Libertarian Ambivalence on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day

Last year I wrote this post on Times of Israel entitled “Why I do not celebrate the birth of the State of Israel”, though I do celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence day. I went through all the reasons I hate the institution of the State, and ended with this:

I do not celebrate the birth of the State of Israel because I despise it. There is nothing it does or provides that free independent Jews couldn’t provide better and more efficiently. I wish the State would go away and let private Jews protect themselves and organize their lives based on voluntary agreements. All the politics about whose money goes which way would vanish and we could stop all the infighting. Life would finally be peaceful.

So what, then, am I celebrating? I am celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut. Independence Day. Today is not Yom Medinat Yisrael. Today is Yom HaAtzmaut. I am celebrating the fact that I am free from the British State which harassed Jews much more. This is indeed something to celebrate. I am not yet free, however, from the Jewish State. But God willing, soon, I will be.

This year it’s still harder to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut. I suspect it will get harder and harder as the State gets bigger and bigger. It’s hard because while I know that I celebrate Jewish independence from Britain, I also know that everyone else is indeed celebrating the institution of the State itself. So it feels really awkward to be celebrating together with people who are celebrating something I hate.

Not that I’m the only one who’s ambivalent. Everyone else is, too, because when it comes down to it, they all hate the State as well. They just don’t want to come out and say it as honestly as I do, because they don’t want to sound like “anarchists” or some other scary word.

Last night it was especially evident. I’m in Zichron Ya’akov now visiting my brother and his family, who just moved back to Israel after 15 years. We ended up going to a house of a bunch of hippieish modernistic Jews, like the kind I used to hang out with in America. The Dvar Torah at the end of the service was, essentially, in so many words, something along the lines of “Even though we all hate the State and the people in charge are disgusting, we still have to celebrate it because Rav Nachman says everything will be good eventually.”

No, he did not say it that way exactly, but that was the message. It was more diplomatic of course, like “Even though there is a lot to fix in the State, it will all be better at some point.” The point is it started off conceding that there are a lot of problems. Generally, Jewish holidays don’t start off on that kind of negative.

Like, take Chanukah. The geulah, redemption, was not complete, but we only say that at the end. And Purim. Same thing, but we only say that the redemption was not complete at the end. Even Pesach, very happy, but we remind ourselves at the end that 80% of the Israelites did not make it out of Egypt alive. Footnote. But Yom HaAtzmaut, everyone knows there’s something seriously wrong here, right out in the open, and it feels disgusting for everyone to celebrate a political institution, and that awkward feeling everyone has needs to be addressed immediately. It has to be said at the beginning, because nobody feels completely right about this.

With other Jewish holidays, the celebration is obvious, we just have to remind ourselves that it’s not completely happy yet. With Yom HaAtzmaut, we have to remind ourselves that things aren’t completely horrible, and there is still something to celebrate about this.

Which is essentially what I say, but without dressing it up in qualifiers and watered-down language.

I was sitting next to my brother in the back who, it is publicly known so it’s not loshon harah, does not believe in the narrative of the Exodus as historical. So the ultimate irony hit me. Here’s what I told him.

“So, you don’t believe in the Biblical God and I don’t believe in the State, and here we are thanking God for the State.”

And we both cracked up.

On Yom HaAtzmaut, I say Hallel, with a bracha, but I can no longer do it in a minyan, because they say Hallel for the State, and I say it in spite of the State. So from now on, I daven alone on Yom HaAtzmaut.

If there are any Jewish libertarians out there anywhere in the world, male or female, who celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut but not the State of Israel, then let’s make a minyan (egalitarian even, if we can’t scrape up the male numbers) and do Hallel, through Skype, through whatever.