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Dreaming of taking the bitter out of this bitter-sweet week

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This is a bitter-sweet week, in which we celebrate Israel’s milestone 70th birthday but also remember the 23 646 soldiers and 3 134 terror victims who lost their lives in ensuring Israel’s security.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Apr 19, 2018

Laughter and tears go hand in hand, as do sorrow and joy this week and every day in the State of Israel.

We have this mixed bunch of emotions at this time every year, but turning 70 is a ripe old age. And for any human, age entrenches their character. So, for me Israel is a supersmart, innovative, tough-talking action man – with a heart of gold (especially for those he loves).

Israel has undergone so many iterations over the years. As a colleague of mine mentioned the other day, he recalls his Israeli father saying how, when he was growing up, they didn’t have any of the fancy foods we have now. He looked towards the US and other Western countries, longing for all the goodies they had that weren’t available in Israel. Life was tough then.

And the threat of war never ceased for this tiny country, surrounded by countries that would rather it not be there.

Israel has a longing to be respected as the start-up capital of the world and a leading light in the tech world. It is also seen as having military might of note.

But in the background of Israel developing into this uber-tech giant, there is the festering of the ongoing battle with the Palestinians. This stems from as far back as 1948, when Israel was established. And it seems so far from being resolved.

Over all this time, we are no closer to some kind of peace or peaceful arrangement. We are no closer to the day when Israeli mothers no longer have to wave their children off to serve in the army, not knowing if they will return. Will there ever be a time when Israeli teenagers don’t have to don uniforms and risk their lives fighting for their country?

Since the day that Israel was declared a Jewish State, there has not been a day that the country was assured of peace. There has not been a day that Israeli families could go to bed at night, knowing their children in the Israel Defence Forces were going to be safe the next day.

I know we in South Africa have to deal with other threats, but as a mother of boys, I cannot imagine what it must be like bringing them up, knowing I will have to hand them over to an army that will turn them into soldiers.

I know Israelis are so used to this; I guess they know no other way. I also know the army is so entrenched in their lives that most people cannot imagine life without the army or the threat.

But the loss of life, the injuries, the post-traumatic stress that follows from experiences that these soldiers endure, cannot and is not healthy.

You may argue that if their way of life wasn’t healthy, then how could Israel be booming and so incredibly successful?

Also, you may say, if this posed such a problem, then why is Israel the 11th happiest country in the world for the fifth year running, according to the United Nations World Happiness report?

Israelis are happier than Americans (14th) or the British (19th) and they are far, far happier than we are, according to this report. South Africans are 105th out of 156 countries and we have, in fact, become unhappier. We have dropped four spots since last year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about Israel’s status in this report: “… and people say, ‘How can it be? It’s a country in this horrible neighbourhood, you’ve got terrorism, you’ve got radical Islam, you’ve got challenges.’ But it comes up ahead of most countries in the world.”

And, as I sit on the southern tip of Africa and I watch as my own countrymen deride and negate Israel, I wonder why Israelis are so happy under the circumstances.

Perhaps we, in South Africa, need to look at ourselves and work out what it would take to become 11th on this list.

I look around me on Yom Ha’atzmaut and see the joy we all have in the fact that there is a Jewish State, and it is welcoming and successful. While as all good Jews can, we find fault in many things in Israel and have lots of room to argue about what happens there, I for one am proud of what Israel has achieved.

However, I long for a day when the world looks to Israel as a country that found a way towards peace, a country that can manage its differences with the Palestinians. I know it takes two to tango, but a woman can dream, can’t she?

I am sure all Israelis and Jews around the world dream of the realisation of the words of Isaiah (2.4): “… They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Imagine just how happy the Israelis would be then…

Enjoy our special Yom Ha’atzmaut edition.

Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

 

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