The view is full of hope and beauty

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll THE VIEW FROM IS­RAEL

IT’S HARD to write a col­umn called The View from Is­rael with­out be­ing able to show... the view from Is­rael. But I will do my best to de­scribe what it is like to be here now, in the spring sun­shine in ar­guably, the most “Is­raeli” time of the year. In Is­rael, the land­scape serves as an es­cort to the hol­i­days through­out the year. And, while the changes are pre­dictable, they are never the same. Rather, they are al­ways var­ied even within their com­fort­ing reg­u­lar­ity, sim­i­lar to the hol­i­days which ground us yet give us new op­por­tu­ni­ties for ap­pre­ci­a­tion and joy.

Show me a pic­ture of the Is­raeli coun­try­side and I’ll tell you what sea­son it is. Show me the flow­ers in bloom and I can tell you which hol­i­day Is­raelis are get­ting ready to cel­e­brate.

Bright pink al­mond trees her­ald the ar­rival of Tu B’sh­vat (the New Year for the trees when it is said the sap be­gins flow­ing after the winter). Red anemones pop up right be­fore Purim. Deep vi­o­let lupins and yel­low daisies then mix with crim­son lilies, bright poppies, vi­o­let morn­ing glo­ries, and dozens of other vi­brant wild­flow­ers to car­pet fields and grassy hills.

You know Passover has ar­rived when the pink hol­ly­hocks stand tall and proud lin­ing the sides of the high­ways on your fam­ily trips up north, and the pres­ence of white Queen Anne’s Lace, so abun­dant now, an­nounces that the “Yoms” are on their way.

The “Yoms” are: Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha’atza­mut, and Yom Yerusha­layim — Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day, Me­mo­rial Day, In­de­pen­dence Day, and Jerusalem Day. Fall­ing within a month of each other, th­ese days are deeply in­grained in mod­ern Is­raeli cul­ture. They tell the story of our re­turn to Is­rael, and while few Is­raelis con­sider them “holy” days, they are sa­cred nonethe­less.

Yom HaShoah is a time for re­call­ing and re­flect­ing on Holo­caust, what we learned and what we can never for­get. The na­tion hears tes­ti­mony from sur­vivors, and stands in si­lence for the siren that wails in hon­our of those stolen from us. Restau­rants and en­ter­tain­ment venues are closed, and TV and ra­dio run “Holo­caust pro­gram­ming” all day long as we re­call our col­lec­tive loss.

A week later, Yom Hazikaron is a me­mo­rial day for those fallen in wars to cre­ate and keep the state of Is­rael safe, as well as those taken by ter­ror. Som­bre mu­sic is played through­out the 24 hours, a siren sounds at night and again in the morn­ing while the coun­try stands at at­ten­tion in hon­our of its fallen. It is a day of deep col­lec­tive mourn­ing as vir­tu­ally no fam­ily re­mains un­touched by wars or ter­ror. This is less true for new im­mi­grants, but Is­rael is small — ev­ery­one knows some­one, and we share a col­lec­tive pain, if to vary­ing de­grees.

In an in­tense and in­ten­tional jux­ta­po­si­tion, In­de­pen­dence Day fol­lows hard on the heels of Me­mo­rial Day and the coun­try cel­e­brates the creation and ex­is­tence of the state of Is­rael with aban­don, and barbecue. And not just any barbecue. No­body bar­be­cues like Is­raelis. Fam­i­lies rope off ar­eas of for­est, beach, and field and move out­side for the day. It seems there is an un­spo­ken com­pe­ti­tion for who can bring the most to the out­door cel­e­bra­tion. Last year, I saw a re­frig­er­a­tor hooked up to a gen­er­a­tor in the mid­dle of a for­est.

The other main Yom Ha’atz­maut pas­time is hik­ing. Trails criss-cross the coun­try and are marked for the public’s ben­e­fit, on rocks, trees, and elec­tric poles. The coun­try is small, yet the beauty and va­ri­ety of the land­scape means there is al­ways some­thing more to see — even for na­tive Is­raelis who love to hike. Per­haps this hear­kens back to the Bi­ble when God tells Abra­ham that he is to in­herit the land, so he must “walk its length and breadth”. Walk­ing breeds fa­mil­iar­ity with our sur­round­ings and causes us to no­tice the things we miss in ev­ery­day life. It cre­ates an awareness and, I would posit, a con­nec­tion.

Yom Yerusha­layim, cel­e­brated a month later, sees pa­rades of young and old march­ing and danc­ing across the united city into the heart of the Old City and down to the Western Wall, cel­e­brat­ing that it is, as the para­troop­ers said in 1967, “in our hands”.

Cel­e­brat­ing th­ese days in our land with com­fort­ing reg­u­lar­ity and re­newed en­thu­si­asm re­minds us why de­spite the wars and ter­ror, and the rel­a­tively young gov­ern­ment still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grow­ing pains, the view from Is­rael is full of hope, prom­ise, strength and end­less beauty.

A siren sounds at night and again in the morn­ing

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and ac­tivist

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