Israel At 60

Yossi Klein Halevi reflects:

To be an Israeli at the time of the state’s 60th anniversary means to be resigned to living with insoluble emotional and political paradoxes. It means living with a growing fear of mortality, even as we celebrate our ability to outlive every threat.

We are still "the only country" — the only country whose borders are not internationally recognized, the only country whose capital city has no foreign embassies, the only country expected in negotiations to yield tangible assets in exchange for mere recognition of our existence, the only country on which a death sentence has been passed by some of its neighbors.

Terror enclaves impinge on our borders, while the threat of a nuclear Iran grows. Our wars have shifted from the battlefront to the home front. Perhaps only now, in our fitful late-middle age, do we realize how touchingly naïve it was for the Zionist movement to imagine normalizing the Jews by creating the only non-Muslim state in the Middle East, in a land holy to three competing faiths, in proximity to the world’s most coveted oil fields. We have allowed ourselves to be represented by a president accused of rape, a prime minister voted the most corrupt politician in the country, a deputy prime minister convicted of molestation, a former finance minister accused of massive embezzlement.

In our late middle age, most of us are wary of the notion of fulfilling the biblical imperative of becoming a light unto the nations. In our war against the suicide bombers, we proved that a consumerist society can defeat terrorists and reclaim its public space — a historic victory for the world, even if much of the world doesn’t know it. By being the front line against jihad, Israel is performing the work of tikkun olam, helping to heal the world.

One after another our ideological certainties have collapsed. The dream of "greater Israel" ended in the first intifada; the dream of "peace now" ended in jihad.

The left has won the argument over concessions; the right has won the argument over peace. For the first time since the Six-Day War, we are facing reality without ideological blinkers.

To be an Israeli at 60 means to acknowledge that our internal conflicts over identity can only be managed, not solved. We know our capacity for self-devouring, the Jewish yetzer harah (evil temptation). Within unbearable tension, we have created ease. The food is great, the humor beyond politically incorrect. Hebrew culture scandalizes the sacred and sanctifies the mundane. The musical encounter between East and West — elsewhere designated as "world music" — here is simply Israeli music. And in recent years, God has become a major protagonist of Israeli rock, confounding our notion of a nation divided between "secular" and "religious." The old sentimental patriotic songs are kept alive in mass sing-alongs around the country and by new hip-hop and reggae versions. The more desperate the situation becomes, the more exuberantly Israelis sing. It means being primed for surprise — an emergency airlift of a remote Jewish tribe, missiles on Tel Aviv, an Arab leader seeking peace in Jerusalem.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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