Today was an incredible day. First, we woke up (those of us who didn’t stay up until 2 in the morning) to hear the news that the Israeli entrant had won the Eurovision song contest. Do we typically care about Eurovision? Um, not so much. But Netta Barzilai is an amazing person for her determination, her message of self love and her Zionism. And she clucked and sang and rocked out the competition, bringing home the win for Israel with her song, Toy. It was a blast to watch the video footage of people raising Israeli flags in the theater in Portugal, dancing in the shuk in Jerusalem and running through the fountains of Tel Aviv. There was even footage today of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu clucking on his way into a meeting. Israelis love our wins, since they feel like wins for all of us.
Then, since it’s Yom Yerushalayim, the day that Jerusalem was reunified at the end of the Six Day War, we made our way into the city with four of the kids. For the past few years, Josh and I have taken off Yom Yerushalayim to enjoy the day together in the city; last year we looked at each other and wondered why we hadn’t been bringing the kids to enjoy along with us. So this year, we took them into the city for the experience of a lifetime. First, we walked through the Jewish Quarter and had lunch before heading to the Kotel. As I got lunch, Toy was playing in the sandwich shop and every single person was singing along to it. Hysterical.
As we explored the Old City, it was fascinating to talk to a German couple who had fulfilled their 25 year dream of getting to Jerusalem, only to find themselves there on this day. They were overcome with excitement seeing the enthusiasm of those around them and amazed by the love of country. I also saw an African couple and a South Korean couple discussing Trump’s upcoming Embassy move. The conversation ended with high fives and pictures all around.
Yakir decided, when we got to the Kotel, that he needed to write a note to Hashem. After pimping a receipt off of someone so that he could write his note, he plopped down on the pavement and started writing away. Only later did he tell me that one of his three wishes is to buy a mother bunny and her four babies. Oh, boy, who gave that kid a pen?
Leaving the Old City, we headed to the city center where the annual Yom Yerushalayim parade takes place.
Here, thousands upon thousands of kids congregate to sing and dance their hearts out in celebration of Jerusalem. Matan and Yehuda have been telling us for years about this parade and about how much fun it is to dance through the streets with their flag from their high school. But we’ve never been part of it – until today. One of Matan’s friends handed the kids flags and Yakir spent the next two hours dancing with all of his big brothers’ friends, jumping into and out of their circle and waving his flag into everyone’s face in the crowds. He was in his element.
The streets were overflowing with a frenetic energy of boys and girls singing and dancing. People of all sorts were there to watch and to participate and it was an amazing experience.
I often feel, as Israelis, that we spend all of our time apologizing; or maybe more so that the rest of the world thinks that we should spend our time apologizing. We should apologize for winning the war in 1948 and building the modern State of Israel; for winning against absolutely impossible odds in 1967 and reunifying Jerusalem, regaining Gush Etzion, winning the Golan, etc. etc.; that we should apologize for being proud Jews and for claiming the homeland that we have fought over, dreamed about and yearned for for so long.
Netta and the dancing kids in Jerusalem have reminded me, today, that we aren’t apologizing. In an interview that I heard with Netta today, she said that she isn’t your typical hero. She isn’t skinny, gorgeous and sexy in the traditional sense and she was told over and over again that she couldn’t. She couldn’t sing and gain attention; she couldn’t have the confidence that she has; she couldn’t represent Israel on the international stage and win. She isn’t apologizing for anything – but winning over and over again.
And we aren’t apologizing for creating a strong, dynamic country filled with boys and girls like my own who are proud to wave their flag through the streets of Jerusalem and to celebrate our hard-earned victories. These are the boys and girls who will be on the front line in our future – and they have no plans to apologize to the world for loving their country, for declaring that Jerusalem is our capital and for celebrating our victories.
No apologies. Just joy today and a nod to the future of our country and our people tomorrow.