The wind dances through the myriad of blue and white flags that are flying from the whooshing, Jerusalem cars and the balconies of the sandstone buildings. We ourselves, have four flags flying from our car. My five year old insisted.
The Jerusalem radio hosts complain that there are not enough flags bedecking the city of gold. I see them increasing every minute with the build up to Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.
I love the flags, the flags that are part of a history of building a country from the ashes of the Holocaust, from the ragged suitcases of immigrants, from an age old dream sewn together like a hodgepodge, immigrant quilt which is Israel today.
There’s a feeling of pride and safety as my flags wave from our balcony and car. However, I can’t help but question would I feel safe flying the Israeli flag in Sydney or Johannesburg?
I ask this question with curiosity. I know that the media headlines and the BDS’s voice are aggressively loud enough that some Israelis hide their identity when they travel overseas.
It’s easy to forget what Israel is, and sometimes we need another inside voice to remind us what Israel is and how proud we should be.
The other day I took a taxi, and driving down the Green Line, my Arab taxi driver commented on what a lovely name Sarah is, and how she was the wife of Isaac. This began a funny conversation where he declared he didn’t know his scripture very well. He also declared, ‘I’m a man of peace.’
He went on to describe his childhood. Growing up in the Old City in his father’s big house. His father was a teacher who insisted the whole family stayed home at night and read. My effusive taxi driver related his own despair at the new, techno generation that doesn’t read. The world of his grandfather’s cafe, where he used to sit as a young boy in the circle of Shesh Besh playing men, swapping stories over strong, Turkish coffee, is gone.
He now lives in Ammunition Hill with his wife and children. They still own his father’s house in the Old City. He loves Jerusalem and doesn’t mind Israeli rule. He simply shrugs his shoulders when I ask him about this matter, ‘The strongest wins, what difference does it make if it’s Israelis or the English?’
He goes on to lament the fate of the surrounding Arab countries. He explains, his voice excited and loud, that Egypt which used to export sugar now buys its own sugar. He repeats over and over again, ‘Look at the streets. Here its clean. I’m clean. I want to live a clean life.’
His face clouds over as he speaks of the routine checks that Arabs endure, the reality of the constant cloud of terrorism that hovers over Jerusalem, but even this he shrugs off and again repeats, ‘I’m clean, I have nothing to hide, so check me.’ He then says, ‘If Israel falls under Arab rule I’m going to Canada.’
The Israeli flag is cast down at half mast when we listen to the ringing siren, commemorating Israel’s fallen soldiers, victims of terror and all the loss and tragedy that war entails. I stood today at my sons’ school and saw the school children’s heads bowed in solemn silence during the chilling wail. I cried with all the other parents as we do every year. For the steep price of war, for the land that we have paid for in blood and tears. On the way home for the third time that day the radio played the song with the words all Israelis sing to their children, ‘I promise you, my little girl, that this will be the last war.’
I have a feeling that this promise could be true when the Israeli flag is proudly flown through every area and country. For I think if we dig deeply and honestly, we would learn that flying the Israeli flag is the litmus test of how democratic, tolerant and clean a society really is.
Meanwhile, whoever believes in peace, justice and the value of all religions, nations and people, just wave your Israeli flag.