Israel-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony (Guest Post by Meirav Jones)

yom zikaron

Independence Day in Israel always follows Yom Ha’Zikaron or Memorial Day, a somber, affectively charged day on which, primarily, the Jewish tribal majority in Israel mourns its fallen soldiers. Between thoughtlessness and thoughtfullness, this is a highpoint in Civic Religion in Israel. Viewed one way, the coupling of the two days represents an ideologically mindless and automatic sanctification of death, in particular the death of young people, and the sanctification of the State. Viewed another way, the coupling of the two days highlights the Akeidah character of the Zionist project, how grave human and moral costs complicate the reality and the celebration of political independence. About this year’s alternative joint Israel-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, you can read here this article at Haaretz. With her kind permission, I am posting this personal reflection from Meirav Jones which she posted at Facebook about the event, her participation, and the significance of the event as it relates to creating a shared human space in the climate of hatred, fear, and incitement now so much part of and even dominating the public sphere in Israel.

What follows are her words:

Last night I was at the joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, and I feel the need to share what I felt with those who wish to read, even though it was a very personal experience and strikes really at the essence of my being, and my being here. I admit to being a little afraid to go. Incitement to violence against “traitors” is part of mainstream discourse right now, and I have small children (who stayed home). We knew there were thugs arriving in buses to protest, and last year they had thrown urine. We could hear their protests from 600 meters away. The ceremony which has been running for 13 years couldn’t hire a venue this year because no one would rent to them. Performers cancelled their performances because they had received threats. But we went. And so did over 6000 other people. To me it was clear to me that I had to go. That this is how I remember. Not in a bubble or with self-righteousness, but with an honest reflection on the price of ongoing war and with compassion for those who have lost their loved ones. Over 6000 people had walked past calls that they were traitors and haters into a peaceful space. We did it to BE in a peaceful space while we remember. Not a space of us and them, but a space of humanity which was tangible. Some would call the presence I felt there, divine. The call was to end the cycle of violence. To insist on Israel being a home, not a fortress. To encourage us never to be bolts in the system. To remember where we’ve come from and where we are going. To be a nation that wakes up as a human. David Grossman, the Israeli author who lost his son in the army, dared us to hope that in the next 70 years, whatever the words of the anthem are for whichever group in the population, we will together – Israelis and Palestinians and those on the land – sing “lihiyot am hofshi be’artZeinu”, “to be a free people in our land”, because we will be, free in our land. The ceremony ended with an all-womens group singing had Gadya in Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. I will look for the rendition to post in a comment. With this end to pesach, I finally feel ready to celebrate freedom; what we’ve achieved of it so far.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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