When a holiday ends, most people can’t wait to put away the symbols of that holiday as we, by our very nature, begin considering the next one. In the US, this translates from Thanksgiving to Christmas, from Easter to Memorial Day…people live, to some extent, from holiday to holiday. In Israel, we have the religious holidays and the “secular” ones. So religiously, as soon as Rosh Hashana finishes, our minds move to Yom Kippur. Right after Yom Kippur, we begin preparing for Sukkot. Sukkot ends and though we know we have time, slowly we begin focusing on Chanukah…Chanukah moves to Purim…to Passover…and around the year we go.
The so-called “secular” holidays which may not be specifically ordained by God but were most definitely approved of and “organized” (or at very least enabled) by God would include one that has just passed – Israel’s Independence Day…the summer is fast approaching, other holidays beckon, but a quick look at my city will tell you that somehow, though the holiday has passed, we just can’t seem to put the flags away.
It’s that way in Jerusalem too…all over, the flags are still flying proud and tall. One could say that since Jerusalem Day – the day that Jerusalem was reunited, the two parts made whole again, under Israeli sovereignty – is coming very soon, perhaps we are all leaving the flags up to celebrate that day?
But that isn’t actually true because the flags are flying all over, not just in Jerusalem Drive the highways of Israel…Route 1 is the main highway in Israel. It travels from the all-important commercial center of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea – eastward up into the hills of Jerusalem before continuing through the city and ending at the shores of the Dead Sea – from sea to sea (or in this case, we say from the sea to the river). Route 1 is all decked out with flags…so are many of the other highways, and the homes, and businesses. We just can’t seem to put the flag away.
In city after city, I am seeing the same thing. We seem to be a country that can move with the times. We flow from season to season, holiday to holiday. We adapt, we react, we change…all except for this holiday.
The truth is that the flags are a statement we have waited 2,000 years to make. We are home. We are proud. This is our flag. Simple and yet so very clear. A statement. From the river to the sea, the Jewish nation lives. That’s what the flag says, I have heard. Two blue lines – one for each of the main bodies of water – the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The Jewish star, in Hebrew it is called the shield of David.
On a trip to Germany six months ago, I wore the Jewish star I wear here in Israel with pride. Someone asked me if I would take it off or wear it inside my shirt during the visit and I answered that I would leave it where it is, where it belongs. Worn proudly, it is a symbol of who I am, who we are. More, I thought as I wore it there, it is a “tikun” – roughly translated as a “fixing” a moment where something wrong is made right…or, if not right, at least answered. Once, I thought to myself, once they labeled us; now, I choose to label myself.
And so, there you have it. The nation of Israel has labeled itself – from the river to the sea, Israel is free, democratic, and so very proud.