Friday, April 20, 2007

Independence Day

At this time of year Israel is bedecked with our national flag, the blue Magen David on white with a blue stripe at top and bottom, representing the tallit. The Magen David, although an ancient symbol of Jews and Judaism, only became a universally accepted Jewish symbol in the nineteenth century.
I put out our flags today, over our balcony, in readiness for Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) on April 24, as proclaimed by David Ben Gurion in 1948. The whole country is alive with blue waving flags.
Whenever I do this I remember my father putting out the British Union Jack in our house in the East End of London. He always did this early so that the anti-Semites, and there were many of them, wouldn't have another excuse to verbally attack us. It was necessary to show one's loyalty in order to be safe. Not a very strong advertisement for British tolerance.
The main celebrations here take place on the evening before Independence Day, according to Jewish tradition, and we have booked our annual place with friends at a nearby restaurant on the front by the sea to witness the fireworks in Netanya. I think every municipality in Israel has a fireworks show that night and some have large musical extravaganzas.
It gives me great pleasure to drive down the highway with this tangible symbol of our State flying behind me in the breeze. In the US, where Italians and Blacks drive around with the flags of their subcultures on their cars, it is noticeable that Jews do not drive around with the Israeli flag or the Magen David on their cars, because even in that most free and open society there is fear of too many enemies who might find this an excuse to attack an individual. Anti-Semitism is always there. Of course, in Europe it would be unthinkable to attract attention to yourself as a Jew in such an open display of Jewish pride, it could get you killed.
Only in Israel can one drive down the highway brandishing the Israeli flag and not think anything of it. Happy 59th birthday Israel!


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