One Jew’s Reflection on Nakba Day
This month has three major events and when I considered what I wanted to write about, for some unknown reason, I found myself resonating strongly with Nakba Day. No, I am not a displaced Palestinian. I’m close to being the polar opposite – I’m an Israeli Jew who freely immigrated to this land several decades ago.
During the first twenty-five years of being in Israel, I’m a bit embarrassed to say I never once even heard the term “Nakba Day.” How could that be you may well ask. Easy is my reply. As a nation, we live in a fairly permanent state of denial. Our great day of liberation is just that. How could it be anything so opposed to independence as is “catastrophe” which is the meaning of “Nakba.”
It’s a matter of perspective. We tend to live in narrow reference frames with a homogeneous social group as our comfort zone. We hold similar values, celebrate the same holidays and generally are not conscious of things that don’t directly touch us. In addition, there is shockingly little awareness of the life, culture, and concerns of our nearest neighbors – the Palestinians We even build walls and fortresses to shut out whatever is uncomfortable, or God forbid, painful.
Nakba is all about loss and pain; loss of land and home, loss of culture and national identity, loss of security and human rights. For millions of Palestinians, whether they live in the Palestinian Territories, Israel, or in the vast global Palestinian diaspora, Nakba Day is a painful current reality and an ongoing reminder of loss.
As a Jew, I don’t suffer the personal pain that many of my Palestinian neighbors do when they commemorate Nakba. Although I deeply empathize with their pain, my personal pain is for my Jewish brethren who have and are now systematically trying to deny another people their “right” to even express their loss. As Israelis, we too have lost. Our loss is less tangible than that of the Palestinians but it is nonetheless real and perhaps ultimately more devastating than loss of land, culture, and national identity. We have lost our ability to empathize and respond with compassion. We have lost a part of our souls. So, yes as an Israeli Jew I do resonate with and also suffer the pain of loss on Nakba Day.