Sunday, May 04, 2008

Today, in Tel Aviv's Karmel market, we were buying a small teapot to serve us in the coming month. The vendor packed it into a small box. 'Enjoy it' she said, 'and a happy holiday to you. It's a festival this week you know!' she said with a big smile. 'Our day of independence! Come on, translate for her' she said, as she realized F. can't speak Hebrew. 'Our festival!'.

She was the first person I met so far to express a simple, straightforward joy about this Independence Day. Not that you could be blind to the fact it's coming. There are flags everywhere, small plastic flags as giveaway presents in the newspapers, courtesy of Israel's leading bank, huge electric-lit flags on Tel Aviv's skyscrappers. It's Israel's 60th birthday. Haven't your heard? Bush, Sarkozy and Merkel are all coming to blow off the candles.

Yes it's hard to miss the orchestrated national jubiliation. As the city wears flags and posters, the radio and television bombs us with upbeat nostalgia. The celebration is a patriotic duty; and there is something antagonistic about it, an act of defiance of a long list of enemies, adverseries, and anyone who refuses to accept the complete rightousness of Israel and its most moral army in the world. Perhaps it is the nature of nationalistic holidays; perhaps it is worse here.

But this is what I liked about the vendor today, her joy seemed almost naive, and it was certainly not antagonistic, not directed against anyone. I don't know what's her personal story, but I know that for many people who immigrated here Israel was and still is - despite everything - a kind of a miracle that made their life possible. That they don't see that this independence meant the continuous and ongoing destruction of another people is a different matter.


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