Three songs and a people
The three songs employ the collective 'we,' but most Israelis today are not living a national dream in that plural subjective pronoun. Most do not speak like Shemer, Gouri or Hasfari, do not think like them and do not sing like them.
Viewers of television's Channel 1 last week picked the song they think deserves to top the list of all the songs written in Israel since the state's establishment: Naomi Shemer's "Jerusalem of Gold." They awarded second place to Haim Gouri's "The Friendship" ("Shir Hare'ut"), and third place to Shmuel Hasfari's "The Children of Winter '73."
These three songs ostensibly express the groan of Israeli hearts: their yearning for Jerusalem, their nostalgia for the handsome young men of yore, and their longing for peace. Their song choice reflects the Israeli ideal, as befits a broadcast on the state's national channel on the eve of Independence Day: three songs - three wars.
On reflection, it is a surprising choice. Everything points to the Israel of 2008 being very far from the national unity these songs convey: a lot more multicultural and individualist, a lot less political and also less Ashkenazi.
The three songs employ the collective "we," but most Israelis today are not living a national dream in that plural subjective pronoun. Most do not speak like Shemer, Gouri or Hasfari, do not think like them and do not sing like them. Most see themselves first and foremost in the first person singular and live for life itself. Jerusalem continues to deteriorate, residents are leaving it en masse, and instead of a serious development plan for television, there are pathetic commercials that exploit Jerusalem for national religious propaganda. In contrast to the whining of the children of '73, most Israelis today say they do not believe in peace.
Of course, it is possible that in preparing to crown the state's ultimate song, these Israelis became imbued with a sense of national responsibility for Israel's image and voted as though they were sitting on a committee for selecting the figures to appear on the state's stamps.
Most Israelis are also not glued to television's Channel 1. The high point of the show was watched by around a quarter million people, or 14 percent of all viewers; some 30,000 of them voted by phone, and another few thousand voted online. That is not a lot for a major entertainment broadcast. By contrast, "A Star is Born" brings the whole country to a standstill.
It appears, therefore, that the songs chosen represent only one piece in the so-colorful Israeli mosaic.
But upon still more reflection, the viewers' choice seems to express a characteristic that is common to most Israelis: fleeing from political responsibility into self-righteousness and self-deception. Naomi Shemer bequeathed Israel an anthem to the occupation and oppression, but disguised it as a legend of gold. "The Friendship" waxes nostalgic about the thesis that war brings out the best in man, "love sanctified by blood."
The children of '73 are the most annoying of all. They claim that their parents had promised them peace and did not keep their promise. "You promised to do everything for us and turn an enemy into a lover." The truth is that these parents decided on the withdrawal from Sinai and made peace with Egypt. The children of '73 are big boys and girls now: There is nothing to stop them from making peace with the Palestinians. Instead they complain. It doesn't get more Israeli than that.