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九色

Rosner’s Domain | The Independence Day Litmus Test

The way Israelis treated this day is demonstrative of the way they think and the way they respond to current realities.
[additional-authors]
May 15, 2024
IDF soldiers carry flowers at Har Hertzel on Yom HaZikaron on May 13, 2024 in Jerusalem. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Can one halt to mourn for one day, when one mourns every day?

Can one halt to celebrate for one day, when one doesn鈥檛 feel a celebration is proper?

These are the two questions under which Israel marked the powerful duo of Memorial Day and Independence Day. These are the two questions for which different answers are a marker of different attitude. No 鈥 we can鈥檛 celebrate! That was the answer of many Israelis who don鈥檛 seem to see a reason for any celebration when the hostages aren鈥檛 back, when the military isn鈥檛 winning, when evacuees can鈥檛 go back to their homes. Yes 鈥 we must celebrate! That was the answer of other Israelis who see celebration as part of the battle. We do not celebrate because we won. We celebrate 鈥 because us refraining from celebration is our enemies鈥 marker of triumph.

It was difficult to mourn on Memorial Day, because, in many ways, it felt like just another day. Since Oct. 7, every day is a day of hearing stories about brave soldiers sacrificing their lives, every day is a day of heartbreak, every day is a day of solemnity.

It was difficult to mourn on Memorial Day, because, in many ways, it felt like just another day. Since Oct. 7, every day is a day of hearing stories about brave soldiers sacrificing their lives, every day is a day of heartbreak, every day is a day of solemnity. In an average year, the sirens of Memorial Day are a wakeup call, a reminder of the heavy burden and the heavy price we must pay for independence and sovereignty. But this year we were all awake, we can鈥檛 sleep. We pay in the morning, we pay in the evening, every news cycle is a reminder, every IDF announcement is a wakeup call.

So Memorial Day was unusually awkward, and Independence Day even more so. The way Israelis treated this day is demonstrative of the way they think and the way they respond to current realities. In some fashion, Independence Day was a litmus test. And not an easy one to watch.

For some, it was almost like a second Memorial Day. It was a day in which to ponder the future of the country, about which many Israelis are pessimistic. Compared to the recent past, compared to January of this year 鈥 that is, less than six months ago 鈥 there is a significant drop in the level of optimism of Israelis concerning the future of both country and self. The rate of Jews who are very optimistic about the future of Israel decreased from 48% to 37%. The rate of pessimists rose from 21% to 30%.

The trend is downward. But this is a general trend, which hides currents whose direction and pace are different. The Israeli average is going down, because there are more Israelis who have become more pessimistic. But not all Israelis became more pessimistic. In fact, there is a considerable gap between different groups in the population according to national affiliation (Jews and Arabs), ideological tendencies (right, center, left), religious beliefs (secular, traditional, religious).

This gap may testify to a different reading of reality. Some people see black where others see white, or gray. It may testify to something else: All agree that reality is bleak, but some believe that Israel is able to change course and pull itself out of this situation while others don鈥檛. On Independence Day we could see these differences expressed by different attitudes to the holiday. The pessimistic Israelis 鈥 and of course, this is a gross generalization 鈥 did not feel like celebrating. The optimistic Israelis 鈥 and again, a gross generalization, but these came mostly from religious and highly traditional circles 鈥 celebrated, sometimes in a way that seemed almost forced, as if to make a point, to spite Israel鈥檚 enemies, but also other Israelis鈥 reluctance. Yes, some of them were saying, times are tough, but we are a tough people with a long history of overcoming challenges. Yes, some of them were saying, we are not quite satisfied with how things are, but would you rather be a Jew in 1936 Germany, in 1947 Iraq, in 1970 Russia?

There was more than a grain of bitterness in the way both camps of Israelis treated each other鈥檚 attitudes. The celebrating Israelis felt that the not-celebrating are showing signs of defeatism. They are quick to forget that the times in which they live are miraculous compared to most of Jewish history. The not-celebrating Israelis felt that the celebrating Israelis are somewhat indifferent to the pain other Israelis feel, that they are being insensitive to the fact that hostages are still being held in tunnels, that the residents of Kiryat Shmona in the north and of Kibbutz Beeri in the south live in temporary locations. They think that celebrating at this point is an indicator of delusional reading of harsh realities.

The present is bleak, and the future is unknown, said the pessimists. So, let鈥檚 skip the celebrations today. If things get better, we can always celebrate tomorrow.

The present might be bleak, but the future is still bright, said the optimists. So, let鈥檚 celebrate today as an advance payment on our bright tomorrow.

Something I wrote in Hebrew

Here鈥檚 what I wrote concerning Biden鈥檚 threat of ammunition embargo if Israel operates in Rafah:

Even if you are not Netanyahu’s biggest fan, and assume that Biden is a true friend of Israel 鈥 there is no reason for you to defend an unfortunate statement at an unfortunate time by the American president. This is not an appropriate time for an arms embargo on Israel 鈥 Even if you are Netanyahu鈥檚 biggest fan and believe that Biden is an antisemitic wolf in sheep’s clothing, there is no reason for you to talk about Biden as if he, or America, owes you something. Israel has no birthright to get American weapons 鈥

A week鈥檚 numbers

On Rafah, the Jewish Israeli public is more convinced by the arguments of the Netanyahu government than by the no-to-Rafah objection of the Biden administration (from JPPI鈥檚 monthly Israel index).

A reader鈥檚 response:

Avi Roth writes: 鈥渨hen a country no longer believes it can win 鈥 it can鈥檛 win.鈥 My response: I don鈥檛 disagree, but beliefs can change back and forth.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner鈥檚 Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

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