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Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut Sermon

Sermon by Rabbi Melanie Aron

April 24, 2015

“For three hundred and sixty-four days of the year we are busy with criticism. We criticize the nation’s priorities, and the nation’s leaders. We count the many mistakes that our leaders and government ministers make… But a nation must have one day in a year that is a real celebration. On that single solitary day, all the prosecutions must cease, and the harsh criticism must stop…”

Written last week, last month? Was that written last year? No it was written in 1953. Certainly this winter has been a time of particularly difficult tensions around Israel, but clearly criticism by those who care about Israel isn’t anything new.

IN 1953, the state of Israel was not even 10 years old. So much for the theory that it is because Israel is now an established state which we take for granted that we are so free and easy with our criticism.

Golda Meir Israel’s Prime Minister was reputed at one point to have quietly pulled President Richard Nixon aside and insisted that her job was much more difficult than his. “You may be the president of 250 million people,” she said, “but I’m the prime minister of five million prime ministers.” ( this reported by Malcom Heinlein, an American Jewish leader)

The prominent Israeli author Amos Oz likes to say that he loves Israel even when he can’t stand it.

 At a recent speech in Tel Aviv, Amos Oz said, “I am concerned for our future. I am worried about the policy of the government… (and also ashamed of it).  I am concerned because of the growing fanaticism and violence…( and I am ashamed). But I am happy to be an Israeli, and happy to be a citizen in a country where there are 8 million prime ministers, 8 million prophets, 8 million messiahs.”

So I join author Robbi Gringras in suggesting that all the desperate arguments will wait for one day,  the disagreements can go on temporary hold. We’ll talk about them on the other 364 days.

Today we can talk about how great it is that the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem is a rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College. He’s a second career student, who has been serving in the Jerusalem City Council after training as an architect and environmental planner.

We can talk about my new hero, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin, who has emerged as a right winger with tremendous empathy for the Arab community and a passion for democracy.

We can talk about the wonderful people chosen this year to light the Yom HaAtzmaut lights including inventors, like Danny Gold, who brought us Iron Dome, and Ehud Shabbatai whose poor sense of direction lead him to develop WAZE.  Among those chosen this year were Israeli Horatio Algers, like Rami Levy the supermarket king who grew up a poor boy in Machene Yehudah.  We can celebrate the inclusion of Lucy Aharish, an Arab Israeli journalist, who has withstood criticism from the Jews and Arabs, and Alice Miller, who when she first applied to the pilot’s course was told by Ezer Weizman, then commander of the Israeli Air Force, to go home and knit socks.  We can celebrate Dr. Marta Weinstock-Rosin who developed the Exelon patch, which helped my father enjoy periods of clear mindedness during his declining years with Parkinson’s disease. We can celebrate Private Dan Korkowsky from the Israeli army’s special mapping unit which has found a way of using the particular skills of those on the autism spectrum and thus include them in the army.

Israelis celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut with barbecues, and picnics, but also with kumsitz’s- people gathering just to sing the old songs. We thought tonight we’d have just a big to the flavor of a kumzitz, starting with a more somber song, for Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day for those who died in the armed forces and by terrorism, and then with two more upbeat songs, celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut.

 

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