Imagine you live in a country where most things are new, and if they are not new they are very old.
Imagine you live in a country where you labour to build the institutions you need to live a life – your daughter’s high school, a center for child development, the local pizza store, a new system for emergency medicine, a software company.
In a recent speech, Mr Davis berated the Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, “for lacking the courage to take the steps” to advance the peace process, arguing that “I don’t understand the lack of strategy in Israel.” He also predicted an “apartheid state” unless Israel was able to achieve a two-state solution.
His remarks called a furor in the UK Jewish community, with many prominent UK Jews in public positions defending his remarks, noting that it was high time “that honest and open discussions” about Israel took place in the public arena.
Others Jewish leaders were chagrined or irritated and issued mixed statements, while only a very few, most notably Jonathan Hoffman of Zionist Federation and Lord Stanley Kalms, professed outright indignation.
Last week I had the privilege of attending an event at Mishkenot Shaananim in Jerusalem. Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” presented an evening together with Israel’s well known author Etgar Keret.
Today, while driving into town, I saw two little Arab girls walking to school. Ma’aleh, where I work, is situated on Shivtei Yisrael Street, which is pretty well the dividing line between east and west Jerusalem. I stopped at the traffic light and two little girls, aged about 11, crossed the road in front of me. They were wearing their school uniform – dark blue trousers and light blue three quarter length tunics. Each girl had glossy black hair braided down the length of her back. And suddenly I felt such a longing for peace.
Ephraim Kishon, the famous Israeli writer and director, once wrote: “Israel is the only country in which, between the happiest day of the year and the saddest one, you have exactly sixty seconds.” He was referring of course, to the juxtaposition of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, with Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.
Only sixty seconds between the happiest day and the saddest one? In emotional terms at least, it sometimes seems that way. On Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks, many of us who have spent all day attending memorial ceremonies, standing to attention during the siren, and visiting the cemeteries and army bases and kibbutzim of relatives and friends, wearily make our way home in the late hours of the afternoon. Towards evening, we take out our big Israeli flags (if we can remember where we stored them last year), and hang them out in front of our homes. In the national religious community, we change into dark blue trousers/skirt and a crisp white shirt, and we make our way to synagogue for the special evening prayers of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. There we will sing at the top of our voices, to thank God for giving us the State of Israel.
Last night I lit a memorial candle and placed it in my kitchen window. My tiny street was completely dark. The light from the candle flickered and bounced over all the doors and windows of the houses opposite. Such a little light, for such a big thing.
I grew up in a community almost entirely comprised of German Jews. They were refugees who came over to England either before the war, or after it. The surnames of my friends at shul were all German names: Frei, Beigel, Faber, Nussbaum, Hirsch, Schwarz, Felsenstein.