in 2017 – said that his team had observed her for two weeks and that her behavior and functioning seemed perfectly normal.
“During the investigation, we saw that she was functioning like a normative woman and mother,” said Tzahi.
“She does the shopping, hosts her children on Shabbat, goes to the grocery store, goes to the post office, speaks a lot on the cell phone, laughs, converses with people – nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning,” he continued, adding that they had also witnessed her writing checks and paying bills.
Tzahi noted that Leifer does not work, but that she occasionally goes to Bnei Brak, alone by public transport, for various arrangements and also to meet with one of her children.
He also stated that during the entire two weeks his team had tracked her, they had not seen her husband once.
Attorney Yehudah Fried, who is representing Leifer, told the Post in response that Leifer’s mental health problems do not prevent her from basic functioning such as shopping, traveling and other such activities, but that stressful situations can lead to an eruption of her symptoms which severely debilitate her.
He added that prison officials who have observed Leifer, who has been incarcerated since February 2018, have stated that her mental health has been deficient during her time in prison.
Demonstration against Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem District Court
Manny Wakers and victims of Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem Court
Manny Waks, founder and director of the Kol V’Oz campaign group, said that the long length of the legal proceedings against Leifer in which extradition hearings themselves are yet to begin has “made a farce of the Israeli system in the eyes of many around the world.”
Leifer fled Australia to come to Israel in 2008, but legal proceedings against her only began in 2014. Following the private investigation into her conducted on behalf of the Jewish Community Watch organization, the police began its own investigation, arresting Leifer in 2018 on suspicion of feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.
“This ongoing saga needs to be wrapped up as soon as possible. It is continuing to raise questions regarding Israel’s judicial process, and is detrimentally impacting Israel’s international reputation. Of course, due process must be followed – but Leifer and her supporters must also not be allowed to have undue influence and to dictate terms,” said Waks.
He added that the police are currently investigating alleged interference in the legal proceedings against Leifer by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who is now under police investigation himself for allegedly threatening to fire Health Ministry officials if they did not produce a psychiatric evaluation declaring Leifer to be unfit for extradition.
Litzman has denied any wrongdoing.
“Due process is critical, but we need to ensure that justice is happening and that there aren’t any external parties impacting the case – as we have seen in the past,” Waks said. (Jerusalem Post)
Eurovision week kicks off with glitz and glamour in Tel Aviv
Eurovision festivities officially kicked off Sunday evening at the grand opening “orange carpet” in Tel Aviv.
All 41 contestants walked along the orange carpet laid out in Habima Square in the heart of Tel Aviv, posing for photos and greeting fans as well as local and international media.
“It’s amazing – Tel Aviv. It’s amazing!” exclaimed Kobi Marimi, Israel’s 2019 contestant, after stepping out onto the orange carpet. “Thank you for coming! We’ve been waiting for 20 years for Eurovision to come here, to Tel Aviv, to Israel, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
One by one the contestants from across Europe – and even Australia – stepped onto the carpet to screaming fans and hundreds of media outlets from around the globe.
All the traditional Eurovision glitz and glamor was on full display, including full-length ball gowns – on both men and women – head-to-toe sequins, sky-high heels, feathers and, in the case of Iceland’s Hatari – a whole lot of leather.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also strutted out onto the orange carpet with his wife, Yael, in a more staid dark suit.
“We are very happy that we have [the Eurovision] here,” Huldai told event host Noa Tishby. “And everybody’s happy, aren’t they?” he questioned, gesturing to the cheering crowd.
The first contestant to step onto the carpet was Tamta from Cyprus, who told interviewers that she’s “so excited, and happy to be here.”
France’s Bilal Hassani said his song’s message was important for people around the world.
“‘Roi’ is a song about self-love, about self-acceptance. It’s a message that’s very important to me,” he said. “When the song came out we realized that the message was way wider than me, it went above me, and many people from all over the world were very touched by it. And that became very important to me.”
Finland’s Sebastian Rejman said that “It’s been such a great week [here in Israel], and now we’re closing in on the competition – so I’m excited to get up on stage and do what we came here to do.”
Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv,
Italy’s Mahmood said he’s been loving the weather in Tel Aviv, and is hoping, on his day off on Monday, “to visit either Jerusalem or the Dead Sea.”
The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence, who is the favorite to win the contest, said he thought Tel Aviv “was so beautiful.” Asked about the pressure on him as the front-runner, he said, “I see it as a big compliment. It’s the biggest compliment you can get when you perform at Eurovision.”
The 41 contestants weren’t the only ones to show up on the star-studded orange carpet outside the Habima Theater.
The evening kicked off with a performance by Orna and Moshe Datz, who represented Israel at the Eurovision in 1991. The pair sang a rendition of their Eurovision song “Kan,” and were joined by singer and dancer Stephane Legar, along with a crew of backup dancers.
Eleni Foureira, who represented Cyprus last year and was Barzilai’s biggest competition for the top prize, also showed up on the orange carpet. She will perform in a musical number at the grand finale on Saturday night.
The four Eurovision hosts, Erez Tal, Bar Refaeli, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub, made their appearance at the very end of the evening.
And the 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai also stepped out on to the orange carpet, with three assistants holding the long train of her white gown. Barzilai walked out to the tune of her newest single, “Nana Banana,” which was released on Friday.
“This is overwhelming, I didn’t get it until right about now,” Barzilai told Tishby as she looked out on the crowd and media. “This is insane. Everybody is here. We brought everybody here!”
The first live semi-final will be held on Tuesday evening at Expo Tel Aviv, when 17 countries take the stage. The first full dress rehearsal will take place on Monday evening, which is the first event of the week to which KAN sold tickets. As of Sunday afternoon, at least 2,000 seats to that show were still available.
The grand finale – tickets to which sold out within hours – will be held in Tel Aviv on Saturday. (Jerusalem Post) Jeremy Sharon
Iranian judo officials agree to end decades-long boycott of Israeli athletes
In a historic move, Iranian judo officials have agreed to stop boycotting Israeli athletes on the mat, ending a practice that had drawn criticism against Tehran in the sporting world.
In a letter to the International Judo Federation published Saturday, Iran’s Olympic Committee and local Judo Federation agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.”
In a statement, the IJF said the letter came after several rounds of talks regarding the “disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” which it said was related to Iran trying to avoid meeting athletes from certain countries.
Neither Iran nor the IJF specifically mentioned Israel, but Iranian athletes have on several occasions forfeited matches to avoid facing Israelis, who have become increasingly relevant in the sport on the world stage.
Iran’s sports policy is an outgrowth of the country’s official refusal to recognize Israel. Its leaders routinely encourage the demise of the Jewish state and the countries are considered arch foes.
In February, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei threw a match at the Paris Grand Slam to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki in the next round by feigning an injury, ending his chance at a gold medal. He then recovered to win his bronze medal match, but feigned another injury to avoid standing on the podium with Muki.
According to Israel’s Army Radio, the IJF had threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, including the Olympics, if it did not agree to fight Israelis.
On Saturday, Muki won gold at the Baku Grand Slam, likely securing his place at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The IJF has in recent years stepped up pressure on Muslim boycotts of Israeli athletes, including refusals to host them or shake hands.
In 2018, the body stripped international competitions from the UAE and Tunisia over their refusal to allow Israelis to compete as Israelis.
The UAE later relented, resulting in the anthem Hatikvah being played in the country for the first time last year after Muki won the gold in the under-81 kg category.
Iran has had a long-time policy of avoiding Israelis in athletic competitions, frequently at the expense of its own competitors. An Iranian swimmer refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli at the Beijing Olympics and in the 2004 Athens Games, an Iranian judoka refused to face an Israeli, resulting in his disqualification.
In February, after Mollaei threw the match in Paris, Iranian athletics chief Davoud Azarnoush said he hoped “Israel will be wiped out and annihilated before the next Olympic games, and all of us will breathe a sigh of relief,” according to Radio Farda.
In the letter to the IJF, the Iranian sports officials said they were negotiating with Iran’s parliament “to identify proper legal resolutions,” seemingly in order to rescind the unofficial ban on competing against Israelis.
Iranians athletes have increasingly found themselves caught between domestic officials, who may punish them for competing against Israelis, and international officials, who will punish them if they forfeit matches. In recent years, an increasing number of Iranian athletes and coaches have spoken out against the policy.
The last competition between Iranian and Israeli teams on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine.
The regime in Iran routinely encourages the demise of Israel, and funds, arms and trains terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza that avowedly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. Israel has led international opposition to the 2015 P5+1 powers’ deal with Iran, which was intended to prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapons arsenal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Iranians of lying about their nuclear weapons program and successfully lobbying US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord. (the Times of Israel) Joshua Davidovich
Swedish-Israeli NASA astronaut Jessica Meir gets ready for her first trip into space
Jessica Meir has been preparing to go into space since the age of 5. She attended her first space camp after finishing middle school and a training program at the Kennedy Space Center following her sophomore year at Brown University.
It took Meir three tries to be chosen for NASA’s highly selective astronaut training program, which she started in 2013 and from which she graduated two years later. Last month, NASA announced that Meir will be participating in her first mission.
It still feels surreal, she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone interview from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“[When] I’m sitting on that rocket about to launch, it’s really going to be then that it finally sets in,” the 41-year-old astronaut said.
On Sept. 25, Meir will co-pilot a Russian Soyuz spacecraft launching from Kazakhstan with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. They will be joined by Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.
Meir, the daughter of a mother from Sweden and an Iraqi-Israeli father, holds Swedish and American citizenship. She will be the first Swedish woman, the fourth Jewish woman and the 15th Jew overall to be part of a space mission.
The mission will go to the International Space Station, where Meir will perform a range of physiological, medical and chemistry experiments to better understand the ways in which being in space affects humans. Meir also hopes to do some exploring outside the space station.
“I’m very excited to participate in the science. And also the other big thing personally, my dream has always been to go for a spacewalk,” she said. “There’s never a guarantee — things can always change with the mission when we get up there — but right now per the current plan I will be doing spacewalks as well.”
Meir has spent the last year preparing for the mission. That includes learning Russian and training trips to Russia. She has run on an anti-gravity treadmill used to prevent muscle loss in space. She’s had to analyze her food intake and there’s been a range of medical tests.
She documents it all on her Instagram page.
The youngest of five children, Meir spent her childhood in Caribou, Maine, though her parents grew up far from there. Her late father was born in Iraq but immigrated with his family to prestate Israel as a young child, later fighting in the country’s War of Independence in 1948. He went on to become a doctor and take a job in Sweden, where he met Meir’s mother, a nurse who was raised in a Christian Swedish family. The couple moved to Maine when Meir’s father was offered a job there.
Though Meir’s mother did not convert, the family identified as Jewish and attended synagogue in the nearby town of Presque Isle. Living in a mostly Christian town, Meir felt different at times but did not experience anti-Semitism.
She says being Jewish is an important part of her identity.
“Personally I’m not really a religious person,” she said, “but I think that my Jewish cultural background is obviously a big part of my culture and especially traditions.”
Astronauts are allowed to bring a number of personal items to the International Space Station. Two among my Meir’s choices: an Israeli flag and a pair of socks with menorahs. (She is a big fan of novelty socks and will include several pair among her possessions headed for the station.)
Her piccolo, too. Meir, a music lover who also plays the piano, flute and saxophone, settled on bringing the instrument because of its small size.
Meir isn’t sure what triggered her interest in space travel. As a child, she didn’t know anyone who worked for NASA.
“Growing up, if you asked any of my childhood friends, or any of my college friends, or anywhere all the way through, people always talked about that with me, they always knew that was my thing, that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
As part of her postdoctoral work at the University of British Columbia, Meir spent some time in the Antarctic studying a different type of flight — that of the bar-headed goose. She had previously researched oxygen depletion in diving emperor penguins in the Antarctic, so the topic wasn’t entirely off course.
One thing that stands out to Meir about her mission is the international cooperation that made it possible, including at the International Space Station, a joint project of the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada.
“To have that opportunity to be living and working in Russia, and training alongside the cosmonauts and launching with the Russians,” she said, “that to me, it’s really pretty amazing, especially given the climate today.” (JTA) Josefin Dolsten
Israeli Resilience: Dodging Missiles on Sunday, Dancing in the Streets on Thursday
Resilience was on resplendent display throughout the past week, culminating in the Independence Day celebrations on Thursday.
by Herb Keinon The Jerusalem Post
While a good part of the country sat leisurely around the barbecue on Thursday waiting for the burgers to sizzle and the steaks to get medium rare, Sunday never felt so far away.
Last Sunday, that is. That day when hundreds of rockets pounded Ashdod and Ashkelon and Sderot and Nir Am. That day when four of our countrymen were killed by indiscriminate rocket fire just because they were, well, our countrymen.
Three days, only three days, separated dread about whether we were on the verge of sending our children into Gaza to fight a full-blown war, and a day when the main concern had to do with the inconsiderate guy on the next barbecue over playing his music too loudly.
Last Sunday, residents of communities around the Gaza Strip were worried about whether they would be able to shepherd their children into bomb shelters in under 20 seconds; on Thursday, the concern for many of them – like for so many of their compatriots – was about whether they could get a parking place at one of the crowded picnic areas across the land.
On Sunday, the country’s mood and feel was heavy and depressed. On Thursday, it was light and carefree.
And all that was separated by just three days.
Much has been written over the years about the whiplash emotional switch this country makes each year when it goes from the grief of Remembrance Day – full of heartrending ceremonies at cemeteries, tear-inducing tales of lives snuffed out too soon on the television and somber music on the radio – immediately into the joy of Independence Day, with its singing and dancing and fireworks and overall silliness on the street. It is a collective journey from grief to joy in no time flat.
The ability to make that switch throughout the year – not just to make it while marking our national days in the current Hebrew month of Iyar – is this country’s great strength. The ability to shift from a near war footing one day to a country that feels softly at ease the next is one of the secrets of Israel’s success. It is the ability to move on and not be paralyzed by fear or grief or pain or a sense of victimhood.
It’s called resilience, and it was on resplendent display throughout the week, culminating in the Independence Day celebrations on Thursday.
The Israeli people, especially the two million who live within immediate rocket range of the Gaza Strip, could have been excused for taking a pass on this year’s Independence Day celebrations. They could have been excused for staying in bed, withdrawing inward, for pessimism, for not eating – for showing signs of collective depression.
But they didn’t – because what good would any of that do? They didn’t, because to respond in that way is simply not Israel’s style.
Thursday’s picnics in the forests, the parties on the beaches, the thanksgiving prayers in the synagogues and the visits to army installations, all those routine acts we perform on Independence Day, took on a bit more meaning this year, coming – as they did – just days after that most recent attempt by our enemies to shut down the Zionist enterprise.
The message those mundane and simple acts sent was clear: Israel will not be stopped. Not by rockets from Gaza, not by terrorist tunnels from Hezbollah and not by Iranian entrenchment in Syria. It will not be stopped today, just as it was not stopped over the last 71 years by wars or terrorism or fierce external hostility or sharp internal discord.
At 71, this country – if it has proven anything – has proven that it marches on.
Seven hundred rockets fired from Gaza last weekend? Never mind, we’ll party on Wednesday night and all day Thursday, reveling in our independence. Because what else are we going to do? Mope? Sulk? Feel sorry for ourselves? Lament our fate? No, that’s not how Israel responds.
Instead, we protect ourselves to the best of our ability – an ability that is simply mind-boggling when placed in the larger sweep of Jewish history – and march on. And, 71 years later, this country has shown that it can march on better than most.