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Israel Hamas WarOpinionIsrael

I am barely clinging to my dream of the future

As a peace activist in Jerusalem, I will continue to hold the stories, the pain, the hopes and dreams of all.
Ittay Flescher
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Faded hands releasing faded dove

Illustration: TJI

Published: 14 May 2024

Last updated: 13 May 2024

I have always struggled with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Australia Day, and the national days of all the countries I have ever visited or lived. While I appreciate the importance of nation states in granting rights to their citizens, and owe my life to their existence, I have always thought it strange to celebrate their birthdays. Celebrating the birth of people is something that I understand, but why do nation states need parties?

In 2024, I feel this even more so. Since leaving Melbourne for Jerusalem in 2018, I have always celebrated the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut with my kids by taking them to Ben Yehuda Street or Tel Aviv for the silly string spraying with giant plastic hammers, followed by live music and amazing fireworks. On the day, we often picnic in a park with fellow Olim to watch the impressive air force flyover.

This was the easy part of the day. The hard part of the day was always that knowledge I knew quite well about the Nakba, the fact that the birth of Israel that I was celebrating came at the expense of a homeland for Palestinian friends and neighbours.

As someone who believes in both Jewish and Palestinian self-determination between the river and sea, it never felt right to celebrate one without the other. These two visions are twins born of the same mother. Therefore, I always dreamed that they would one day celebrate their birthdays together.

The past year has seen the dream of Israeli security and Palestinian freedom under threat like never before. In October, several kibbutzim and southern cities fell into the hands of Hamas for long enough to result in the deadliest attack in the history of this country. The trauma and pain from that day was so deep that for many Jewish Israelis today, it is still October 7.

Since the war, the Palestinians of Gaza have experienced what they call a second Nakba. Enormous death, starvation, displacement and ruin of their way of life, with no hope of returning to their homes in the foreseeable future.

I will continue to hold the pain and dreams of my Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends together.

In light of these two realities, there doesn’t feel like much to celebrate on May 14. The Israeli government has already announced that there won't be fireworks or a flyover, with many local celebrations cancelled or muted in contrast to previous years. I imagine Nakba Day will also be especially mournful for the Palestinians this year.

As someone who seeks to hold the pain of both peoples in our grief, observing how much suffering the dehumanisation of each other has caused over the past year, I am barely clinging to my dream of the kind of future I want to see here, which looks so unlike our present.

Ultimately, 14 million people now live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. About half are Arab, and the other half are Jewish. Whenever this war is over, the survivors will mourn, the dead will be buried, and memorials will be built that will etch in our memories forever the price we pay when we fail to compromise for peace.

After that day, these 14 million people will need to find a way to live here together. I sincerely hope that after the war, the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza will end. I hope there will be Palestinian and Israeli elections that will bring new leadership for both peoples.

As a peace activist in Jerusalem, I will continue to hold the stories, the pain, the hopes and dreams of all my Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends together at this time, letting them wrestle within my heart, finding a place to hear and empathise with them all.

Last Succot, in the week before October 7, Jews around the world read the book of Kohellet:

“For everything, there is a season

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn,

A time to dance and a time to keep silence

A time to love, and a time to hate

A time for war, and a time for peace.”

This Yom Ha’atzmaut, I will hold all these times together, a day of joy mixed with sadness, despair mixed with hope, during a war that has no end while dreaming of peace that can’t come soon enough.

About the author

Ittay Flescher

Ittay Flescher is the Jerusalem Correspondent for The Jewish Independent. For over twenty years, he has worked as an educator, journalist, and peacebuilder in Melbourne and Jerusalem. He is the co-host of the podcast ‘From the Yarra River and the Mediterranean Sea' and the author of the upcoming book ‘The Holy and the Broken.’ He is also the Education Director at a youth movement that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who believe in building equality, justice, and peace for all.

Comments2

  • Avatar of Laurance Splitter

    Laurance Splitter15 May at 01:47 am

    Two comments. First, I endorse the concern, raised by Ittay, about the relevance of nation-state birthdays, but it leads to uncomfortable questions about the relevance of nation-states in the first place, especially those that also have a religious basis (of which Israel is one among many). At the very least, it is difficult to imagine such states being democratic. Secondly, I applaud his (and others’) efforts in bringing together young Israeli/Jewish/Arab/Palestinian/Muslim people in environments where they can engage in genuine dialogue. This fosters a sense of humility and empathy, two dispositions which are sorely needed.

  • Avatar of Jacqui

    Jacqui14 May at 12:19 pm

    Ittay – hold on tight to that hope. Hatikvah.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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