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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Learning patriotism, for Canadian beginners.

image  To say I’ve been surprised by Yom HaAtzmaut isn’t quite true. 

All the chagim have been so much more vivid here that it stands to reason.  And this is THE chag, the Identity Festival that celebrates exactly what this little country stands for and all it’s accomplished in 66 short years.

Back in Canada, I noticed that I only really started taking Canada Day, the July 1st national holiday, seriously after we decided to make aliyah.  With a great big dollar-store flag flapping out front and crafts and activities for the kids (like this Canada Flag activity), we did more than most people I knew. 

imageOkay, we also did the obligatory Big Family BBQ.  Everybody does that, but it’s more about kicking off the summer than celebrating Confederation.

Every time we’d drive south of the border, even when it wasn’t July 4th, I was always struck by the number of flags and the sheer shamelessness of Americans, hooting and hollering about living in the greatest country in the world.

Canadians don’t do that. 

Oh, sure, I think most of us secretly believe it.  It’s a great country:  second-biggest in the world, unspoiled, beautiful, friendly. 

But in general, we will not crassly stick our nationalism in your face – even if your face is marching up and down the streets of our biggest city on our national holiday.  Fireworks and beer, yeah; flags and hoopla, no.

Face it:  Canada just doesn’t do patriotism very well.

We have earned our reputation as the meek among the nations of the world, never offending anybody (except people who don’t like beer or socialized medicine).  Standing in line.  Accommodating.  Apologizing.

I like to tell people here of the time I went shopping, shortly before making aliyah, and in the supermarket, my cart almost made contact with the cart of a woman going in the other direction up the aisle.  Almost; we almost touched carts.  And as we passed each other, like strangers in the night, we whispered to each other that most Canadian of utterances:  “Sorry…”

Yes, we both apologized, instantly and automatically – for NEARLY entering each other’s personal space.

Quebec is like Canada’s crass little brother in this regard.  Even though it’s technically part of Canada (and so, not a nation at all, really), each year on June 24th, they make a big blue and white to-do over their “Fête nationale” (national holiday), St. Jean Baptiste Day (its origin as a saint’s day reflects the province’s Catholic beginnings).

imageOutside of Quebec, the actual national holiday on July 1st gets considerably less attention.  Like I said, there seems to be the prevailing idea that if you like the country, you should keep those feelings tastefully pent-up inside. 

Oh, sure, buy a bunch of made-in-China flags and merch (hats, beer cups, tacky garden ornaments).  But don’t go too far overboard into thinking you or your country are something special.

Israel is a horse of a different colour.  A soos b’tzeva acher (סוס בצבע אחר = “horse of a different colour”), if you will… and that colour is firmly, starkly, proudly KACHOLAVAN.

Flags are everywhere.  Not just on government buildings, although they are all dolled up, of course.  Even the normally pretty dumpy streets of Kiryat Yam are all fancy, with that bunting stuff that flaps and rustles in the breeze.  Here’s Batya at me-ander blogging about setting up the flags at the store where she works.

image (Flags are even on the challahs!  See this post for more.)

Passing through the Herzliya train station the other day, just an ordinary train station, and being literally stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the flags everywhere and what they stood for… goosebumps.

The whole country is covered in flag upon flag
The nation is dancing in wave upon wave
The nation is happy, the nation is glad
It is a festival today in Israel

image כָּל הָאָרֶץ דְּגָלִים דְּגָלִים,
עַם רוֹקֵד גַּלִּים גַּלִים
עַם שָׂמֵחַ, טַף צוֹהֵל –
חַג הַיּוֹם לְיִשְׂרָאֵל.

Read and listen to a scratchy 1956 recording here.

Or watch it as part of a mix of Israeli “chag” songs here (starts at 2:15).

For one day, it seems, for all its flaws and hiccups; for all the bickering and disagreement, for all the pressure from every possible direction to be something else entirely… for one day, Israel is proud of Israel and all it stands for.

It’s nice.

In case you were hoping for something shocking, or controversial or au courant political insight (do you know me???) or at least a mild-mannered kvetch, don’t worry; all that will resume again in a couple of days.

In the meantime, I’m just proud to be Israeli… at last.

(Photo credit:  אורן פלס, Wikimedia)

4 comments:

  1. I enjoy reading your blog as it parallels my family's 1st year of aliya.
    חג עצמאות שמח!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cheryl! And mazel tov on your own aliyah, too!

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