My family and I will, IY"H, be at the Celebrate Israel Parade this Sunday (June 1) for the first time. I want to share a few thoughts behind this decision.
First, it is not because I have undergone any recent change in ideology. I still love the fact that we have a state in Eretz Yisroel built by Jews and hope that it will continually become more alligned with the Torah as time goes on. I still say tachanun on Yom Ha'atzemeut. [Incidently, when I saw what occured on Yom Ha'atzmeut in YU, it appeared to be somewhat haphazard because everybody did different things and no one knew what to do. It left me feeling like the whole thing was somewhat made-up.] I am still grateful to Hashem that His providence has caused the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles and the building of Eretz Yisroel even before Moshiach's arrival.
Putting aside my natural quality of laziness, I have not felt a strong desire to go to the Israel Parade before because it has always struck me as too modern and/or secular a way of showing appreciation for the Jewish state. And I still basically feel that way, but other things have caused me to want to find new ways to show my support and gratitude to Hashem and the Jewish people for the existence of a thriving State of Israel in Eretz Yisroel.
Here is what has pushed me in the other direction so that I would like to try going to the parade this year. First, I have friends who often go and have told me about the beauty and inspiration of seeing tens of thousands of Jews, from the most secular to those who are very religious, getting together to express their gratitude and love for the same thing. I have heard that there is an incredible positive energy. It is almost unheard of to find secular and religious Jews taking part in something together so I love there idea that we have at least this one thing, the State of Israel, that can bring people together in a positive way. We often find such unity when tragedies like 9/11 or Hurricaine Sandy strike, but almost never for positive things.
The second thing is the toxic negativity toward the State of Israel and those associated with it, including the IDF, that I very often hear from various parts of my community. It goes without saying that, as a Jew who works to be religious, I recognize that there are many things wrong with the State, its army, and its laws. But there are so many positive, beautiful things happening as well. And so many of even the people who do harmful things are sincerely trying to do what is right as they (albeit wrongly) understand it.
The derech in Torah to which I am drawn is one which sees good in things. Even when Jews do bad things, this derech seeks to avoid whitewashing the bad while still looking beneath the surface to appreciate that those doing it are not inherently evil or malicious, but are simply wrong or confused. A chareidi MK in a recent article in Mishpacha Magazine actually claimed that non-chareidim hate chareidim so much that it would be futile to even attempt to reconcile with, talk with, or even persuade secular Israelis of the correctness of the chareidi position. See my letter to the editor in response to that on the right. Such extreme negativity which blinds itself to seeing any positivity in "the other" pushes me to try even harder to see good in those who are condemned as evil and malicious.
Even drashos speaking against the current government of Israel by tzadikim who I respect and look up to, like this one, push me to see the good that other tzadikim and my own gut tells me is there. So even though my positions regarding the state have not changed, I am frustrated by the lack of an appreciation for the goodness within Jews whose beliefs and actions may be wrong. And that frustration causes me to look for more ways to see, be grateful for, and celebrate the good.
My family is now getting very excited to come to the parade as well. My somewhat vertically challenged oldest daughter (a good Bais Yaakov girl) was a little bit concerned that she would not be able to see anything because of her height, so I suggested that we march in the parade so she wouldn't have to worry about the view. She very much liked that idea, so IY"H, we will be marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade with YU, my alma mater. Hope to see you there if any of you may be joining!
I do not know whether I will come to future parades, but IY"H, may this one reveal more goodness, gratitude, and achdus in as broad a specrum of the Jewish people as possible!