The days between remembrance days fill with hot air and cliche. Independence Day itself generates its own share, and heads of state may exchange drafts of their speeches and nobody will know who is giving the speech, because they all sound the same.
Cliches are but coins - some worn out, some counterfeit - that are no longer legal tender. The smaller the change the bigger the words. Those who have no message to sell us will float their words like balloons or fireworks so that people will look up in the sky and not see what is happening on earth.
All the cliches pass by our heads like background noise and our ears no longer hear their muzak. Who still listens to "only here do we understand why Israel must be strong?" Really? Only there? Must we go all the way to the Valley of the Shadow of Death to understand? Some add, "We can depend only on ourselves," as though the might of the Jewish nation alone defeated Nazi Germany. True, the Allies didn't go out of their way to save Jews, how shamefully inert of them, but they were the ones who subdued the devil and suffered tens of millions of victims.
Anyone who takes part in the March of the Living proclaims his victory over Hitler just by being there. This week I heard on television that it was Chelsea - under Israeli tutelage - that took revenge on Hitler by beating Liverpool. Heroes, in or out of uniform, shouldn't boast. Only survivors risen from ashes may boast a sense of private victory.
"In dying they willed us to live" is another favored stale cliche. Is this the life the dead willed? In the absence of a clear answer, we may only imagine. Every soldier killed wanted to hope he was the last, every soldier killed hoped his memory would be respected not only in ceremonies but in customs: less ostentation, more humility, less corruption and more good deeds, less selfishness and more partnership. And this is not the life we're leading.
The rememberance days are gone, independence time is here, and we must rejoice, by commandment. When Bank Hapoalim is issuing the flag and Ruhama Avraham Balila is fixing the flagstaff, it's hard to feel joy, and not only in Sderot. What's to be happy about when a row of officials under investigation stands on the central stage, with an entertainment troupe of confused pensioners, emerging for their show from the belly of a Trojan golden calf.
The glory and joy of our independence does not derive from publicity and ads, rallies and proclamations; it should flow, not be staged. Joy is like a fountainhead, not a spilled bedpan.
On Wednesday the film "The Sand and the Sea," by Ronen Zaretzky and Yael Kipper, which was produced for Channel 8, was broadcast. It was the best documentary I've seen in recent years. I will never forget the creators and their protagonists for plunging me into nostalgia.
The film's heroes are Yitzhak "Ike" Aharonovitch, captain, and Mordechai Roseman, the leader of 4,500 illegal immigrants, and the ship Exodus, whose voyage to Israel more than 60 years ago has become a legend. A forgotten one. Roseman and Aharonovitch are today about 90 years old, and the ship has long been sunk as scrap iron.
When the ship was forced to turn back, French officials boarded it and offered the wretched refugees a permanent haven. Not one of them went ashore. On today's deck, 52 percent of Israelis admit they do not rule out living somewhere else, according to this week's Yedioth Ahronoth. It all depends on the captains, on the Aharonovitches and Rosemans, then and now.
It is easy to slip into kitsch when making such a movie. And lo, not a single cliche or lofty statement. It was so reserved that I couldn't hold back, and cried even before Roseman spoke about his Hebrew teacher in Poland - Yaakov Schneider, who later became Yaakov Sarid (yes, a relation). A friend of mine, an incorrigible left-winger, told me on our way home: They reminded me of why I'm a Zionist. There was something so right, so beautiful in the Zionist dream, and look what they did to our dream.
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