Pain, Promise, Party & the Potential Paradox of Perpetuating war...
This land, dense with people like a box of stuffed vine leaves, each grain of rice a human life, rich with pain, instilled with survival... has been ready or not willing to die for their freedom for a very long time. Whilst the world watches this tiny bit of land on their television screens, witnessing sensationalised firing lines, and political poisons, life here goes on. People struggle to pay bills, whilst the young go off to protect the borders, and religious holidays permeate the days of the year.... like pollen falling from trees, and life goes on in this holy land of war and wine. Life goes in as the plastic cups fly away in the breeze into the seas, the pipelines of gaseous chemicals are fitted too close to shorelines and the post traumatic stress becomes an underlying part of this nationalal Consciousness. Life goes on as families gather every week for the sabbath, and friends sing in circle to the words of ancient sacred prayers, and warm winds return to sandy summers... Life goes on as bank accounts continue in minus until the end of people’s lives, life goes on as Druze, Muslim, Jewish, Christian all practice their holy days and live side by side... How does this work? It is easy to wonder and I have often marvelled and struggled with the incredulousness of it all. Having lived in this land on and off for the last 11 years, I have come to notice one of the most significant days of the year that make it possible for life to go on as it does. This day is today.
Today is Yom Hazikaron Remembrance Day and the eve of Yom Haatzamaut Independence Day. it is indeed a day like no other I have witnessed and experienced anywhere else in the world. Every time I am here on this day, I am struck by the poignancy of it all. A day where devastating sorrow turns to exhilarating celebration on a national level within hours. This setup occurs every year as an uncompromisable, institutionalised set of events that has become a deeply ingrained part of the Israeli people’s consciousness and culture… The social construction of this day forms an entirely unique emotional experience that is intended to serve to protect the people and the country, and yet I cannot help but wonder whether indeed there is an aspect of this day that paradoxically perpetuates the cycles of war, anguish and trauma, as a point of maintaining identity.
Many have died. My family have lost dear loved ones to this country, for the safety of our people. And, many have died on every side for thousands of years. The children go to war, they stand on the frontline and in doing their duty, experience a kind of ‘life and death’ fear very early on. A kind of fear that has no choice but to fight even when it wants to take flight, a reality that defines the human spirit in such a way that is impossible for many who live in the West, to even imagine. The people of this country learn what it means to be comrades in their most formative young adult lives, and the lines of love run deep. At times they lose their friends in the plight. At times they see them killed in front of their faces, memories etched into their minds eye forever. As soldiers, at times, they are required to scare people and in the extreme moments of war, it can come about that they find themselves having killed. This they have to live with for the rest of their lives. All of this happens to maintain safety of the people of Israel; Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Bahai who struggle to live in peace upon this tiny piece of earth over the last 70 years, the last 5779 and probably beyond.
This land is fitted with sirens that soar their terrible song through every house and heart when chaos strikes. Almost every house, and every singe village, has a bomb shelter to run to. In the unfortunate moments when missiles are launched, people run to safety and most of the time, they get there before the missiles fall. Sometimes they dont.
I have a Druze friend who was alone at home when a missile hit is home in Peki’in. He was miraculously unscathed. Not everyone is that lucky - a man mowing his lawn in Kfar Aza heard the sirens and urged his wife inside as he continued to go about his day… he was not so lucky.
On this day, sirens ring throughout the country to commemorate the fallen. The entire country stops for these moments, stopping their cars in the middle of highways, getting out of their cars, heads bowed, eyes closes, and at times tears defy the incessant israeli narrative, to “be strong”. Our hearts beat alongside memories of anguish and fear that have been and many who suffer trauma are indeed returned to their nightmares, once more. There is no escape from the sensation of fear, sadness and imminence of death that reverberates though the people of Israel, when the sirens ring. Missiles or not. In my heart of hearts, I wonder, how the people are ever meant to move on into a new way of life, with such blatant reminders of war present year after year? Yes it is undeniable, that this story has long to go, as Gaza continues its vicious attacks - but I sincerely doubt whether this country would ever alter the setup of this day, and therefore, find it impossible to see the end of the struggle, the end of the trauma, and the end of history repeating itself. Ceremonies take place and songs are sung as history is redrawn into the present moments. Commemorating is a part of human dialogue. A part of what it means to be strong, to never forget. In this way, we reignite our pain bodies and allow the past to become our present once more. We will not be defeated even though they will try… and we will always be ready to fight and to die. This is the song of this day.
The radio blares with words from a new song, created especially for this year… it plays over and over as the weeks lead up to the day. I must have heard it 5 times yesterday, a sure way to wake up with the words circling in our heads, tune humming upon on my lips as I was first thing this morning..
Here is home, here is heart
And you I will not leave
Our ancestors, our roots
We are the flowers, the melodies
A tribe of brothers and sisters
The people of Israel form a long daisy chain of pain and promise.. and there are few words that could encapsulate the depth of emotion that pulses within each grain of human life here.
As soon as the ceremonies are over, the preparations for the celebrations begin. We move on as the day directs, wiping tears and waving flags. Celebrations are fuelled with the energy of the narrative ‘We have fought for freedom and we have won, and here we are home at last’. The familiar blue and white national flag multiplies into waves of patriotism that sway in the wind, from the cars, the houses, the hands of young religious boys who sell them at every traffic light. Parties are set up in every corner of every town and city, people organise their outfits, travel to festivals, and gather with friends and families. It is indeed the structure of this day, that follows only a week after Yom Hashoah, Holocaust day, that keeps the the people of this country ‘strong, righteous, and ready’. The ignites both passion and pain and above all, makes present, the inevitable prevalence and strength of spirit that will ensure the survival of its people.
I ask myself, and speak aloud... What kind of identity would Israeli’s and arguably Jews have if we didnt have struggle to survive? Would we still need to awake the pain and trauma of the people by sounding war sirens? How can peace of the people come about if the sounds of war continue to be relished and glorified year after year, and are they not in fact triggering people into a state of insecurity? Does this state of sadness and fear behave as an emotional prop up for the instant Independence Day after party? Are there not more conversations to have on this day, regarding the unfortunate ways in which Arabs had to be shifted and relocated to pave way for the massive amount of jewish refugees relocated to these lands 70 years ago? Should this land talk more of the pain of ALL its people, for surely its an outdated illogical ideology to still think that one kind of human is more important than another? Do the activities and structure of this day allow for the complexities of healing to take place so that history does not repeat itself…? Would we know who we are anymore, if these siren’s ceased to ring…?
I give thanks for the courage I was born with to rock the apple cart. May my commentary, commemoration and enquiry encourage all people to think and ask and check and check again that the ways of the systems we follow are feeding the insatiable appetite of the wolf that matches our intentions.
17 years world traveller, internationally recognised award winning body painter with a background in Anthropology, Orly delves deep into the enquiry of what it means to be a human being and ceaselessly expresses her art whilst following her heart. , Specialising in mimitism (camouflage), Orly's current expressions are a moving living creative and expansive entity that represents her passion for re-merging humanity with the earth from which we came, sustainable conscious living, healing the sacred feminine as we learn to respect our mother earth and advocacy for balancing commercial gain with global and local contributions.