In honor of 61 years of the existence of the State of Israel, I've decided to put some questions on the table: What are we celebrating, really? You can talk about all the sociological, psychological, economic, and legal reasons for the spontaneous gathering of immigrants from all over the world in one place, and you can say that the day marking the state's establishment is the holiday that gives us validity as a nation, as a people.
But what is it that connects and unites us differently from the immigrants and the sons of immigrants of other countries in the world? And why is it that the State of Israel, which promises a secure home for every Jew, has turned into a society haunted by troubles more than any other?
Today, after all the achievements and progress, we still feel confused and insecure. We feel compelled to travel to Singapore in order to adopt their systems of teaching, to fly to the USA to bring over their marketing systems, and to wander to East Europe and Asia in order to invest in real estate there. It seems like the social dependence and instability we find ourselves in are intended to make us think twice about our nation - and to make us want something better. Have we given up on the dream of building a home that's warm and safe, a place where we will love to live and raise our children?
There is something about being an Israeli in Israel that screams, "It's all about me," that separates you from everyone else. And yet that same evasive something consolidates us when we are in another country. When abroad, Israelis immediately identify another Israeli, wanting to know where he lived in Israel, what military unit he served in, and if he knows "Zvika." So what is it that connects – and disconnects - us?
One view says that we are together because of the enemies that surround us, pressure us and thus hold us together as a nation. But this idea - that what's keeping us together as a group is the wars and the hatred - is hard for me to accept. After all, we all feel that there is something else that makes us as a nation!
So what is that thing that unites – or should unite - us? If we look at some of the more ancient texts that talk about us as a nation, we will see the concept of the mutual guarantee. One text gives the example of two men who were sailing in a boat, and one of them began drilling a hole. His friend asked him: why are you drilling? To which he replied, "What do you care, I am drilling the hole under myself!" The first replied, "Nonsense! After all, we are together in this boat." Thus, mutual guarantee, a quality that has historically been present in our nation, is what makes life possible in a group.
Throughout our history, there were periods when we kept this mutual guarantee – when we were loving to each other, when we rose above our egos, above the personal desires and thoughts. And that is when we became a true nation, because when we unite together, "as one man with one heart," we become a consolidated group.
Today however, we are witnesses of an ego that has grown beyond all bounds, causing suffering to ourselves and everyone around us. The history of our young state clearly shows that there is no brotherly love between us, and thus, that we aren't a true nation.
When each individual in our nation attains real freedom – freedom from his ego, the ability to go through life with love for his fellow men - then the State of Israel will attain its true independence. We have to catch up to the modern reality and join forces in order to rise above our egos, which separate us. Then each individual in the nation will feel united to the rest, and will contribute to the group that nourishes him.
Doing this is not simple, but as Herzl, our state's visionary, has said, "If you desire it, it is not a legend." Thus, if we only change our way of thinking in this direction, and raise the importance of uniting together, we can change the balance of forces working in our society and guarantee ourselves a safe and happy future.
Keren Applebaum studied Jewish Studies, Philosophy and Psychology at the universities of Harvard and Tel Aviv, and is currently completing her Honors BA at Harvard. Since making Aliyah from New York City several years ago, she enjoys drawing connections between her new life in Israel and her university studies