Israelis are out in the forests, beaches and backyards in their hundreds of thousands today after a night of fireworks and celebrations. Israeli flags are flying everywhere. Independence Day is a real thing here, not just a day off work. Israelis know they have something tangible to celebrate–the existence of their state.
That’s the real answer to BDS and the rest of the Israel-haters. We’re here, growing and thriving, at age 68. The haters have made no impact on us at all. They do make a lot of noise–and they do encourage the widely held view that the whole world is against us, that we’re in constant danger. Israel’s government, and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, milk that for all it’s worth just to stay in power.
These celebrations show that it’s just not true.
Israel’s population has grown tenfold since it was founded in 1948, bolstered by immigration from all over the Jewish world. Israel’s military is so strong that even ISIS knows it better not mess with Israel. We face no existential threats, despite Netanyahu’s dire warnings to the contrary. Yes, it’s a bad neighborhood, and there will be attacks and conflicts, but we are strong enough to withstand them all and keep growing.
Israel is a world leader in many fields, has way more than its share of Nobel Prize winners, has a robust economy, enjoys excellent physical and technical infrastructure and most of all–a democracy that gives its citizens personal freedom.
Oh, I know it’s not perfect here. You can save all those comments that usually include the word “naive.” We have a lot of work left to do. Both sides still suffer from our continuing occupation of the West Bank, and though the Palestinians have turned down our peace offers, we have not taken steps to turn down the heat under the conflict. There are social and religious tensions here that pose danger to the fabric of society. There are regrettable instances of racism. The income gaps are much too big, and some here live in poverty. All these mean we cannot just sit back and say how great we are.
But for one day a year, we can. I disagree with a respected colleague who says she has trouble singing Israel’s national anthem because the nation’s non-Jewish minorities aren’t included in it. No, this is the day we celebrate the fact that we have a Jewish state, that this is the only place in the Mideast where the Christian population is growing, that we have many good people, including that colleague, who are dedicated to making this place even better by trying to solve the problems I listed above.
Unlike many of my fellow citizens, I lived in the Arab world for two years. I saw how other Mideast societies oppress their people, mistreat their women, kill their minorities. I know it’s a low bar, but Israel, as a Middle Eastern country, is light years ahead of all that.
And even on a world scale, a Western scale, Israel’s society and behavior are exemplary. Much of the outside criticism is hypocritical, coming from people, nations and organizations that do not, cannot, even approach the standards they appear to demand of Israel. Much of that criticism is in the category of hatred.
I know that “haters gonna hate,” but here in Israel, we’re good enough to confront them, shame them, pity them. And today, let’s just ignore them.