Opinion

Israel's Independence Celebrations Were a Big Show of Insecurity

The exaggerated display of nationalist rhetoric showed how fundamentally insecure Israelis are about this place and about being in this place

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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A man waves flags of Israel as Israeli Air Force planes fly in formation during Israel's Independence Day, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2018
A man waves flags of Israel as Israeli Air Force planes fly in formation during Israel's Independence Day, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2018Credit: \ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

When you see this overload, this abundance that so quickly became an all-out bulimic episode — more dancers, more soldiers, more flags, a laser show, and drones, and yet more fireworks, and a children’s choir, and an adult choir, and Ethiopian-Israelis, and Sarit Hadad, and Haim Moshe, and Moshe Datz — your body, your feet, can feel how unquiet the ground is. How thin the ice, how low our confidence.

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And when you try to follow the jam-packed plot — the twelve tribes and the Bible, and also the Holocaust with its trains and dogs, and now the Tower and Stockade era, and Jaffa oranges, and the Mizrahi immigration and, to be on the safe side, more fireworks — you realize how much justification Israelis need to give and to hear, how fundamentally insecure they are about this place and themselves in this place. How much they need to convince themselves of miracles — nothing like this has ever happened to another nation, there’s no parallel anywhere in the world — to believe in any possibility of tomorrow.

And when you gaze in astonishment at the naked pushiness, the grabbiness, the greediness, the torch that became a long, long speech, you understand that even the prime minister, with his pathological megalomania and lack of humility, and the swinishness of his family, which knows no bounds — when you look at him closely, you realize he too is afraid. He’s afraid he’ll be forgotten if he’s out of view for a moment. Afraid of disappearing from history in the blink of a ceremony. Afraid the bluff will be exposed, the disaster will occur on his watch. That on his watch, it will all come to an end. (“There are some who want to extinguish the light that shines forth from Zion. I promise you that this won’t happen”).

Fireworks explode over Jerusalem's Old City during celebrations for Israel's Independence Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state, April 18, 2018
Fireworks explode over Jerusalem's Old City during celebrations for Israel's Independence Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state, April 18, 2018Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

And when you watch that wonderful scene of Culture Minister Miri Regev falling on Sara Netanyahu, hugging and trying to dance with her to the sounds of “Nishba,” while Sara smiles at her with feigned restraint, aloof and arrogant politeness — when you watch this scene, you understand just how little has changed, despite all the lofty words and all the fuss. You understand that despite the Yemenite cantorial music, the model Zionist classroom in an Arabic-speaking country that was integrated into the choreography, and the appropriate representation for Mizrahim among the torchlighters –— despite all this, the Mizrahim remain exactly where they were, stuck in the same ancient, racist social order, with the same feelings of inferiority, which pound like a throbbing pulse.

You understand that this seeming strongwoman, the fierce fighter with the big mouth, is nothing but the Mizrahi maid, who worked day and night and dirtied herself in every street fight needed to arrange a show of honor for her Ashkenazi masters. And now, with feigned familiarity, with fawning pleas, she tries to extract a few crumbs of attention and gratitude, like the headwaiter trying to dispel the terrible tension that she felt during the event (are they pleased or displeased with me?).

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And when you add to this the images from Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon the night before, the dozens of people who surrounded the Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony to scream, curse and wish death on the participants, you understand that these are the faces that have were kept from the torchlighting ceremony on Mount Herzl. These are the people who didn’t get tickets from Regev, and who demonstrate, more than the entire audience at the ceremony did, how much they need that inflated ceremony on Mount Herzl.

Draped in Israeli flags from head to toe to make themselves less naked, less lacking, they came to ruin things for those refined Tel Avivians, all those beautiful David Grossmans, who, even in their horrifying catastrophe, their terrible pain, are unreachable and untouchable except through spitting or cursing (“Even the Arabs are better than you!”).

And the burning, infantile need to scream “This is mine, all mine” shows how fragile the whole business is here. How clear the understanding that, with one thrust, one wrong step — from the Gaza border to Iran in the north — it could all come tumbling down in a second.

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