Goody Two Shoes on Independence Day
When I first came to the country, I lived on the coast. In this area, Israel's Independence Day was celebrated wholeheartedly. I got a holiday from language study and was encouraged to go out into the centre of the city to celebrate and have fun...so I did.
To be honest, I didn't really understand what I was celebrating; nobody said anything about Palestinians and Nakba. I got hit on the head many times with those annoying squeaky hammers and sprayed at from all sides by the multi-coloured, stringy, springy spray. I even took my 'to be' husband with me. He must have winced and suffered but never complained or said anything.
After a few years, years that included getting married, moving to Jerusalem and having a few children, I was torn, pulled this way and that, especially as the First Intifada was in full swing. My innocent ignorance had long left. A few times, I attended a couple of Independence Day BBQ's 'for the children's sake,' but my presence there irritated people, made them defensive and I couldn't keep quiet. I had forgotten my own innocent ignorance of a few years before.
Another few years passed and the sale of Israeli flags swamped the balconies, cars, parks, streets. I stopped trying to avoid running over the ones on the roads which had fallen off car windows. The free flags that came with the newspaper I stuffed in a drawer just in case there was a school project.
By this time, our family had developed a strategy to help the boys cope (in their Israeli school) with the days leading up to and during Independence day, which directly follows the Soldiers Remembrance Day.
The strategy was to quietly stay away from the school ceremony of remembering fallen soldiers, not because it was wrong to remember the dead-deaths are always a tragedy-but to avoid the nationalistic songs, poems, readings, etc. which tended to stir up aggression towards the boys.
In the evening, they could go out and get banged on the head by those hammers; we never stopped it. We didn't join in, though, and sooner or later they stopped, as well, when they understood their position.
On Independence Day itself, we marvelled at the people that came as early as 6am to stake out their space in the small park opposite our house. BBQ 'bagsy' started with the arrival of battered old cars with lots of stickers on the back, the unloading of carpets, covers, chairs, tables, etc, etc, and then the driver lying down on his space for a sleep until the rest of the family showed up.
By this time, we were leaving to make our journey to my in-laws who had lost their land, family property and dignity at this time in 1948. We drove past the smoking BBQ's, crowds of people, blaring music and badly parked cars.
My in-laws were gracious as ever, surrounded at every turn by Independence Day parties. My father and mother-in-law never ever became bitter when re-telling their story of expulsion from family, homes, land, jobs and identity-maybe for the children, maybe for us, maybe for themselves.
The return journey was busy with traffic and happy people but we were still and quiet-such a relief to pass the day; such a relief to see those flags come down; such a relief to know that however much you get chanted to and shouted at by others, it cannot disturb the inner peace,the knowing of who you are and why you are.
Lesson: To learn from my in-laws who modelled dignity, serenity, peace-loving, humility and always living a good example in the face of extremes.