Israel is still a young country with many social problems. For many Israelis it is a day of barbecues, plastic and inflatable hammers, foam sprays, vandalism and pollution of public parks with garbage, accompanied by high decibel Oriental Music (Israeli "Arse" Music) bursting one's ears. This year it will be the same pollution and vandalism, which is so much part of the celebrations of Independence Day. It is also a living hell for many household pets who run away from the various firework displays. Who knows how many pets will be abandoned during this time?
The other side of the coin is Al Naqba (The Catastrophe) observed by Palestinians in the occupied territories. It is also observed passively by the Israeli Arab community.
The streets of Israeli cities, towns and settlements are bedecked with Israeli flags as well as blue and white streamers. In contrast to this, in the Israeli Arab towns and villages it is business as usual with no Israeli flags visible anywhere.
The question that should come to one's mind is: Where have we failed to create a feeling of a common patriotism for Israel so Independence Day can be part of the Israeli heritage for all its citizens irrespective of race, colour or creed?
Al Naqba should be viewed as part of the history of Israel's establishment alongside the Zionist narrative. Symbols of Israel's people should be part of a common patriotism which could unite both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. It would create more tolerance and understanding among all Israel's citizens. Lately there have been vandal attacks on mosques and churches by various extremist right wing religious Jewish groups. The most notorious being Price Tag (Tag Machir). All this is caused by lack of education and tolerance towards those who are not Jewish. Racism in Israel is on the increase.
Before the actual Independence Day celebrations, it would be positive for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel to sit down and discuss each other's history. Ways of creating a common loyalty so that both the Zionist and Arab narrative of 1947/48 should be aired in a feeling of openness between the two peoples. The South African model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was carried out under the patronage of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, be adapted for all Israelis to create healing process, would go a long way to establish a common patriotism.
The next step would be finding symbols that would give Israeli Arab citizens a feeling of identity with Israel. It could be an olive branch or a symbol representing the three monotheistic faiths. These are symbols that recognize the diversity of Israel's people and at the same time create a sense of patriotism common to all.
Celebration of Israel's Independence Day is very partisan when 20 % of Israel's citizens do not identify with Israel.
A common patriotism must begin on the first day at school. Education should be the same for all pupils. Arabs and Jews should be encouraged to go to the same schools. The only time justifying separation is when it comes to religious classes. This is the case in schools overseas where Jewish children learn Tanach, Christian children-the New Testament, Muslims-the Koran. The amount of time devoted for religious studies should be decided by the school committee composed of members of all faiths. Citizenship studies should be the same for all groups.
The biggest problem to initiate a common feeling of patriotism is how it should be done. This would involve total re-education of teachers to guide the transition towards a common patriotism. Programmes for teacher training to receive the tools on how to achieve this would go a long way in reaching this goal. It cannot be done overnight, as the wounds of the conflict and its history runs very deep, and as mentioned earlier in this article, a process of healing based on a truth and reconciliation programme would be a good start.
In many western countries (of which Israel claims to be part), schoolchildren of all faiths pledge allegiance to their countries of birth. This sense of allegiance irrespective of race, color or creed is part of a common patriotism for all citizens.
It could be achieved here in Israel. The advantages are great. One positive aspect would be a total negation of the claim that Israel is an apartheid state which would improve Israel's standing in the world. This would also bring much needed peace closer between Israel and the Palestinians as all Israel's citizens will be united in the desire to end the occupation and reach a just peace with security for all.
When the feeling of a common patriotism is achieved, we will see Israeli flags in Arab villages alongside bunting symbolizing all Israel's citizens' unity imbued with a common pride for the country of their birth.
Arab Israelis choose not to be integrated, to be active.... they have the lowest voting percentage of any other population. Integration must come from their side and calling Independence day a catastrophe will perpetuate a lie and in no way help.
The non-government organization International Crisis Group issued a report that more Arabs living in east Jerusalem are applying for Israeli citizenship. The report cited the reasons for being they did not want to lose legal rights.