Today, Israel commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of it's founding. Unlike the celebrations of the country's 50th birthday in 1998, today's events have a far more somber quality to them, as though they are observing the passing of something far more tentative and fragile than we imagined back then, just before the peace process ground to a halt. Predictably, this month has witnessed the publication of a number of controversial articles questioning whether Israel will survive, generating, in turn, the expected reactions. In other words, business as usual.
As an Israeli citizen, and as an American-born editor working in English-language news publishing, I've resisted the temptation to draft my own thoughts on the subject, if only because I'm loathe to indulge the cliches that inevitably accompany the ritual of commenting on any specific nation's annual observation of it's independence. Especially those penned by U.S. Jews, which I read all of the time, and inevitably drive me nuts. Whether its spreading the love, or demonstrating disappointment, more often than not, it all reads the same.
This isn't to say that I'm not using the date as an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the state my friends and family continue to create. I am, just as I do every day, as someone who, for better or worse, always has Israel on his mind. If Israel has succeeded in establishing itself as it's own unmoved mover, to quote my divinity school training, it would make Aquinas proud. Nothing in my mind is not somehow related to or impacted by it. Israel is everywhere, and everything.
However, I don't feel the least bit sentimental about it, and there's something about recognizing this that I find relatively liberating. To wit, my wife and I will be going home to see my parents in a month's time, and the country will not feel any different than it did the same time last year I returned home, or, for that matter, this week, as I worried about the fact that I was not worried whether I'd write anything about this date at all. Israel, quite simply, exists, and feels more a part of my life than ever.
Of course, like the pundits I like to read, I could offer my own interpretation of the country's Italian-style political scene, and what I think the future holds in store for Israel under a coming Berlusconi-equivalent. Or I could offer it by way of talking about the remarkable films I saw this week at the San Francisco International Film Festival, such as Vasermil, Children of the Sun, or Under the Bombs, all of which offer rich insights into how Israelis and Arabs alike experience the country. At some point, I'm sure I will.
But, today, I guess, my point is far more mundane. For me, as it is for many Jews, Israel is something of a vocation. If that's what citizenship ultimately means, that's fine. I gladly accept it. As much as I'd like to find the identity somehow transformative or more involving, over the years, I've had to set certain instinctual limits to it because the psychic burden of being Israeli is traumatic enough. Adding anything else to the equation would be, for lack of a better of way of putting it, completely overwhelming.