This will be the third Yom Ha’Atzmaut I will celebrate in northern New Jersey and not in Israel. It is certainly a different experience celebrating Israel’s birthday with an American perspective. It allows me to recall a piece that was written by a famous Israeli columnist, Yair Lapid, a few years ago. He called his column, “The Only Country in the World.”
Let me share with you some of his observations that came to my mind as Israel celebrates its 63rd year of independence:
â€¢ Israel is the only country that sends 22- to 25-year-old emissaries to represent it all over the world. We have two young shlichim in our own northern New Jersey community.
â€¢ It is the only country whose citizens recognize each other wherever in the world they meet.
â€¢ It is the only country where 60-year-old men still abhor their commanding officer from basic training.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where a soldier’s mom has the phone number of his commanding officer – and you know she’ll use it.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where rockets have fallen from Iraq, missiles from Lebanon, and attacks from Gaza. And still a three-bedroom apartment costs more in Tel Aviv than it does in Paris.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where soccer players’ fathers come to a game so they can yell at the coach, you can ask complete strangers how much they earn each month, and at Friday Shabbat meals, no matter how old you are, when you go to your parents’ house for dinner, you sit at the same place you sat when you were a small child.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where a meal includes an Arabic salad, Romanian kebab, Iraqi pita, Bulgarian cheese, Hungarian bourekas, and Bavarian cream.
â€¢ Israel is the only country in the world where the man with the open shirt with the stains on it is the minister and the guy with the suit and tie is his bodyguard.
â€¢ This is the only country in the world where Muslims sell holy souvenirs to Christians with currency that has the face of a famous rabbi on it.
â€¢ This is the only country in the world where you leave the house when you are 18 but you still live with your parents when you are 28.
â€¢ This is the only country in the world where people who come to your house for the first time ask if they can “just take something from the fridge” and then let you know you are out of orange juice.
â€¢ Israel is the only country in the world where the rich are socialists and far left, and the poor are capitalists and far right.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world called “the start-up nation,” where many of the newest innovations are developed, but it will still takes you a week to get the repair man to come to fix your washing machine.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where “noon” is anywhere between 12 noon to 4 p.m.
â€¢ Israel is the only country in the world where you can’t get a job between the beginning of August and late October, because employers are recruiting only “acherai ha’chuggim” (after the holidays).
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where on the first date a guy asks the girl what she did in the army, just to find out if she served in a better unit than he did.
â€¢ It is the only country in the world where a week of mourning (shiva) begins with a memorial for the Jewish Holocaust martyrs (Yom HaShoah), continues to the saddest day of the year (Yom HaZicharon – Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers), and is separated by only 60 seconds from the year’s happiest day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Independence Day).
So if you ask me, in the next few months, as my family and I prepare to return to Israel after three years of shlichut -serving as an emissary – in New Jersey, why we live there, we, like most Israelis don’t have an answer, but we can tell you why we can’t live anywhere else.
And I’m comforted by the thought that Israel is the only country in the world that if you detest politicians, clerks, taxes, the weather, and the service you get at the bank – it means you love it.
Don’t miss opportunities to engage with Israel at this time. The community Yom HaZicharon ceremony is on Sunday, May 8, at 4:30 p.m. at the YJCC in Washington Township. For details of community Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations featuring the Kolot Amal Youth Choir from Nahariya go to www.ujannj.org/p2k.
Happy Yom Ha’Atzmaut!