I always remember the first day of our arrival in this country. The days of the expulsion from Baghdad. We arrived with nothing but our clothes, and from that point on we had to start everything from the beginning, like an infant who is learning to walk. And now I look at everything we achieved—everything my siblings and children achieved—and I am thankful for every day since we came here, and for what happened to us here.
The State of Israel is the greatest success of the 20th century. Communism is dead, fascism is dead. What is left? Zionism and the Zionist idea. We have built a glorious state, a state which offers a good life, a state which has developed and prospered in spite of all the difficulties and obstacles along the way. I travel across the country and I compare what it had in the 1950s to what it has now, and not a single day passes in which I don’t think about the success in all fields—in the industry, in high-tech, in literature, in culture. Our people have huge talents.
Clearly, we still face many challenges. In the past year, the state has not strived to make peace and has not made a real effort to reach negotiations. We haven’t made progress in reducing social gaps. We haven’t made any progress in comparing the conditions in the Arab and Haredi sectors. As always, there is still a huge gap between what politicians say and what is actually done.
But this is our home, and this is where we will work to make a change for the coming years. People blab on about the Diaspora countries we came from. They say the Jews had wealth, culture and joy there. But what did the Jews actually have in the Diaspora countries? Had we stayed in Iraq, we would have been slaughtered.
In Israel, there is mobility: I started my career at the age of 16 as a courier on a bicycle and reached the position of general manager. Learning is valuable here. It’s true that there is prejudice, that there is arrogance. People looked down on us. Instead of complaining, however, I proved to everyone that things can be done differently.
The State of Israel is celebrating its 69th anniversary and it’s time to think about the integration of exiles, about the unification of the tribes. We wanted to create one people here despite the hostility and the seclusion between the tribes, and for a while we actually succeeded. In the past few decades, however, we are seeing an opposite trend of seclusion. We didn’t come here to be Oriental or European. We came here to be the people of Israel. The fact that I was born in Iraq doesn’t change who I am—an Israeli.
Eli Amir is an Iraqi-born writer and civil servant living in Jerusalem and one of the Israelis chosen to light a torch on Israel’s 69th Independence Day.
Brought to print by Elad Zeret.