On Independence Day, the Difficulties of Loving Israel and Each Other

Every Year, It Gets Harder To Join the Parade

Pride: Love of Israel is no longer such an uncomplicated affair.
Getty Images
Pride: Love of Israel is no longer such an uncomplicated affair.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 05, 2014, issue of May 09, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Every year around this time, when Israel’s independence day rolls around, we’re confronted — a good many of us — with an uncomfortable sense that loving and celebrating the Jewish state has gotten just a bit harder than last year.

Not that there isn’t a lot about Israel to love and celebrate: sunrise atop Masada, Friday evening at the Western Wall, the sensual bustle of Tel Aviv. Drip irrigation. The capture of Eichmann. The kibbutz. The rescue of Ethiopian and Russian Jews.

Most of all, we can love and celebrate the Jewish state simply because it’s there. Not so long ago, it wasn’t. It’s not too hard to imagine what that absence was like, even if you weren’t around to experience it first-hand: the precarious feeling of belonging to a homeless people, the horror of watching night descend on your cousins in Europe, and then, suddenly, the miraculous birth of a new era of Jewish independence. Having a place on the map with your name on it.

We’re still living, historically speaking, at the dawn of that new era. It’s been just 66 years since Israel gained sovereignty. We’re still not quite used to it. There are still a few kinks to be worked out. It would be astonishing if there weren’t.

Granted, some of the flaws are more than just growing pains. There have been bad decisions and grave injustices. Israel has come repeatedly to what seemed like the brink of disaster, in 1967, in 1973 and periodically during the last decade and a half of Palestinian intifada. At times it’s seemed as if the whole thing is a makeshift experiment, that the miracle was an illusion, that the world — and perhaps the Jews themselves — weren’t ready for the revival of Jewish nationhood.

There is, too, the dark truth that many of us are just coming to understand, and others of us dismiss outright: that the rebirth of the Jewish nation brought with it the undoing of another people, resulting in decades of hurt, bloodshed and hatred. For years most of us didn’t see it, or wouldn’t. In part we were blinded by the other side’s violent hostility. Partly, too, we rejected it because we feared acknowledging a darkness at the heart of Zionism would impugn its very legitimacy.

Lately it’s impossible to ignore. The Palestinian narrative has entered the culture. It’s permeated public discourse, flooded the media, blanketed the college campuses. Many of us don’t know how to reconcile it with what we’ve understood to be the Israeli miracle. Was it no miracle after all?

The plain fact is that the rebirth of Israel was a miracle. The return of the Jews to their ancient homeland, the revival of Hebrew and the creation of a modern state with a booming economy and a vibrant if imperfect democracy is one of the most remarkable events in modern history. It revived the broken spirit of a global community that had just suffered one of the worst catastrophes in human history and might otherwise have simply faded into nothingness. It happened to us, the scattered, bruised, skeptical Jewish communities of the world, in living memory.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.