When it’s America’s Independence Day, we know exactly how to celebrate: We overeat! Hot dogs, hamburgers, brownies slathered in flag-colored frosting. Or cake with red, white and blue sprinkles, and toasted marshmallows, of course. And diet Coke. We’re proud of our heritage.
But how the heck are we supposed to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day?
Unless you participate in a local parade or hoist a celebratory falafel at your synagogue (woo hoo!), there just aren’t a whole lot of holiday rituals — yet. So allow me, please, to float some…
Plant a tree! Yes, I know that’s more of an Arbor Day/Tu B’Shvat activity, but since Tu B’Shvat is right up there with the PBS’s pledge week when it comes to events we look forward to all year, it’s quite possible you missed it. So plant a tree, if only because that’s all I ever heard about Israel when I was growing up. The Israelis were planting trees. We were sending them money to plant more trees. Someone’s born? Send a tree. Someone’s dead? Send another one. Israeli trees were the Starbucks gift cards of their day. (Although if it were a really big occasion, this called for an Israeli bond.) Anyway, it can never hurt to plant a tree, and also to tell anyone who hasn’t heard it yet (there must be some new immigrant from Guam), “Israel made the desert bloom.” And speaking of desert, add an “s” and celebrate with an extra —
Dessert! Why? Why not? You’re an American, after all. You want to make it an Israeli dessert? Add blue and white sprinkles. Or eat those smile-shaped jelly things left over from Passover.
Argue. This honors not just Israelis and their favorite pastime, but also my other earliest memory of the Jewish state (besides trees). My family would get together for a holiday, even a secular one like “Let’s Not Argue About Israel (or Carter, or Busing, or the Best Route to the Airport) Day” — aka Thanksgiving — and suddenly: arguments! There would never be so many Jewish lawyers, teachers, chiefs of staff and TV judges if Jews did not love arguing. Or at least find themselves doing it so often. And Israel has provided fodder for 62 wonderful years. Which reminds me, you want to do something really Israeli?
Start the peace process.
Stop the peace process.
Eat hummus. Sure it’s basically paste and garlic, and apparently if you’re on blood-thinning medication, it could kill you. But otherwise, do as Adam Sandler did in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” and spread it on everything from pita to marble cake. It also works as body scrub or a caulking agent, and as the bait in mousetraps (if your mice are Israeli, or dating an Israeli and trying to make a good impression).
Move to Queens!
Speaking of which, start a moving company. Or, if you prefer, start a stunningly successful high-tech company. It’s easy! Just come up with a really tiny chip and put some circuits on it that do something no electronic device has ever done before. For instance, a chip that allows your smartphone to perform gall bladder surgery, or a chip that turns your kid’s remote control Batmobile into a predator drone. Then patent the technology, go into business with a couple of your Army buddies who are also geniuses (and may or may not have killed that guy in Dubai) and come up with your next idea. Maybe this time, something in biotech. After all, we don’t have a cure for cancer yet. Also: Nothing kosher tastes quite as good as bacon. Get busy.
Hat time. Once again, let us hearken back to Israel’s pioneer past, when all the people there — or at least all the people who ended up on the “This is Israel!” posters hung in American Hebrew schools — wore dorky hats that looked like a cross between the beanie and a hamantaschen. I can’t speak for every single America Jewish baby boomer, but I can speak for my sister and me when I say that those hats were a huge turnoff! Who wanted to identify with (or even send a tree to) a country whose residents all looked like they’d picked up their headgear at a 4-year-old’s birthday party? Fortunately, the hat is no longer part and parcel of the Israel package. Unfortunately, the memory lingers like the taste of hummus toothpaste. So to celebrate Israel Independence Day, let us design an all-new hat, neither yarmulke nor kibbutznik in nature. Maybe a simple baseball cap with a chip in it that makes long-distance calls, teaches yoga and can blow up nuclear weapons a continent away? I’m sure someone over there is already working on these. Call them Ohm Hats Maut. (Sorry.)
Okay. Start the peace process again.
Stick a sunflower seed shell to your lower lip.
Rejoice! Israel lives.
Lenore Skenazy is the co-author of “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip of the Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now” (Penguin Group, 2009).