This is not the article I promised the editorial board I'd write - a somber reflection on the unknown price paid by the younger generation, of which I was part, that fought the 1948 war on the Israeli side. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of these felt out of place in the new state and left it. I intended to tell the personal stories of some of them. I remember drinking a whole bottle of whiskey during a long night with one of them who came back and tried to build his life again here and then gave it up, telling me towards dawn: "It's no use. My country was murdered in 1948. This is the last time I am visiting here." And it was.
I also intended to refer the readers to Netiva Ben-Yehuda's novel Miba'ad La'avolot (Through the Fetters), perhaps the most straightforward and somber account of the experiences of that generation, and the great disillusionment that began to percolate among many of its members (it was by no means general).

Rethinking an Article

But I gave the project up after a few attempts. It somehow was too diffuse. Also, the whole subject of war, of nationalism, of the stupidity and meanness of leaders and led, suddenly became too repulsive. And it all came to a head today, when I sat again in front of the computer and tried to push on with the writing, and the telephone rang.
A cheerful girl's voice was heard: "Is this Boas?" I tried feverishly to place that voice in my memory. It would be nice to be on such familiar terms with a young lady again. I said hesitatingly: "Yes?" And the voice continued in the same warm, familiar tone, "I am calling on behalf of the Ways and Means Magazine. We wanted to interest you in a special project we have developed for a special person like you, blah, blah, blah...." It was again one of those promotion tricks, copied clumsily from American hard-sell marketing techniques and mixed with a generous helping of Israeli vulgarity and revolting familiarity.
After getting rid of the obnoxiousness, I began to rethink my proposed article, and drifted to the thought: So this is where 50 years of independence and sovereignty have brought us: to Bibi Netanyahu; to rampant religious fundamentalism and black magic superstitions; to these awful simpering girls aping slavishly the worst features of what they think is "American"; to the broad masses of ignorant people who vote Right against their own interest and raise doubts about the very idea of democracy which was, after all, designed for people aware of public affairs and able to come to an independent and mature judgment about them according to their considered interest; above all, to the stifling atmosphere of constant hysteria and demagoguery, where nobody dares to speak one's real mind for fear of the mob and its fomenters. (For example: In a recent poll, hardly any Knesset member dared admit he was an atheist, though I am certain many of them are.)
To me, independence and freedom are meaningless when applied in distorted fashion to nations. National independence and sovereignty have meaning only as means to personal freedom, to the protection of civil and human liberties, to free thinking and speech and creativity. "National glory" is mostly a myth used to bamboozle the masses. "Our glorious past" is worthless when one is called upon to sacrifice the present and the future to it.

Humanism, Nationalism, Bestiality

The great conservative Swiss thinker, Jakob Burckhardt, wrote in reaction to the "Spring of Nations" in 1948 the maxim: "Von dem Humanismus, durch den Nazionalismus, zu der Bestialitaet" (From Humanism, through nationalism, to bestiality). Goethe stood averse and hostile to the rising German nationalism of his time. Nietzsche, contrary to his popular image as the prophet of power politics, detested the bombastic nationalistic smugness of the new German Empire (the Second Reich) after the victory over France in 1871, claiming that the greatest and best in the German spirit had been vulgarized and prostituted by the nationalistic madness.
I feel today very much the same fear that our people are sweeping in their arrogance of power and blindness into terrible events.
I once was a member of Lehi (the Stern Group). I joined it in order to win freedom from the British. I think that if I had to live my life again, I still would have joined the fight for liberty, although not perhaps as a member of Lehi. National liberty is, unfortunately, today the precondition for a free, dignified life. But it is not a guarantee of it. It is more an opportunity to really begin to fight for it. What happens afterwards is generally a tiresome vulgar mess, and the final outcome sometimes degenerates into disaster and tragedy.
This I am writing sadly as a warning to our Palestinian friends, who are now fighting for the basic right to exist as a nation, which in their case today is to simply exist as human beings with human dignity. I hope and am confident that they shall eventually gain it. I also hope that they will then use it more wisely, tolerantly and humanely than we have until now. More than that: I think that only if they gain it, can we in Israel begin to live a happier, freer life. This is why I write in this journal.

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