On Independence Day, between two mountains

On Independence Day, Israel moves between Mount Herzl and the Temple Mount, two holy mountains that complete one another and cannot exist without each other.

Israelis watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel's 73rd Independence Day, in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 14, 2021. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Israelis watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel's 73rd Independence Day, in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 14, 2021. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.

“And the land is divided into districts of memory and areas of hope, and its residents mix with each otherand the land is bundled up: it is bound well and everything in it, and it is strongly bound and the string sometimes hurt.“ So wrote the poet Yehuda Amichai in his poem “Love of the Land,” describing the singular and special moment we will experience tonight: The sharp transition between Israel’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day; a seemingly incomprehensible but necessary transition from grief, mourning and memory to exploding joy and finally the heart overflowing with thanks.

During these days, the dynamic Israeli reality moves between two deeply symbolic mountains, each holy in its own way: the stormy Temple Mount and Mount Herzl, which is surrounded by silence and grief—between the renewed Israeli rebirth and the heavy price that has been paid, and the Jewish memory that we can‘t do without.

These two mountains appear to symbolize two magnetic poles—“Israeli” and “Jewish,” which are often described as being in competition with one another. But on a deeper level, these two mountains actually complement one another. After all, Zionism is spun from Judaism, or as Herzl once described it: “It’s a return to Judaism, even before it’s a return to the Land of the Jews.”

On the Temple Mount lies the genealogy of the Jewish people, the holy remains and the ash of coal from the great fire that consumed it. On Mount Herzl lie our children, the “silver platter” that is still getting bigger, upon which they gave us the Jewish state.

Motta Gur (“The Temple Mount is in our hands”) and his soldiers, who 55 years ago liberated Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, immediately afterward went to Mount Herzl and the military cemeteries in order to lay to rest their fallen friends. For them, the bond between the two mountains was completely clear: The Temple Mount symbolizes the loss of independence and Jewish sovereignty, and Mount Herzl, on the eve of Remembrance Day, its renewal.

But these are two sides of the same coin, and just as we would not accept the burning of Israeli flags and the raising of Palestinian flags on Mount Herzl, so we shouldn’t accept the desecration of Israeli sovereignty, its symbols and its flags on the Temple Mount. Bereaved families, pained and wounded in their souls, come to Mount Herzl. To the Temple Mount come Jews who carry in their hearts a different “mourning” for the loss it embodies for them.

They are not in competition with one another, but instead look to a shared future. Two mountains, each in its own way, tell a story about the struggle for independence; a story about the commitment to historical justice and to national culture that goes beyond the physical remains and rescue. The shared story of the two mountains teaches that, despite the secular Zionist rebellion against the Jewish-religious-traditional way of life, there was agreement that it wasn’t possible to revive the past and the national culture in the State of Israel without relying on Jewish tradition, which has sustained the national consciousness for generations.

And this is the connection that is embodied in the State of Israel today; the substance of the connection between the “Israeli” Mount Herzl and the “Jewish” Temple Mount. Between Mount Moriah and its past, all the hopes that it symbolizes, and Israel in its eighth decade of existence and the heavy price that it has paid in order to continue to exist, which lies in the soil of Mount Herzl.

“In the Jewish soul, we always heard, a Jewish aspect is waiting for its day,” Natan the Wise (Alterman) already taught us many years ago. “A Jew can be a fool or a sage, sharp or stupid, and he can be a friend or an enemy … but he can’t be a Jew without a Jewish aspect.” Mount Herzl isn’t possible without the Temple Mount, and the Temple Mount isn’t possible without Mount Herzl. And the “Jewish aspect”? It was the thread with which Zionism and Judaism were sewn and woven, which were made into a single piece, the State of Israel. Happy Independence Day.

Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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