Friday, May 09, 2008


On the eve of Mother’s Day and in the midst of the celebrations for Israel’s 60th – I want to share with y’all some thoughts and intentions for wishes to be made before candles are blown on birthday cakes and glasses raised to mothers everywhere. L’chayim – to life!

By Amichai Lau-Lavie
Verse Per Verse

On May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv, my father Naphtali, age 22, watched David Ben Gurion announce the birth of the State of Israel. “The proclamation electrified the crowd” he describes this moment in his memoir Balaam's Prophecy: Eye Witness to History . “Men and women who had never seen one another before were hugging, kissing, and crying, overwhelmed by the momentous event”. But the war was already raging and the celebration was restrained and brief, there was no dancing and singing in the streets. “The euphoria was muted by grief over the many who had fallen and by anxiety over the Arab reaction”.

60 years later Israel is celebrating its continued survival, independence and phenomenal growth, but once again, the joy is muted by anxiety and concern. When I called my parents in Jerusalem on Yom Ha’atzmaut – Independence Day to exchange greetings and wishes, they too expressed restrain, mingled in with the satisfaction of being surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - all born in Israel.

With all the hu-ha around Israel’s 60th in Israel and around the world, the prevailing sense is that of ambiguity and the recognition that there is a process in the making here, a ‘becoming’ phase. ‘When I turned 60’, a friend in Tel Aviv told me ‘the last thing I wanted was a big party… so why should the country? By 70 I was ready to celebrate…’

So what do we celebrate this year? For me - the power of process, the art of becoming. The very name ‘Israel’ means the ‘god wrestler’ – the one engaged in the process of transformation, honoring that which is continually evolving.

There is a story in the Midrash about two sages who travel one night in the valleys of the Galilee. As dawn approached in the horizon, one said to the other: “this is what the redemption of Israel resembles – at first she rises, little by little, then she begins to sparkle, then gathers strength, and spreads over the sky.” (Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs 6:25)

Birthdays are usually a good time for making wishes for the future, and in honor of Israel’s birthday I invite you to raise a glass this mother’s day to the motherland – homeland – and make a wish – for a rising dawn, redemptive hopes, and a patient peace that will become our reality.

(Make sure you check with Mom before dedicating a toast to Israel during Mother’s Day though, just in case…)

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