Optimism Pays (In Spite of Everything)

Thanks to our great fear of the always-threatening unknown, the organized festivities have atrophied and become nostalgia about the safe past.

Since when has the spring season prior to Independence Day turned into the High Holy Days of Israeliness? Into days of pessimistic soul-searching, the airing of bitterness and the shaking out of all our frustrations and fears? In preparation for this day, according to the new tradition, everyone rolls ups his sleeves for festive and sweeping self-flagellation; one after the other the elders line up to be asked and to tell us how disappointed they are with the state and how "this is not the state we had hoped for" (without explaining, beyond the cliches, what this hoped-for state actually is, and why they themselves did not do much to advance it); public opinion polls are assailing the public, mainly the youth, with such inspiring questions as: Do you expect the destruction of the state, and when, at what stage, will you flee the country, and when, in your opinion, will the Holocaust reoccur?

No doubt, this is a unique, and very Jewish, way to celebrate Independence Day. It is apparently also the early fruits of the victory of implanting catastrophism and the mentality of victimhood in schools, in trips to Auschwitz, in the general public atmosphere, even (and primarily) in the army.

And since, thanks to our great fear of the always-threatening unknown, the organized festivities have atrophied and become nostalgia about the safe past, it's no wonder that every Independence Day is accompanied, like a shadow, by a stagnant sense of unease.

In the context of this victory of catastrophism (some will say this experience of catastrophism) over hope, there are political and other groups who see it as the ostensible defeat of "Israeliness" itself: the Israeliness characterized by resourcefulness and practicality, with presumably meager cumulative creativity; the Israeliness that has supposedly lost to the victory of some transcendental, messianic Judaism. Its only supporting pillar and its primary expectation: the hope for peace.

But is that really so?

Even in the moral confusion in which the government and political system find themselves today, it is hard to ignore the consistent trend of "Israelization," which in recent years, slowly and modestly, and without fanfare, has begun to raise its bent head in the face of its oppressors and enemies from within.

In vain will its enemies, the various "orange" opponents, dance on its grave: Israeliness is more alive and kicking than ever, and this is reflected in culture, in lifestyle, in creativity, in language, in changes in the status quo and mainly in the general longing for normalization. A longing in whose context, according to every index and survey, the surrender of the dream of Greater Israel is the most trivial, self-evident fact.

All this even without any connection to the convolutions of some peace process or other, for whose collapse and the collapse of its leaders the enemies of Israeliness are waiting in ambush; and even without any connection to the changing identity of the prime minister. Because it has been proven there is no Israeli leader - from the left or the right - who can overcome the diplomatic constraints and the desire for normalization and hope originating from within.

Hope is what was and still is the engine that operates the State of Israel, even when it occasionally proves disappointingly false. That was apparently what was meant by whoever said that "in Israel anyone who doesn't believe in miracles is not realistic," referring to man-made miracles; since hope itself creates positive energy, which causes it to be fulfilled. That is a kind of national "secret" that in recent years has been known only to a few, who are also, not by coincidence, the most successful Israelis.

One of the most common opening lines in Israeli discourse throughout the generations, both on the personal and national plane is "it's a shame that we didn't...": It's a shame that my parents didn't buy that lot, which was once located in a remote field of thorns; it's a shame that we didn't invest in that esoteric factory for engraving metal; it's a shame that we didn't take advantage of the diplomatic window of opportunity, for example in the London accords.... In other words: It's a shame that we were so pessimistic and lacking in faith; it's a shame that we invested in petty calculations of the future, in enumerating approaching problems and in frightening ourselves when the people of vision opened themselves up to opportunities, invested in optimism and planted a stake in the future.

Leaders, entrepreneurs and individuals reaped rewards, grew and flourished because they knew the secret: In Israel, optimism has almost always paid off in the long run. At least so far. And even, if not, at least for a while we gathered a little more joy at the very fact of our existence and at the miracle of our survival, which is the essence of the joy of independence.