Yom Ha’atzmaut on Haneviim Street

Rabbi Drukman opens our eyes to the meaning of Yom Haatzmaut - and the writer finds it on a Jerusalem Street.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism בית ברחוב הנביאים בירושלים
בית ברחוב הנביאים בירושלים

I finish a shift at Terem, the emergency clinic, and walk outside of Bikur Cholim Hospital onto the corner of Haneviim and Strauss streets in downtown Jerusalem.

Kitty-corner from the hospital, at a kiosk, I order a large glass of orange juice. While a teenager named Matan is squeezing the oranges, I walk next-door into Batish Pharmacy, just to shoot the breeze with the pharmacist, Tzion Batish. When I mention the subject of the upcoming Independence Day, he suddenly becomes animated, and says:

“You should know that the founder of this pharmacy, Nissim Batish, was a member of the Irgun Tzevai Leumi, the Etzel Underground Forces. He was one of the fighters who prepared and planted the bombs that, hidden in milk-cans, blew up the King David Hotel (the British Mandatory government headquarters)". This occurred on July 22, 1946.

I leave Mr. Batish, pick up my juice, and walk down Haneviim Street, going east. I pass by the ORT school. It appears in the 1959 movie Exodus, in a probably imaginary episodic which shows Irgun/Etzel Underground fighters hiding out in one of the rooms on the second floor. They were, most-likely, hiding in the Old City.

The movie, by the way, may be hokum, but it is right on several points: the Arabs are called Arabs, not Palestinians; only the Jews are referred to as Palestinians; and when Hagana leader Paul Newman gives a rah-rah patriotic speech how we Jews are fighting for our land which, as per the title song, “G-d gave to me”, non-Jewish nurse Eva Marie-Saint tries to “reason” with him that “even if you win they’ll never let you keep it”, presaging our never-ending battle against local and international anti-Semites - for “wouldn’t we rather have Peace”. But we know the “peace” the world has in store for us, more like us becoming “brands pulled from the furnace” of Exile/Holocaust, as the prophet says.

A few meters later, I reach the Ministry of Education and the old Ethiopian hospital buildings. In between them hangs a plaque to the three fighters “Binyamini, etc. who gave their lives in the battle of Jerusalem, June, 1967”.

Rav Chaim Drukman (Lazman Hazeh, pages 261-308) discusses the verse in Psalms: “When the Lord returned (with) us to Zion, we were as dreamers” (chap. 126;1). We read this verse in the Synagogue on the night of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Rav Drukman compares us modern Jews to a child daydreaming in class. His eyes are open, but if you ask him what’s going on, he can’t tell you a word of what the teacher has been saying.

And the Jews, instead of seeing Reality in its true Tiferet (whole beauty, for lack of a better translation) and the great events of the last 68 years, and instead of feeling the enormity and holiness of the miracles that Jewry merited in the תקומה של מדינת ישראל, the phoenix-like arising of the State of Israel from the ashes of the Diaspora, sink into a dream-like state, concentrating on problems and difficulties.

Rav Drukman quotes HaRav Kook:

“The pure, righteous men of Israel:

Do not complain about evil -  they simply increase justice,

Do not bewail rampant atheism -  they simply increase faith

Do not bemoan widespread ignorance -  they simply increase wisdom",

Adding his own wisdom, Rav Drukman says: prevailing against all these negatives is possible only with ריבוי חיוב, a multiplicity of positives. First and foremost of these positives is spreading the belief that all that happened in our history, and especially events of the last three generations, were not happenstance, but the Handiwork of the Lord for the Redemption of Israel.

In this vein, Rav Drukman explains our congregational reading of Psalm 107 (“Express thanks to the Lord, for His Kindness is great”) on the night of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The Meiri , writing 700 years ago elaborates : “ It appears to me that this psalm is said prophetically about the Geula/Redemption from this long Galut/Exile, in which we find ourselves with so many troubles.. when the Lord will redeem them, they will be saved from all those evils, will thank the Lord and proclaim His wonders to mankind. They will return to their destroyed land , establish cities, and succeed in many miraculous ways. The Land will fill with knowledge, and they will perfect themselves in all fields of perfection”.

Rav Drukman elaborates: constant progress towards these perfections depends only on our will and positive attitude.

Rav Drukman proves from the Amida, recited in prayer at least three times a day, that even the formally religious among us walk about in a dream-state. We all say:  "The Lord supports the fallen, heals the sick and releases those in captivity”, thinking it refers to individuals. Not so! , says the Rash Mi’Shantz: “This deals with the downfall of the people of Israel, and their captivity, in which the Lord supports them, and from which He will release them and take them out.

The prayer continues with: ‘ You are trustworthy to bring the Dead to Life’, referring to the Redemption of Israel”, to the National Resurrection of the Dead. But again, even those who believe the most in all other areas of Judaism, pay no attention, lost in their dream-state when it comes to Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

Rav Drukman concludes with the following: “ I cannot forget how in the first years of the Medina( State), we danced on the night of Yom Ha’Atzmaut from the Yeshiva (Mercaz Harav) to the President’s House, just as we danced the night of Simchat Torah from the Yeshiva to the houses of the Chief Rabbis. As we danced through the streets of Jerusalem, Jews of all types, a wide, multi-layered public, joined us.

Seeing them, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook said: ‘When I see all these various Jews dancing here, I see the Ribbono Shel Olam( G-d ) Himself dancing with them’. This is how the happiness (simcha) over the the wonder of our national Redemption/Resurrection should be”.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut sameach.