70 years old now — an Israeli story | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 14.05.2018
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Middle East

70 years old now — an Israeli story

As Israel marks its Independence Day, 70 years after the modern-day state's foundation, Israeli author Lizzie Doron walks through her evolving feelings over the years regarding May 14.

I was born in Israel in 1953, the only daughter of Holocaust survivors. In May 1948, five years before me, my country was born.

Independence Day 1958 — I'm 5 years old, Israel is 10

My mother dressed me up in a blue skirt and white blouse, handed me a flag to hold and stuck the menorah symbol pin on my blouse. She had been requested to send me to kindergarten dressed this way for Independence Day. I saw her shedding tears while we walked to the ceremony hand in hand.

From among the sirens, speeches, songs and dancing, despite my young age, I sensed the festive occasion and even without knowing the entire story I was filled with pride and happiness.

1960 — the state of Israel's 12th Independence Day, I am 7 years old

I take part in the ceremony with my classmates. I see my mother standing among the parents who attended the event, smiling at me.

In a clear, loud voice, I read sections from the Proclamation of Independence:

"The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land ..."

Here too, I didn't understand each and every word, and definitely not the entire meaning, but I can still quote this text today with emotion, without omitting a single word.

Read more: Immigration to Israel: 'One man's joy is another man's suffering'

1967 — Israel is 19, I am 14

Our victory in the Six-Day War proves we must be strong and willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of this country. Only thus, with the help of the Israeli Defense Forces, we can defeat all our enemies. Terms such as "brave soldiers, die for our country" are part of my bloodstream. My belief in the righteousness of our way becomes even more profound.

A girl with Israel's national flag painted on her face plays on the beach as part of the celebrations for Israel's Independence Day marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2018. (Reuters/A. Cohen)

Not unlike this girl, pictured in Tel Aviv last month, Doron's patriotic fervor was strongest in her youth

In the ceremony that honored the fallen soldiers, I was selected to read the Yzkor (remembrance) to the audience.

"May the Israeli nation remember its brave sons and daughters, soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces … May the victorious fallen soldiers of Israel remain sealed within the hearts of Israelis for generations to come."

My mother refused to attend the ceremony, scared by the joy of victory.

"I am the expert on wars," she claimed. "Supporting an army without doubt is dangerous," she stated.

But I didn't listen, stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind me.

1971 — Israel is 23, I am 18

I am a soldier, serving on the Golan Heights, and have a boyfriend, an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces.

I was lucky enough to fulfill the Israeli dream, a weapon in one hand and an agricultural tool in the other. I was building my future with my friends in the kibbutz, the most Israeli fortress.

In those years, I distance myself from my mother.

Buch Cover Das Schweigen meiner Mutter von Lizzie Doron Hochformat (dtv Verlag)

Doron has written about her sometimes strained relationship with her mother in a novel considered highly autobiographical

1973 — Israel is 25, I am 20

On the 6th of October, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Syrian planes bombarded my house on the Golan Heights, killing seven of my friends.

My dream, my way and my faith are shattered in an instant.

"Perhaps now you will understand that war has no victors, only victims on both sides," said my mother when I returned home to Tel Aviv, broken and defeated.

I and my country are not what we used to be.

Read more: Israel's 70th: not a happy celebration for author Lizzie Doron

1977 — the country is 29, I am 24

Government in Israel is transferred from the Labor Party to the Likud.

"Turnover," announced the TV newscaster.

I also underwent a turnover. I live in Tel Aviv, attempt to heal the wounds, immersed in my studies.

My relationship with my mother is still shaky, but sometimes when we meet she speaks of the forests, the rivers and the magic of snow in another land.

Her heart has returned to her childhood views, I gather.

I keep telling her and myself that our Israel is a young country, just starting out, a growing country that is constructing cities, roads, parks, science and research institutes, the Hebrew language is flourishing, more and more Jews from the Diaspora are joining us here, in the home of the Jewish nation.

1979 — the state is 31 and I am 26

Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, visits the Israeli Knesset.

Friedensnobelpreisträger, Ägyptens Präsident Anwar Al-Sadat (Getty Images)

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was key to creating peace between Egypt and Israel

For a moment, the hope we will manage to establish peace between ourselves and the Arab nations arises.

My mother sighs in relief, but insists I must have *two* heimats (using the German word for home/homeland - eds.).

Annoying…

I am an Israeli-born Tzabar, I have Israeli dreams.

She will never comprehend it.

Read more:  Lizzie Doron: Coming to Germany from Israel for equality, freedom and compassion

1982 — the country is 34 and I am 29

I am married and the mother of two.

My family and career are the center of my life.

In that year, due to terrorist attacks, increase in the organizations that object to the existence of the state of Israel, the first Lebanon war broke out. From my point of view, the war was in the north and life in Tel Aviv continued as usual.

I am living my own life. I feel good in my country.

1985 — the war ends

Six hundred and fifty-four soldiers were killed in this war.

My mother says that when our sons fall here, in this country, it means we have lost that war too.

I remain silent.

1990 — my mother is on her deathbed, she asks me to remain blonde

"Why?" I asked.

"Because only the blondes survive," she replied.

"So why should I be blonde?" I insisted.

"Just to be on the safe side," she responded.

She is losing her mind, I try to make it easy on myself.

Just after she passed away, for the first time in my life, I delve into the story of my family that was lost in the Holocaust and write it. My books and my personal stories are merged into the structure of the Jewish-Israeli narrative.

I gain recognition in my country.

With the Intifada and the 1985-2000 South Lebanon conflict in the background, I continue to tell and write about my own history.

1992 — Rabin's government, the Oslo Accords

Hope is revived. I take to the streets, participate in all support rallies on the way to peace, I join a goodwill delegation to meet Arafat.

"We are going to touch hope," I say to my children and take them with me to Gaza.

1993 -- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shake hands, with US President Bill Clinton stood in between them. (picture-alliance/CPA Media )

The Oslo Accords of 1993 appeared to be the start of a process towards a two-state solution

1995 — Rabin's assassination

My motherland was assassinated.

I realize that my people are sinking into fear and hate, believing that the only solution is military power.

During the times of sadness and despair that follow the assassination, I choose to remain in my comfort zone. I continue to write books, I am one of the voices that tell the story of Israel's second generation. I write about the trauma of the Holocaust and the dream of being a free nation in our country, being strong, surviving, living.

From time to time I hear my mother's voice. She encourages me to ask questions and doubt things. You are wrong, I hear her telling me.

2009 — In the midst of another war in Gaza

I met a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem who was ready to share with me his everyday life under Israeli occupation. I saw it as an opportunity to examine my private way, my beliefs and assumptions on which I was raised and in which I believed. Meetings with him brought me to understand that his story must be told here. I felt that through his story perhaps we can bring people closer together, cause change, but, to my surprise, the book which tells our story was never published in Israel. My somewhat naive hope that literature would crack the walls, undermine old myths and open hearts was proven to be false.

The book cover for Sweet occupation, by Lizzie Doron (dtv)

Not all of Doron's books have been published in Israel, despite a global readership in several languages, including German

2014 Polarization is getting worse

My second book telling the story of Palestinians who are peace activists was not published in my country either.

At the end I find myself dealing with my stories, ideas and thoughts just in "snowy countries," where I have lots of readers, acquaintances and friends. 

In the meantime, in Israel, polarization is getting worse: The two-state solution is losing support; groups that attend to human and civil rights meet with criticism; the emphasis moves from a democratic to a Jewish state. At this time, the refugee problem is put on the agenda, but the state of Israel and its citizens find it hard to lend them a hand, give them shelter.

It seems as though the text I had read from the Proclamation of Independence has failed to pass the trial of time.

Human rights organizations, journalists and people who do not conform to the consensus are perceived as enemies and anyone doubting the way of the government and the hold of the settlers in Judea and Samaria is considered a traitor.

2018 — the 70th Independence Day, I am 65 years old

This day I sense the phantom pains of the parts I had lost over the years.

Today I feel Israel is facing crucial decisions and will have to deal most profoundly with issues such as whether it is a Jewish or democratic state?

Will occupation last forever?

What will be the fate of the refugees?

On Israel's 70th Independence Day, I am still not ready to give up. I still hope my country will be based on principles of freedom, justice and peace that it had undertaken on the day it was founded.

And all of a sudden, on the eve of our Independence Day, I find myself telling my late mother that I and my husband have been going back and forth in recent years between two heimats, between Berlin and Tel Aviv. That my son, her grandson, has left the country to lead life in Germany, that my daughter, her granddaughter, still lives in Israel, worried and troubled by the future her sons may expect, and I also tell her I am blonde, regularly dye my hair blonde, just to be on the safe side, as she had asked me when she was alive.

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