For exactly twenty-four hours, Israeli radio and television stations broadcast stories of the fallen. But at the end of the day, grief was transformed into joy.
At Rabin Square, the crowds danced; fireworks, not bombs, exploded over Tel Aviv. Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Day of Independence, had begun. The promenade overlooking the Tel Aviv beach was bursting with energy. My camera never stopped clicking. Dark-skinned Sfardic men, with the thick black curled locks that identified them as religious, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, gyrated up and down, in circles, alone and with each other, to techno mizrachi (Middle-Eastern)music blaring from a truck. Lime green rental bicycles cruised down the bike lane. Two religious teenage girls, in long skirts, tentatively roller-skated up and down the promenade. A park below the port of Jaffa was dotted with picnickers roasting kebabs, smoking from hukas, kicking soccer balls. Ethopian women, Israel’s newest generation of refugees, in brightly colored garb stood in contrast with the black-hatted, bearded Haredim strolling with their wigged and hatted wives. A young boy, his head a mop of blonde curls ran through the park waving a small, plastic Israeli flag. Remants of yesterday spread over me, as I pictured him years later in uniform. Grief and joy are the yin and yang of this country, where every single person has been touched by loss. This is the sacrifice that has created a place that in spite of its warts, is a safe haven for a people who have been brutalized and expelled from almost every country in the world. I am alive in a country, that, had it existed a decade earlier than its founding, could have spared my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from Hitler’s wrath.