Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Israel at 60!

Last year I blogged about Israel's Memorial Day. This year I'll focus on the second (and happier) part of this two-day national event -- Independence Day, that immediately follows Memorial Day. And quite a day it is this time -- Israel is celebrating its 60th birthday!

I will not go into all of Israel's achievements in its first 60 years, but you can find a few listed here. Instead, I picked up the phone (ok, Skype) and had a chat with a member of Israel's founding generation/team -- my dad. Here are a few of his comments.

First, I wanted to know what he felt on the day that Ben Gurion declared independence?

Turns out he only heard about it two days later. He was in the middle of a battle in Jerusalem, and two days after the declaration, he was injured by a bullet and was taken to a medic for treatment. The woman in charge of the medic (who later became Israel's first lady) came by and told them it had happened. Not a big surprise -- they were actually expecting it to happen sooner or later.

Second, I wanted to know what they were thinking those days.

Not much. They wanted to stay alive and make it through another day. Not surprising -- they were constantly being shot at. Interestingly, they believed that once the war is over, the conflict will be done and there will be peace. They certainly did not anticipate having to fight wars 60 years later.

Then I asked my dad whether he's happy with the result 60 years later.

There were two parts to his response. He claimed that he and his cohort did not imagine Israel would have so many achievements and grow to be the strong country that it is. Their expectations were exceeded by far. On the other hand, he claims his 1948 cohort were a bunch of 20 year/old idealists. They thought their idealism would pervade all walks of life in the country they created. But today there is too much "business/politics as usual" in the country. All aspects of human nature are represented, and perhaps that's inevitable.

Finally, I turned to my mom and asked her what was she thinking when she emigrated from the US to a 7 year-old state (she emigrated after marrying my dad in 1955). She answered, and I quote: "I've never met anyone so passionate about his country (like my dad). It was a great adventure to come here. So what if they didn't have toilet paper".

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