Over the past few weeks, we have been occupied with looking back. We celebrated the exodus from Egypt and the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea. We stood in silence to commemorate the 6 million killed at the hands of the Nazis, and we stood in silence to commemorate the 23,000 who have given their lives for the modern State of Israel. We celebrated 64 years of independence of the State of Israel, and considered the remarkable and miraculous events that allowed us to reach this point in time. Come to think about it, Jews seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time looking back and commemorating the past. I decided to pause for a moment, and try to imagine what things could look like in 50 years’ time. Not only to imagine this, but perhaps also to dream about how things could be. I have tried to dream about a world where my children are grandparents, and to try to put Israel into that context.
I think that there is one major piece of the puzzle which is missing in current-day Israel, and which most Israelis yearn for in the future. This is the missing peace and, with it, the recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state among the nations. A state of peace and security would bring so many advantages to the State of Israel, and could change the nature of this small country in a most dramatic way. Most importantly, it would save hundreds, if not thousands of lives a year. Not only the lives of soldiers would be saved, but also the lives of innocent women and children would be spared if we could create a situation where Qassam and Grad missiles are not being fired into civilian neighbourhoods, and where suicide bombers are not trying to detonate their explosives in crowded restaurants, coffee shops and buses. It would also spare valuable government money that could be spent on education and infrastructure instead of the acquisition of military hardware and ammunition. A state of peace would also free up our most valuable resource, the 18 to 21 year-olds, who would be free to make their contribution to Israel’s economy rather than be forced to serve in the military to protect their country from constant attack.
A peace arrangement would also create a completely different dynamic with Israel’s neighbours. I can imagine a situation where Israeli citizens could spend their holidays in Beirut, which is only a few hours’ drive from the central part of Israel. Perhaps Syrian tourists would be a major source of foreign revenue for Israel’s hotels and restaurants. I can dream about Israeli irrigation technology being used to make deserts in Jordan and Syria green.
In my dream world, there is harmony and co-existence between religious and secular communities. Somehow, the religious will find a way to make their contribution to Israeli society, as a result of which the secular communities are able to respect the religious communities and their way of life. This, in turn, paves the way for understanding and exchange of ideas between the two communities.
In my imaginary world, members of the Knesset are there to serve the wider community rather than primarily their own interests. While being paid a reasonable salary, they will do all that they can to save the country unnecessary expense. Their conduct on the floor of the Knesset will be exemplary, and send a positive message to the younger generation about the way in which people should conduct themselves in public.
In the new and improved Israel, customer service will be of primary importance when dealing with companies and shops, and hotel, restaurant and coffee shop staff will give the utmost respect to their patrons. This is a world where drivers will give way to other drivers wishing to enter into the flow of traffic, and hooters will only be sounded when danger exists on the road. Cell phones will be silenced in elevators and other public places, and people will not resort to screaming at others in order to get their own way.
I guess that my wish list can go on forever, but it is important to dream in order to somehow improve our society. It is critical for us to be able to continuously develop and progress with the next generation, who seem to be hungrier for information and technology than ever before.
When I think about it, the “negative” things mentioned above also have their positive sides. There is no doubt that our young men and women who are forced to serve in the military, learn skills and behaviours which help them in the future. The responsibility of protecting Israel’s borders, and survival skills that they learn with this are great tools in their future lives. The tenacity and attitude of never giving up are certainly traits that are instilled in our children during their military service. In Israeli living, sometimes even shouting at people represents a form of communication that is preferable to not talking at all. The madness of Israeli society forces people to adapt themselves in ways which lends itself to the survival of a people and a nation. Perhaps a more orderly society would have less survival skills.
When I come to think about things, I would certainly be happier for my family to live our lives in peace and security. I would also be happier to have greater understanding and respect between different parts of Israeli society. This would, however, undoubtedly come at a price which I am unable to identify or quantify now. Perhaps this price would be too high for me? Maybe it is better to give thanks for what we have, and to do all we can to protect it. This must be part of the logic of spending so much time looking back. We are really able to value and appreciate what we have now. This is more than our grandparents could have dreamt of when they had their dreams. Am Yisrael Chai.
Image by Israel Defense Forces