Saturday, April 17, 2010

Israel’s Sixty Second Independence Day

When I first immigrated to Israel in 1988, I celebrated the 40 anniversary of the State. I was living in an immigrant home and would soon be joining the army. During those years, many of us really believed that peace was possible. Together with others in the political left, we fought for a country that would free themselves from occupying a whole people and demanded that Israel recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It was these dreams that kept me sane during the First Intifada, where I served in areas surrounding Bethlehem and Hebron.

I remember when the Oslo Accords were declared and how hopeful so many of us were. Within in two years things began to fall apart. PM Rabin was assassinated and suicide bombings became the norm. Baruch Goldstein shot down innocent worshippers. Arafat proved to be a failure and was locked in his compound. The First Intifada was overshadowed by the Second Intifada and Israel continued to build settlements. Ariel Sharon entered a coma. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and war broke out in Lebanon. Missiles crossed back and forth. Hamas rose in popularity. Sderot and southern Israel was bombarded for years, while Gaza was massively bombarded and still remains as an open-air prison.

To say the situation remains bleak is an understatement. Starting in June, I will divide my time between Istanbul and Tel Aviv, working on a book manuscript. I will have 14 months to reconnect before I come back to Brooklyn to work. I can no longer remain in self-exile, as I did during the Gaza War (see previous blog). During this year, I will have time to rethink strategies and ideologies. I will investigate how to make the situation better, if only by a little. Lastly, I will continue to search and grab onto any optimism I can find and search for a realistic settlement which suits both sides.

For now, I will not celebrate the Independence Day, and I will wait to see if next year brings us something more to celebrate about.