500 words on 4HQ and Yom Ha’atzmaut: When all the Question Marks turn to Exclamation Marks
By Robbie Gringras
Yom Ha’atzmaut? Again? This year of all years?
Whenever I approach Yom Ha’atzmaut with a sinking feeling, I always remember the point made by Professor Yosef Klausner:
“For three hundred and sixty-four days of the year we are busy with criticism. We criticize the nation’s priorities, and the nation’s leaders. We count the many mistakes that our leaders and ministers make… But a nation must have one day in a year that is a real celebration. On that single solitary day, all the prosecutions must cease, and the harsh criticism must stop…”
Klausner wrote these words back in 1953, when the State of Israel was only 5 years old!
So what is it that we should be celebrating on this one day?
Ideally Yom Ha’atzmaut should mark one of the most significant events in Jewish history. It is an event packed with meaning for Jews throughout the world, not just in Israel.
But what is the nature of that “meaning”?
We can’t even come up with a shared narrative.
When does the Israel story begin? 1948? The Dreyfuss Trial? The destruction of the Second Temple? Abraham’s journey?
Would you say that the Holocaust should be part of our Yom Ha’atzmaut narrative? If you have an unequivocal answer to that question, I assure you that you have a friend who would answer the opposite.
At Makom we would say that the meaning of Yom Ha’atzmaut can be encapsulated not through a narrative, but through the Four Hatikvah Questions.
For the first time in two thousand years, ever since May 14th, 1948, we have been able to answer all Four Hatikvah Questions with a resounding “Yes!”
To Be? – Yes!
Peoplehood? – Yes!
Free? – Yes!
In Our Land? – Check!
In this brilliant illustration, Shay Charka marks the nine-day roller-coaster between Yom HaShoah, and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Just imagine what answers we might have reached to the Four Hatikvah Questions in 1945…
Do we now share questions about threats to our ongoing existence? Certainly. The desperate arguments will wait for one day.
Do we disagree about the ways in which our heritage, solidarity, and values are expressed? Sure. Let’s put the disagreements on temporary hold.
Are we concerned about Israel’s democratic structures and discourse?
Do we agree on the borders of our Land? On relations with the Palestinians, who say it is their Land too?
All crucial questions. We’ll talk about them on the other 364 days.
Imagine a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration that chose to focus on these four blessings. The songs, the dances, the speeches, the parties, the performances, that celebrate the four-fold answer of “yes”.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is the day on which the Four Hatikvah Questions turn into exclamation marks.
Robbie Gringras is Creative Director at Makom – the Israel Education Lab of The Jewish Agency for Israel.