At 68, Israel Is Growing Comfortable in Its Own Skin
We are just completing the emotionally intensive and exhausting week that begins with Holocaust Remembrance Day, and ends with its equal and opposite emotional bookend, Israeli Independence Day.
In between, immediately preceding Yom Ha-Atzmaut is Israel’s saddest national day, Yom Ha Zikaron, Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers and victims of terrorism.
Every year, much is written about the cycle of these days — about their significance individually and in conjunction with each other. Many of those observations are timeless and perennially relevant: insights into sanctifying loss, the awareness of what we have suffered and what we have gained.
One thing, however, that might be more timely, more relevant to this year, is the ever-so-subtle, yet unmistakable, sense of Israel’s maturation: our assuming of responsibility, our coming into our own.
This coming of age has two facets – the letting go and the stepping up.
Like many 68-year-olds, we have learned to let go of things that we cannot change. We are less and less wringing our hands about the reality that there is no peace to be had with Palestinian Arabs, and are increasingly willing to entertain Plans B (C,D, etc) to the so-called “two-state solution.”
We are less inclined to jump through hoops to gain the elusive favor of those in the West who will forever apply double standards to our policies and actions.
We see in the BDS movement a toxicity and classic Jew-hatred that ultimately will wreak far more havoc on the haters than on us. Are we willing to engage it? Of course. Is it giving us existential nightmares? Hardly.
We have seen that our pursuing our own interests without fear of disapproval from our alleged friends has had some amazingly positive consequences: the de facto alliance with the Sunni Arab world and our growing economic and political ties with the East – China, India, Japan and Vietnam, most particularly.
We are, in short, learning to look at ourselves in the mirror and no longer seeing either the 98- pound weakling of galut (exile) self-perception, or the scrappy country, in your face, with something to prove.
From upstart nation, we are now startup nation, the innovative, the protective and the secure.
Crucially, we understand that we are now the fiduciaries, the bearers of the flame of the Jewish people in the world.
Part of this is a demographic reality. We are a plurality, soon to be a majority of the world’s Jewish population. This is happening to some extent because of Jews making aliyah, but much more so by the amazing natural growth of a people ever more comfortable in their own skin.
Israel’s birth rate is one of the highest, perhaps the highest, in the Western world. That in and of itself speaks volumes for the sense of comfort, mission and affinity Jewish Israelis have for their nation.
Another part of it is the sense that, with all of our problems, we have found some kind of a “secret sauce” for the surviving and thriving of the Jewish people in the 21st century.
While we look askance and with considerable distress at the intermarriage and assimilation rampant in the US Jewish community, at the same time, we point with pride to the widespread intermarriage of Ashkenazim with Sephardim, Sephardim with Mizrahim, within Israel.
We have met the Other, and he (or she) is Us.
All of this is increasingly producing our own indigenous culture; not the Israelized version of European culture, but a true blend that is rooted in the experience of growing up and living here.
Israel at 68 arguably represents something not seen in Jewish history since the reign of King Solomon: a normative society, rooted in Jewish tradition, engaging with the world, and projecting with growing confidence that we are not only here to stay, thank you, but, as Jews, we are also here to contribute to the affairs of the world.
Make no mistake; we have much still to address, to redress, to solve and to fix. But at 68, Israel is unmistakably on the right path — its own path; the path that, if maintained, promises to bring us closer to the comforting and inspiring prophecies of our ancient forebears.