Yoram Kaniuk

The wrong choice

Elie Wiesel is a good man, but Independence Day torch should be lit by Israelis

Selecting Elie Wiesel as one of those who light the traditional Independence Day torch is wrong. It pains me to say this, because he is a good man who has done great deeds. Yet on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, it makes no sense that the citizen of a foreign country who lives outside Israel and is not an Israeli resident will be lighting a torch.


The torch is not lit in honor of the Jews. It is not about the Holocaust, even though it is related to it. Actually, the torch is about the revival that followed the Holocaust, and it marks the establishment of the state 60 years ago.


Israel is the home of Israeli residents. It is Jewish because after so many generations we wanted to establish a state for this people. It is indeed the Jewish State, but most of them are not partners to our life here, aside from being observers. America’s Jews donate money, but if a war breaks out between us and America, they will fight in the US Army.


The majority of the Jewish people chose not to live here. Elie Wiesel also chose not to live here, and that’s his right. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are citizens of other countries today, and there are even more Israelis in Berlin than in Sderot.


Sixty years ago, we embarked on, as young people, something that has not been done for thousands of years: Creating a new state. Nobody taught us how to establish states in hostile areas. We were weak and few. At the beginning of the most terrible war we had thousands of young people were killed in difficult battles. We saw blood and horror and slaughter. We didn’t do it in order to be the Jewish people’s Disneyland. We created a Hebrew state in Hebrew. We celebrated the revival of our language, and the upcoming Independence Day is one of the last ones that the people who established the state will see.


What about the Russians? 

Elie Wiesel is a man who has done many wonderful things. Yet the torch should be lit by the Thai youth who was born in Israel to foreign workers and joined the IDF this week. This torch should be lit by a member of the Russian immigrant community that has done so well here. Yet there is not even one Russian among the people chosen to light the torch.


Of course, the list includes good people - there is no arguing that. The committee was allowed to recommend whoever it saw fit. I had a friend in the army whose name we didn’t know. He was killed near us without us knowing anything about him, and we called him Yashka the Partisan. He was a brave fighter and good friend. He came from abroad to establish a state whose language he did not speak. In my heart, he has been lighting the torch for 60 years now.


Elie Wiesel saw and experienced the Holocaust, but there are many Israelis who emerged alive out of the Holocaust. Some of them fought with us and helped us establish the state. Perhaps our state is different than what the founders wanted it to be, but it’s only 60 years old, and it is still about longing, and dreams, and disappointment; it still fights for its existence, and it also makes mistakes.


Yet in Jerusalem we have a Hebrew government, and those who are subjected to it and pay its taxes and send their children to the army are entitled to any honor in this difficult country – but not those who came here to fall in love with the country, but do not live with us.


פרסום ראשון: 03.10.08, 16:25
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