Today, Ariel Sharon will be elected prime minister of the
State of Israel. And with that, it is reasonable to say, Israel
has finally grown up. This is her Bat Mitzvah. Mazel
tov! Now it is time for the serious chores of adulthood. As
a nation state, she has ventured beyond the threshold of infancy.
Fled are the days when it was beautiful to think of Israel
as a Jewish country. Gone are the times when we could do nothing
wrong. Vanished are the days when the Jews were toothless
and threatened and the world's sympathy was strewn our way
like cheap confetti. Gone - in the ineluctable smoke of army
we have become normalised. No more need for Keren Kayemet
Le-Israel donations or naïve spells in a kibbutz
to show everyone and ourselves our love of the land. You cannot
love a tank. Enough of Jaffa oranges and their sweet saccharine
taste. The Jaffa orange have become like any other orange,
kibbutz work has become nothing more than a labour vacation
and Keren Kayemet has become superfluous. Violently,
we have all of a sudden grown up.
illusions of youth! The hubris of youth! How delightful it
was at the time and how far-fetched our thoughts seem in retrospect!
Today, Israel joins the ranks of the myriads of nations as
a regular conscript, demoted from the post of company mascot.
The wheels of history have forced us to become ordinary. We
have become so normal, in our policies, our precautions, the
patterns of our reservations and our fears, that we have become
boring. An audience never forgives a boring character.
Herzl should be pleased today. Finally, his aspiration to
create a new type of Jew has succeeded. Indeed, we are a new
breed: over-fortified, trigger-happy, uncaring. We have now
severed the last connection to our holy East European and
Oriental ancestors. David Ben-Gurion too should rejoice today.
At last, we have become a country like any other country.
After all, that was his vision. By Ben-Gurion's standards,
we have exceeded even the most madcap expectations.
gods of our childhood are dead; we are now zwischen den
Zeiten, between the times, like the aftermath of modernity's
advance on Christianity in the twilight of the 19th century.
A time of vertiginous trepidation. We have not yet had the
time and the peace of mind to invent new gods. What might
they be? Israeliness? Bi-nationality? Secularism? Breslaver
chassidut? From whence will we acquire the strength to reinvent
we have lost the grasp of our own master narrative. Slowly
and before our denying eyes, our place in the imagination
of the world has dissolved as it has in our own head. For
over half a century, we have occupied a central position on
the world stage. We have been hated, admired, envied, even
loved. We have gained this prominence because we believed
ourselves that we were special. Perhaps we were. We believed
that our history had conditioned us to think and feel in certain
ineffable ways. But not so anymore. Because today it is clear
that although we are not worse than the other countries, we
are not better either.
today we mourn. We tear ballots like pious Jews rip their
garments to symbolically inflict the pain on themselves. We
don sackcloth because we have today deprived ourselves of
the right to speak about Israel in unique, favourable terms;
to treat it as if it was a singular case in the assembly of
nations. Perhaps, it is for the better. We all have to grow
up sometime. In the effervescent glow of nostalgia, the ideology
of faultless Zionism that we have lost today (sacrificed consciously!
- - like the Abraham of old when he lifted his hand upon his
son, his only one) will appear untainted and chaste. Fortunate
are the dead.
© 2001-2002 Brit