Israel's 63rd Independence Day - Moti Kimche
Celebrations of Israel's 63rd Independence Day last year. Photo by Moti Kimche
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Independence Day, like "Hatikva" and the Israeli flag, are national and Zionist symbols that reflect the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. On Memorial Day, which falls one day earlier, the Israeli public devotes itself to remembering members of the security forces who fell in wars with Arab states and conflicts with the Palestinians.

Independence Day is not a holiday for Israeli Arabs. Sixty-four years ago, they lost their land and their national honor, and many also lost loved ones. Nor is it a holiday for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who view the Zionist and democratic idea as alien and don't view the Israeli flag as their flag. The appropriation of national symbols by rightist thugs, who wrap themselves in the flag during displays of anti-Arab racism, has distanced other Israeli Jews from these symbols as well.

But the community of Rakefet and the Misgav Regional Council, where it is located, decided the period of Memorial Day and Independence Day was a good time to examine one Arab family's relationship with the Zionist dream. The Zabidats, an Arab couple accepted into Rakefet after a lengthy legal battle - since the community's admissions committee initially rejected their request to make their home there - were surprised to find the Israeli flag flying on the fence around their lot on the eve of the holiday.

They folded the flag and returned it to the community's secretariat, protesting the ugly attempt to prove them unsuited to the community and to inflame tempers against them. As expected, the regional council's leaders were quick to declare publicly that removing the flag was "an unacceptable act" and even "a moral and ethical lapse."

But the truly unacceptable act was displaying the national flag on private property without the owner's permission. Whoever hung that flag in the Zabidats' yard was guilty of brazen trespassing and of undermining freedom of speech. And the real moral and ethical lapse was forcing a clear symbol of Jewish nationalism on the Zabidats - a symbol devoid of any expression of the collective feelings of Israel's large Arab minority.

This degradation of the flag by residents of Rakefet, like the incitement against Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran for his refusal to sing the national anthem "Hatikva" - which talks of "a Jewish soul yearning" - should serve as an incentive for devising symbols and events with which all Israeli citizens can identify without being false to themselves.