"Israel is facing crucial decisions"

Seventy years after the founding of the State of Israel, Lizzie Doron, author of "Who the Fuck is Kafka?", which traces the unlikely friendship of an Israeli and a Palestinian, walks through her evolving feelings over the years regarding 14 May

By Lizzie Doron

I was born in Israel in 1953, the only daughter of Holocaust survivors. In May 1948, five years before me, my country was born.

Independence Day 1958 – I'm 5 years old, Israel is 10

My mother dressed me up in a blue skirt and white blouse, handed me a flag to hold and stuck the menorah symbol pin on my blouse. She had been requested to send me to kindergarten dressed this way for Independence Day. I saw her shedding tears while we walked to the ceremony hand in hand.

From among the sirens, speeches, songs and dancing, despite my young age, I sensed the festive occasion and even without knowing the entire story I was filled with pride and happiness.

1960 – the state of Israel's 12th Independence Day, I am 7 years old

I take part in the ceremony with my classmates. I see my mother standing among the parents who attended the event, smiling at me.

In a clear, loud voice, I read sections from the Proclamation of Independence:

"The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land ..."

Children learning carpentry skills at the Givat Brenner Kibbutz, Israel, circa 1950 (photo by George Pickow/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Excerpt from Israel's Proclamation of Independence: "The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture"

Here too, I didn't understand each and every word, and definitely not the entire meaning, but I can still quote this text today with emotion, without omitting a single word.

1967 — Israel is 19, I am 14

Our victory in the Six-Day War proves we must be strong and willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of this country. Only thus, with the help of the Israeli Defence Forces, we can defeat all our enemies. Terms such as "brave soldiers, die for our country" are part of my bloodstream. My belief in the righteousness of our way becomes even more profound.
In the ceremony that honoured the fallen soldiers, I was selected to read the Yzkor (remembrance) to the audience.

"May the Israeli nation remember its brave sons and daughters, soldiers in the Israeli Defence Forces … May the victorious fallen soldiers of Israel remain sealed within the hearts of Israelis for generations to come."

My mother refused to attend the ceremony, scared by the joy of victory.

"I am the expert on wars," she claimed. "Supporting an army without doubt is dangerous," she stated.

But I didn't listen, stormed out of the house slamming the door behind me.

1971 — Israel is 23, I am 18

I am a soldier, serving on the Golan Heights, and have a boyfriend, an officer in the Israeli Defence Forces.

I was lucky enough to fulfil the Israeli dream, a weapon in one hand and an agricultural tool in the other. I was building my future with my friends in the kibbutz, the most Israeli fortress.

Victorious Israeli soldiers sit atop a jeep brandishing a picture of Gamal Abdel Nasser, then president of Egypt, who triggered the Six Day War by blocking the Straits of Tiran. The Six Day war between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria lasted from 5 June to 10 June 1967 (photo: picture-alliance/ven Simon)
It was a short war, just six days, yet during that time Israel destroyed the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, captured the Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt and occupied East Jerusalem, which up to that point had been part of Jordan. And that was only the military debacle. The political and cultural consequences of this defeat continue to shape the Arab world to this day

In those years, I distance myself from my mother.

1973 — Israel is 25, I am 20

On the 6th of October, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Syrian planes bombarded my house on the Golan Heights killing seven of my friends.

My dream, my way and my faith are shattered in an instant.

"Perhaps now you will understand that war has no victors, only victims on both sides," said my mother when I returned home to Tel Aviv, broken and defeated.

I and my country are not what we used to be.

1977 — the country is 29, I am 24

Government in Israel is transferred from the Labour Party to the Likud.

"Turnover," announced the TV newscaster.I also underwent a turnover. I live in Tel Aviv, attempt to heal the wounds, immersed in my studies.

My relationship with my mother is still shaky, but sometimes when we meet she speaks of the forests, the rivers and the magic of snow in another land.

Her heart has returned to her childhood views, I gather.

I keep telling her and myself that our Israel is a young country, just starting out, a growing country that is constructing cities, roads, parks, science and research institutes, the Hebrew language is flourishing, more and more Jews from the Diaspora are joining us here, in the home of the Jewish nation.

1979 — the state is 31 and I am 26

Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, visits the Israeli Knesset.

For a moment, the hope we will manage to establish peace between ourselves and the Arab nations arises.My mother sighs in relief, but insists I must have *two* heimats (using the German word for home/homeland - eds.).


I am an Israeli-born Tzabar, I have Israeli dreams.

She will never comprehend it.

Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt from 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers in 1981 (photo: Getty Images)
A controversial figure in the Arab world: Anwar Sadat led Egypt in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to regain Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967, thereby securing him cult status for a time. He subsequently entered into negotiations with Israel, culminating in the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty; this won him and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin the Nobel Peace Prize, making Sadat the first Muslim Nobel laureate. With the exception of Sudan, the Arab world and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) strongly opposed Sadat's efforts to make a separate peace with Israel without prior consultations with the Arab states. It is also likely that the peace treaty led to his assassination

1982 — the country is 34 and I am 29

I am married and the mother of two.

My family and career are the centre of my life.

In that year, due to terrorist attacks, increase in the organisations that object to the existence of the state of Israel, the first Lebanon war broke out. From my point of view, the war was in the north and life in Tel Aviv continued as usual.

I am living my own life. I feel good in my country.

1985 — the war ends

Six hundred and fifty-four soldiers were killed in this war.

My mother says that when our sons fall here, in this country, it means we have lost that war too.

I remain silent.

1990 — my mother is on her deathbed, she asks me to remain blonde

"Why?" I asked.

"Because only the blondes survive," she replied.

"So why should I be blonde?" I insist.

"Just to be on the safe side," she responded.

She is losing her mind, I try to make it easy on myself.

Just after she passed away, for the first time in my life, I delve into the story of my family that was lost in the Holocaust and write it. My books and my personal stories are merged into the structure of the Jewish-Israeli narrative.

I gain recognition in my country.

With the Intifada and the 1985-2000 South Lebanon conflict in the background, I continue to tell and write about my own history.

1992 — Rabin's government, the Oslo Accords

Hope is revived. I take to the streets, participate in all support rallies on the way to peace, I join a goodwill delegation to meet Arafat.

"We are going to touch hope," I say to my children and take them with me to Gaza.

Tens of thousands of Israelis take part in a rally commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv, Israel, 31 October 2015 (photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen)
The death of the peace process: On 4 November 1995, a national-religious fanatic assassinated serving Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a signatory to the Oslo Accords, at a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Many Israelis were shocked at the hatred that had led to the murder of Rabin. The "peace process" lay in ruins. The tragic reverberations can still be felt to this day

1995 — Rabin's assassination

My motherland was assassinated.

I realise that my people are sinking into fear and hate, believing that the only solution is military power.

During the times of sadness and despair that follow the assassination, I choose to remain in my comfort zone. I continue to write books, I am one of the voices that tell the story of Israel's second generation. I write about the trauma of the Holocaust and the dream of being a free nation in our country, being strong, surviving, living.

From time to time I hear my mother's voice. She encourages me to ask questions and doubt things. You are wrong, I hear her telling me.

2009 — In the midst of another war in Gaza

I met a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem who was ready to share with me his everyday life under Israeli occupation. I saw it as an opportunity to examine my private way, my beliefs and assumptions on which I was raised and in which I believed. Meetings with him brought me to understand that his story must be told here. I felt that through his story perhaps we can bring people closer together, cause change, but, to my surprise, the book which tells our story was never published in Israel. My somewhat naive hope that literature would crack the walls, undermine old myths and open hearts was proven to be false.2014 — Polarisation is getting worse

My second book telling the story of Palestinians who are peace activists was not published in my country either. At the end I find myself dealing with my stories, ideas and thoughts just in "snowy countries," where I have lots of readers, acquaintances and friends.

In the meantime, in Israel, polarisation is getting worse: The two-state solution is losing support; groups that attend to human and civil rights meet with criticism; the emphasis moves from a democratic to a Jewish state. At this time, the refugee problem is put on the agenda, but the state of Israel and its citizens find it hard to lend them a hand, give them shelter.

It seems as though the text I had read from the Proclamation of Independence has failed to pass the trial of time.

Human rights organisations, journalists and people who do not conform to the consensus are perceived as enemies and anyone doubting the way of the government and the hold of the settlers in Judea and Samaria is considered a traitor.

2018 — the 70th Independence Day, I am 65 years old

This day I sense the phantom pains of the parts I had lost over the years.

Today I feel Israel is facing crucial decisions and will have to deal most profoundly with issues such as whether it is a Jewish or democratic state?

Will occupation last forever?

What will be the fate of the refugees?

On Israel's 70th Independence Day, I am still not ready to give up. I still hope my country will be based on principles of freedom, justice and peace that it had undertaken on the day it was founded.

And all of a sudden, on the eve of our Independence Day, I find myself telling my late mother that I and my husband have been going back and forth in recent years between two heimats, between Berlin and Tel Aviv. That my son, her grandson, has left the country to lead life in Germany, that my daughter, her granddaughter, still lives in Israel, worried and troubled by the future her sons may expect, and I also tell her I am blonde, regularly dye my hair blonde, just to be on the safe side, as she had asked me when she was alive.

Lizzie Doron

© Deutsche Welle 2018