web analytics
March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Flag-Elation


Heiman-041213

Erev Yom Ha’Atzmaut, 2012: As I return from a visit to my elderly mother in the northern part of Jerusalem, the bus winds its way through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. The stone buildings along the route are colorless shades of sand and grey, some new, some old and blackened with age. Men and women rush through busy streets, expressions of pain and joy, helpless and hopeful looks defining their faces.

The bus steers past young women, their cell phones dangling like earrings, walking and talking, ears pressed to their shoulders as they simultaneously push baby carriages. Shopping districts bustle with activity; wares for sale hang on racks or are folded and stacked underneath coverings spread out bazaar style.

It is a day before Yom Ha’Atzmaut, and no matter where my eyes roam there is not a flag in sight; only large placards of warnings and mourning in oversized bold black letters admonishing unacceptable behavior, or listing recent tragic losses in local communities.

The bus turns up Yechezkel Street, across Malchei Yisroel and up Strauss, and still not a single flag. At last, it stops on the corner of Rechov Hanevi’im, Prophets Street, where a long blue and white banner is suspended from top to bottom at the entrance to Bikur Cholim Hospital, (now part of Shaare Zedek).

I have fond memories of Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim; some fifty years ago my eldest daughter was born in the hospital. It wasn’t erev Yom Ha’Atzmaut, it was pre-Yom Kippur. The delivery room stood in the center of the main first floor corridor partitioned with a wall about two and a half meters high, completely open at the top and reaching high to the century-old arched ceiling. Women in the delivery room could be heard shrieking “Imahleh, Imahleh,” before the piercing scream heralding new life.

A woman in the bed opposite me was scheduled for surgery, yet when two nurses came to wheel her out, her husband stood there as a lion, roaring. “No operation until I do kapparot with a live chicken.”

Am I dreaming or is this for real? I pinched myself to be sure I was awake. The young nurses argued; they refused to allow the man his kapparot service until an authoritative nurse appeared, her soft white hair rolled into a bun at the nape of her neck. She listened to her subordinates defend their resistance to the chickens, and then she listened to the husband who refused to allow surgery to commence erev Yom Kippur without his wife performing the ritually accepted kapparot practice of his community.

“Okay, you have two minutes to do your thing with the chicken, and then we move,” she ordered firmly, with Solomon-like wisdom. The hospital passageway was teeming with chickens-in-waiting. He grabbed a chicken and recited the text, rotating the live chicken over his wife’s head, and when he ended, the white haired nurse immediately joined the younger nurses and wheeled the patient out of the room.

The bus I’m on lurches back into motion, rolling down the hill past the hospital that fades from view. Flags wave along the route through the city center and beyond.

The nation’s flag is a statement, a reminder of where my sympathies lie, and why. I admit I didn’t always feel this way. As a new immigrant in 1960 from an Orthodox home and neighborhood in Brooklyn, I had never heard of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, an odd combination of a day off, a holiday without any religious connection or restrictions, a Purim-like day without compulsory megillah reading or seudah.

It took a few years to mature, to understand that thousands had given their lives to enable us to return to our homeland, a miracle for a people that has grown from a straggly band of immigrants to an independent Jewish nation to be reckoned with. Just as we are grateful for every live delivery of a child, so too I am filled with gratitude for the birth of this state.

Still, about half of Jerusalem’s citizens are disdainful. For many of them, the flag and the state, like a dysfunctional relative, is a touchy subject – one they prefer to deny or closet. For others, the state and its symbols are illegitimate, a state born in sin, worthy of flagellation. National celebration is ignored; any link to thanking the Almighty is ridiculed.

Is Jerusalem a city of separate peoples divided by a flag? Alternatively, perhaps we are still twelve tribes, pitching banners that define our camps as in days of old. My thoughts race as the bus rapidly turns corners past streets that bear names like Halamed Heh, Kovshei Katamon, Mivtza Kadesh, and Rachel Imeinu, names that evoke connection to historical events leading up to the state, alongside our ancient heritage.

The bus stops at my encampment. I enter my illusory tent, remove a folded flat packet from a shelf, and step out to a flower-filled balcony. Confident that my mother shares my elation, and my father’s face would beam, I string the crispy new flag across the porch railing.

Images flash through my mind of ancient tribes, Reuven and Yehuda in Machaneh Yisrael, the biblical camp of which we read, “each man by his banner according to his father’s household.” Essential values that express individual perception require time to contemplate, to accept. Yet, like a precious mix of blue and white, I sense that spirit of being a part of millions of Jews connected to the State of Israel, rejoicing on its birthday.

Happy Birthday, Israel!

About the Author: Faigie Heiman is an accomplished short-story and essay writer and the author of a popular memoir titled “Girl For Sale.” Born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she has lived in Israel for more than fifty years.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Flag-Elation”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Americans have a more favorable view of Netanyahu than they do of Obama.
Americans’ Favorable View of Netanyahu at Record High, Says Gallup Poll
Latest Indepth Stories
Bibi and Obama: Head to Head

Many Jews oppose the speech fearing it will further erode relations between Israel & US. I disagree.

UGANorthCampusSign

The University of Georgia Student Government Association called for more investment in Israel.

Middle-East-map

Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall ahead of his speech next week at the US Congress.

Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.

Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering

Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.

March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck

More Articles from Faigie Heiman
Mrs. Hench Leiman

Aunt Hench is a natural charmer. A people person, spunky and quick as only someone small as a light bulb can be, and wherever she is, she is a bright star.

President Reuven Rivlin

The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.

Water: a fluid with life-giving force, a thin liquid even a trickle of which can assure survival. Crops, fields, land, people – we all need water. We need water for growth, for purity, for beauty, for subsistence. What do we do when water sources are depleted? We have learned not to behave like the young […]

Beautiful Site, Joy of all the Earth; two of the seventy names provided for Jerusalem.

Beautiful Site, Joy of all the Earth; two of the seventy names provided for Jerusalem.

At age 104, my mother was still concerned about her relationship with Hashem.

Erev Yom Ha’Atzmaut, 2012: As I return from a visit to my elderly mother in the northern part of Jerusalem, the bus winds its way through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. The stone buildings along the route are colorless shades of sand and grey, some new, some old and blackened with age. Men and women rush through busy streets, expressions of pain and joy, helpless and hopeful looks defining their faces.

Turning on the news Thursday night, I expected to hear the wretched daily tally of Kassam/Grad rockets shot from Gaza to into Sderot or Ashkelon; instead, breaking news streamed across the screen about a terror attack taking place that very moment at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/flag-elation/2013/04/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: