In Netanya, Israel on Aug. 18 in an events hall, I felt I was living a quintessential Israeli moment. Friends and family were celebrating a Bar Mitzvah with food, music, dance and high spirits. Not exclusively Israeli, one might say. However, the Bar Mitzvah’s uncle, in between bites, kept going outside to talk on his cell phone. He is a career IDF intelligence specialist and that morning there had been a terrorist attack near Eilat. Life does not shut down in Israel because of terror; celebrations must be held. People get married, babies are born and B’nai Mitzvot take place. L’chaim!
Another quintessential Israeli moment: walking with Shlomo Aronson, a visiting professor at the University of Arizona a few years ago, and his wife, Irit Yatsiv, among the protest tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. It was mesmerizing. For me, the issue was not whether I agreed with the reasons for the demonstration, but the fact that it existed. What began as a young woman’s one-tent protest against high rents turned into a happening, with couches and chairs and people listening to speeches as attentively as if they were taking college seminars. Among the causes discussed were human rights, animal rights, vegetarian rights, gay rights and the rights of assorted religious groups. I don’t speak Hebrew, but I absorbed what I could from the sights and sounds with some translations from Shlomo and Irit. Where else in the world would such a spectacle be allowed to stay for one day, let alone for such a long time? Certainly not in Tucson. The Tel Aviv municipality even provided port-a-potties and cleaned up the demonstrators’ garbage.
It had been a long time since we were in Israel and we were happy to see its people — and its democracy — thriving, despite all the challenges the country continues to face. L’chaim!