One, Two, Three, Testing

This year, I am ashamed to admit, I was less emotional. Independence Day was shrouded in a surreal haze.

I myself find it hard to believe: To this day, I have not succeeded in weaning myself from the dizziness diagnosed by the professionals as "ceremony fever" - the excitement that gives rise to gooseflesh. We sing the national anthem, we wave the flag, trumpets resound, male and female soldiers go from "at ease" to "attention" and shoulder and present their arms. I think about them, those young people in uniform - where will they be tomorrow? Am I feeling a dampness gathering in my eyes?

This year, I am ashamed to admit, I was less emotional. Is the guilt solely mine? This whole day, Israel's 59th Independence Day, was shrouded in a surreal haze, and it was hard to see the horizon through the haze.

Someone there in Jerusalem decided to make the theme of Independence Day 2007 the unification of Jerusalem - 40 years since the city was joined together. Joined together? By whom? Jerusalem has never been so torn and divided. It has not been joined together, but rather wounded and bruised. Everyone already knows that Jerusalem will never hold on to this imaginary and forced unification, that the day is not far off when it will be divided into two capitals, and that only when it is divided will it finally be united at long last. Render unto the Jews what is the Jews' in Jerusalem, and unto the Arabs what is the Arabs' in Al-Quds, and every man shall live not only in his own faith, but in the very fact of his desire to live.

Before every Independence Day, I wait impatiently for the annual meeting with good old Colonel David Rokani and moderator Amikam Gurevitz, thanks to whom the event on the mount look like the event on another, higher mountain, farther away in time and space. And then this speech from outer space, which sounds as though it comes from a different planet, suddenly lands on the mount. True, on the eve of the holiday, in the transition from mourning to celebration, it is appropriate to deliver a ceremonious speech. But it is also appropriate for the ceremoniousness not to be disengaged from reality like a spaceship and not to soar on the wings of lofty words and helium-filled letters. And the reality here, alas, is far less festive than the battered rhetoric, even if it is adorned with quotations from ancient and modern sources.

Every year, the dancing and the dancers are more beautiful; the boy soldiers and the girl soldiers are better looking; and the songs are more touching and more enjoyable. Only the speeches are less beautiful: No sooner do they ignite then they fall like dud fireworks. I have a suggestion: Perhaps it would be possible to agree on one year without speeches. One, two, three, testing. And, regrettably, one year without Natan Alterman, whose poems get confused with his columns and whose name and poetry are taken in vain - sometimes in an apposite manner, but more often completely irrelevantly.

All of the ceremonies are broadcast on all the television channels, but there is one ceremony that only the state channel, Channel 1, broadcasts, enjoying a strange exclusivity. The commercial channels scrupulously broadcast the Memorial Day Eve ceremony from the Western Wall, because bereavement still gets good ratings here. From Mount Herzl, they scrupulously transmit the holiday eve ceremony, because they have no other way of getting from the eulogizers to the programs with the largest numbers of viewers and the commercials. Only the Israel Prize ceremony remains orphaned, because no one has a better developed sense of smell than the rich franchisees and they can smell that there is no demand for this event.

And why should there be? The prize laureates are not stars being born; they are just rather gray and boring people. Their stars rise and very rapidly wane, and there is no pause for a modest wish. One of the laureates spends all his days doing geography, another economics or biology or engineering, and one of the women who won the prize does architecture. And there is one organization, which for 90 years has been rescuing Jews, and not only Jews, that at the last moment managed to scrape by with the prize, because next year, it will apparently be given to Arcadi Gaydamak and his kebabs. And just try nowadays to explain the difference between the Joint Distribution Committee's activities and an oligarch's popsicles and singers.

Israel Prizes are still awarded to people who excel, but excellence and a life's work are no longer interesting. Therefore, Channel 2 broadcast "Laugh Parade" in that time slot and Channel 10 broadcast "Sing Your Heart Out," and even Israel Radio's Reshet Bet channel closed its microphone to the ceremony.

One media outlet reported on Independence Day that at the ministerial committee on ceremonies, the idea of resuming military parades as of yore had come up. I have no doubt that the parade will be broadcast on all the channels, whether it is held before the war or after. Victory cannot wait any longer.