There are thousands of Americans in Israel right now to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the miracle of the creation of the State of Israel. Everywhere you go you see another community with hundreds of participants from Miami, Los Angeles, New York and of course, Atlanta. They are doing the “typical” things: going to the Wall, paying homage to those who perished at Yad Vashem, travelling to Masada, wandering on Ben Yehuda Street, and experiencing the urban vibrancy of Tel Aviv.
But there is something different on this trip, something very different. It is “the situation:”
It is at the topic of conversation at coffee shops, pizzerias, tourist shops, and on the streets.
It is the topic of conversation on the radio and TV
There are posters and flyers on seemingly every pole and wall.
They all ask the same question, “What will Israel’s society look like in the future?”
Many of us have had the opportunity to speak with former Ministers, Ambassadors, representatives of government, Shlichim and everyday Israeli’s. They haven’t had unanimity of opinion---far from it, but common to them all was their fervent Zionism, concern for democracy, and what the country might look like in the future.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to join in to one of the weekly Saturday demonstrations in Tel Aviv. While TV shows the massive gatherings around the Azrieli Center (there were estimated to be 140,000 last Saturday), the fact is, that there are dozens of protests all over the country, in cities and towns of all sizes. And they have been going on week after week with no let down in their fervor.
I was ½ mile away from the main stage when someone walked up to me and thrust a flag in my hand. Another 100 yards or so and I received a poster on a pole (I never did find out what it said and gave it to someone else). High in mind was the Situational Awareness Training seminar that I had recently taken. I was very conscious of maintaining a position towards the outside of the crowd, but each time I repositioned further away from the stage there seemed to be hundreds of people who filled in behind me. I did this three or four times, moving successively away from the stage until I felt reasonably comfortable.
For almost two hours I heard from speaker after speaker. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I certainly could understand their passion, their anger, and their concern.
As I was walking back from the rally, looking at the buildings, I could not help but reflect on the deep history and connection(s) that Jewish Federations have with the creation and development of the State of Israel. Whether it be with Aliyah from throughout the world, assisting the most vulnerable in Israeli society or building infrastructure, we have always been there.
The next few weeks in Israel history will be monumental, and who knows what direction the government will go, but for now, we are going to celebrate the miracle of 75 years of Israel!!