HaTikvah: “The Hope,” Not Yet Fulfilled
From sunset on April 15 till sunset of April 16 is the day that in Hebrew is called “Yom Ha’Atzma’ut,” usually translated “Israeli Independence Day.”
I am writing with some thoughts about how to observe this day, keeping clearly in mind as we do two major shadows upon its celebration.
One is a warning from the Torah, to which we shall return.
The other is our awareness that for many Palestinians this day is a day of disaster, the Naqba, when from their point of view the shattering of their society began.
Can we hold two emotions and two realities in our hearts and minds at the same time? Even in the highest joy of a wedding, Jews pause to shatter a glass so as to mourn the truth that the world is broken. Even in the midst of our celebration of freedom in the Pesach Seder, Jews pour wine from our cups to mourn the disasters that befell our oppressors in Egypt and their innocent children.
Can we celebrate and grieve at the same time? Can we celebrate the emergence of an Israel committed at the start to equality for its Jewish and Palestinian citizen-communities as well as to a special relationship with Jewish history, Jewish values, and the Jewish people — while mourning the truth that Palestinian society was deeply wounded in the process of creating Israel?
Can we celebrate the aspects of Israeli society that did give new energy to some Jewish values, while vigorously opposing the oppressive military occupation that has perverted Jewish values by preventing the emergence of a free sister state of Palestine?
Can we assert that The Hope expressed in the anthem HaTikvah, of a free Jewish comnmunity living in its storied, memoried land, cannot be fulfilled in freedom till the Palestinian people has a state of its own as well, living free and peaceful alongside Israel? That till then, The Hope curdles on the tongue that sings it?
These “political” danger-flags (read, “spiritual” dangers that face an entire society, not merely individuals) are cut from the same cloth as poignant warnings in this passage of the ancient Torah:
‘(This translation is by Everett Fox, whose The Five Books of Moses [Schocken, 1995] is the best effort to deliver the word-plays and breathing patterns of the Hebrew into English. The broadening of God’s gender and the insertion of “Yahh” or “YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh” or “Interbreathing of all life,” etc. after “YHWH” are my own.)
Deuteronomy 8: 7-20
When YHWH [Pronounce by breathing YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh]
[The Interbreathing-spirit of all life, The Hurricane of Change]
brings you into a good land,
a land of streams of water, springs and ocean-flows,
issuing from valleys and hills;
a land of wheat and barley, (fruit of the) vine, fig, and
a land of olives, oil and honey,
—-a land in which you will never eat bread in poverty;
you will not lack for anything in it —
a land whose stones are iron,
and from whose hills you may hew copper:
When you eat, and you are satisfied,
you are to bless
YHWH [Yahh ] your God
for the good land that S/He has given you.
lest you forget YHWH your God,
by not keeping the commandments, the regulations, and the laws
that I command you today,
lest (when) you eat and are satisfied,
and build goodly houses and settle (there),
and your herds and your flocks become-many
and silver and gold become-much for you,
with all that belongs to you becoming-much —-
that your heart become haughty
and you forget YHWH [The Interbreathing of all life] your God,
the one who brought you out from the [Tight and Narrow] land of Egypt,
from a house of serfs
Now should you say in your heart:
My power and the might of my hand have produced all this
wealth for me;
then you must bear-in-mind YHWH [Yahh] your God,
that S/He was the one who gave you the power to produce wealth.
in order to establish His covenant that She swore to your forebears, as
(is) this (very) day.
Now it shall be
if you forget, yes, forget YHWH [The Breathing-spirit of the world] your God
and walk after other gods,
serving them and prostrating yourselves to them,
I call-witness against you today
that perish, you will perish;
like the nations that YHWH [Yahh] is causing to perish before you,
so shall you perish,
because you did not hearken to the voice of YHWH [Yahh] your God!
Notice the rhythm of a spiritual/political journey: “The land is glorious and fruitful; we start thinking we have done it all ourselves; result, disaster.” We might explore: At what stage in this journey are the Israeli community? Its Jewish citizens? Its Palestinian citizens? Its government? The Palestinians over whom it rules by military occupation and blockade? Have some in either people prostrated themselves to aspects of life that begin as instruments of good but become destructive when we worship them as Ultimates? What might these idols be?
For some Israelis, the image of their country as standing utterly alone in a sea of enemies and make-believe friends — has turned from an intensity of fear after the trauma of the Holocaust into a fetish, an idol, of arrogance and domination — as in “Now if you say in your heart: My power and the might of my hand have produced all this wealth for me … ”
All of us who have an ecological sensibility know this is true of no person, no nation, no species. We all feed each other, we all breathe each other.
For years now, for me and for many of us, the notion that Israel or any other country can stand utterly alone has seemed not only spiritually but politically and physically dangerous. The myth of “standing alone” becomes a self-fulfilling, self-defeating disaster. It creates the reality of alienating others until a person or a country does indeed make aliens or enemies of its neighbors and its ecosystem.
The impulse to “stand alone” to subjugate the Earth and the impulse to “stand alone” to subjugate another people come from the same place. And lead to the same place; the place described by the end of the Torah passage.
Besides reading and discussing the Torah portion above, we suggest observing Yom HaAtzma’ut by drawing on several passages, poems, and songs from “Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah,” at — https://theshalomcenter.org/node/186
It was originally written to use during Passover, but much of it seems appropriate for reading and sharing during and after Yom HaAtzma’ut.
One of its passages:
THE FOUR CHILDREN
Four children bring different questions to the Seder table tonight:
The angry child asks, “Why should I compromise?”
And we answer that we choose the route of compromise because the alternative is the mutual destruction, both moral and physical, of our two peoples. If we fail to compromise, we will lose a vision of the future for our children.
The naive child asks, “Why can’t we just love each other?”
And we answer that neither of us can live as if history has not happened. Unfortunately, too much blood has already been shed on both sides. It takes time to build trust.
The frightened child asks, “How can I be safe?”
And we answer that we are both afraid. “How can I be safe if my brother or sister is not safe?”
The wise child asks, “How can we take the steps that walk in peace, toward peace?”
This is the question we wrestle with tonight. But this is a question that goes beyond tonight. For in each one of us lives all four children: Each of us bears in our own belly the angry one, the frightened one, the naive one, the wise one. Which of these children shall we bring to birth?
Only if we can deeply hear all four of them can we truthfully answer the fourth question.
Songs of peace between Ishmael and Isaac, and between Hagar and Sarah, are recorded on The Shalom Center’s CD “Sing Shalom!” It is available as a thank-you gift from The Shalom Center for a donation which you can make by clicking on the Donate banner in the left-hand column.