It was always THE ceremony, the heart of Israeli statecraft in the making. A few minutes before 8 P.M., we would gather in the living room around the old radio with its flickering green light, for the annual ritual of listening to the broadcast from Mount Herzl. My mother loved the ceremony very much, and therefore so did we.
The radio would bring us the distant voices. That of the host, the Knesset speaker, the description of the flag-bearers marching in unison, the wonderful enunciation of the greatest of Bible readers, Amikam Gurevitz; the words of the 12 torch-lighters - always including one Holocaust survivor, one social activist, the rabbi of choice, a bereaved father, a pet Druze and a Yemenite for decoration - until the purifying high point, the transfer of the flag into the keeping of some unit of the Israel Defense Forces.
We would try to guess which unit would receive the great honor that year. And so we heard the Knesset speakers down through the generations, effusive in their praise of us as Israel Radio microphones picked up the sound of the wind on the mountain. Ever since, I have made it a custom to watch the ceremony on television, in honor of my late mother and for the glory of the State of Israel.
The content is the same, but now with lasers and other lighting effects, the best technology and pyrotechnics in every hue. The wind can no longer be heard in today's more sophisticated microphones, but this year the mikes picked up a satanic act, a new wind, a chilling wind, which even the Information Center's oblivious propaganda cameras and the fine words of the Knesset speaker could not overcome.
The theme of this year's ceremony was mutual responsibility. How lovely for us. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin gave an impassioned and courageous speech decrying homogeneity and calling for equality and freedom of expression, praying - to the cheers of the crowd - that "we will be able to celebrate next Independence Day with Gilad Shalit." Then, between one "for the glory of the State of Israel" and another, something happened.
Yoel Shalit, the brother of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and his partner Ya'ara Winkler, suddenly shouted that the emperor has no clothes. The pair burst onto the center of the plaza, holding protest signs: "My father is a bereaved brother. I don't want to get there."
How do we know? Well, we almost did not. The Information Center did not want us to know. Its cameras ignored the incident, hiding the embarrassment as is the custom at similar ceremonies in less likable countries. The great show must go on and no agitated brother of a kidnapped soldier is going to spoil it. Suddenly, it emerged that we are not looking at a free broadcast, but rather at a sponsored one. Mutual responsibility? Only a theme. A prayer for Gilad Shalit? Only in the speeches.
And yet, fortunately, Tunisia-esque pictures were brought to us from Mount Herzl. Channel 10 broadcaster Shlomi Eldar, upset by the denial, exceeded his mandate to recite a description at the ceremony, and made sharp remarks against the concealment. His colleague, Chico Menashe, together with the producer of the broadcast, captured with unofficial cameras what really happened while the torch-lighters were uttering their platitudes.
Tahrir-like scenes from the sacred mountain. Jumpy photographs taken by a shaking hand, underground and subversive, show police and security men violently charging Yoel Shalit and forcibly carrying him away. The speaker, who had said a prayer just a moment before, did not come to his aid. Only the national reconciler, MK Tzipi Livni, went to calm him down.
These are the new clothes of the emperor who is fighting for Shalit - he has none. Yoel Shalit revealed his nakedness. What does Gilad Shalit's release have to do with prayer, Reuven Rivlin? Yoel Shalit decided to storm the heart of the fabricated consensus. That's not nice, Yoel. Don't disturb the order, by which your brother has been abandoned and by which the speakers speak.
The mass movement for his release, which is unparalleled in its hypocrisy and self-righteousness, never told the truth. No one said the only thing that should be said to the government: Release 450 prisoners to wherever they need to go.
Without meaning to, Shalit also revealed the fraud of television broadcasts in Israel: The Information Center, an unnecessary and defective body in a democratic country, shows you, on all the channels, only what it wants you to see. Israel at 63, let us recall, the only democracy in the Middle East.
On second thought, it was not an evil wind that burst Monday night through the microphones and cameras of Mount Herzl, but rather a courageous and subversive one whose time has come. In Basel, Theodor Herzl founded the state. And on Mount Herzl, the protest was born. Thank you, Yoel Shalit.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now