I’ve spent my entire professional life failing at talking about Israel. As a young soldier at the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesperson’s unit, I was taught that the key to winning hearts and minds was to be proactive, always ready with an evocative story that showed the army’s human face. As a slightly older press officer at the Israeli Consulate General in New York, I exchanged one uniform for another, trading my khakis for a cheap navy blue suit and my tough guy talk for an aspiring diplomat’s precious lilt. Then, as a journalist, I relished in rudeness and in the freedom I now had to abandon the official party line for unfettered inquiry and the free exchange of ideas, often contentious. I picked fights with folks on all sides of the ideological spectrum. I’ve made and lost friends over politics. I tried thundering at the top of my lungs and speaking with soft reason. I’ve learned many things, but none more important than this: None of it matters unless you can summon the one basic human emotion without which everything is just commentary—joy.
This Sunday, I’ll have a chance to express my uncomplicated love for my complicated country by marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade. I’m honored to serve as one of the parade’s honorary grand marshals, and grateful for the opportunity to toss my keyboard and my misgivings aside and just walk up New York’s Fifth Avenue, saying nothing more intricate than how glad I am there’s a strong and thriving Jewish state out there I can always call my home.
Sadly, these days, even such a simple statement is treated suspiciously as a polemic. Our scholars urge us to problematize every aspect of life, particularly those pertaining to the intricacies of our identity. Our social media platforms invite us to treat every banal utterance as an outrage. We’re singed daily by scorching takes, and are tempted to seek refuge somewhere cool where the hot hand of politics cannot reach. It’s a sorry way to go through life.
Putting her convictions in perspective, Emma Goldman once famously noted that she did not want any part of any revolution that didn’t let her dance. Similarly, we should find little use for any worldview that doesn’t allow us the space to get together on a sunny weekend morning for a fun party, enjoying each other’s company and feeling blessed for having so much to celebrate.
It’s been a momentous month in Israel. Many of us are exhausted from weeks spent obsessively tuning in to the news and reflexively arguing about it. We deserve not only some respite, but a reminder that we quibble because we care, and we can do no better than showing just how much by being together in public, united by our pride.