Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 11:35 UK

Israelis reflect on nation's 60th

Six Israelis tell the BBC what they feel about their country and their hopes for the next 60 years.


Ido Simchi, 25, student, Tel Aviv

Ido Simchi

I value Israel's unity: I think every country that is in constant war tends to come together.

I value our technological progress and I value the landscape. It may not be as beautiful as some places, but if your parents have fought and died for it, you respect it a lot.

I was in the army for five years, I was company commander. I served in Gaza before we pulled out, in the last war in Lebanon and in the West Bank.

I can't say I'm optimistic about the near future. I know it sounds bad, but I think we will be forced to engage in war before we find peace with the Palestinians.

We do need to live together - in two countries. I think my country's fate is dependent on the Palestinians' future.

We must help Palestinians develop their economy, so that they have something to lose from fighting us.

They must also accept that we are here to stay. Until that happens, we won't make progress.

I was born in Israel but my roots are in Yemen, all four of my grandparents came from there.

After 60 years I think we need to find some calm and stop thinking like we're the victim all the time.


Yuval Cohen, 47, university teacher, Ra'anana

Israelis find a common language very easily when they meet each other - most of the time they find they know people in common.

Yuval Cohen

But in recent years, it has become harder to live here because of the cost of housing.

Israel is very small and land is scarce, so house prices have been sky-rocketing: a five room house with a garden anywhere within half an hour's drive from Tel Aviv will sell for over $100,000.

Some solution has to be found.

I think the settlement of Judea and Samaria - I mean in the sprawl of suburbs around Tel-Aviv and Israel's centre, not across all of the West Bank - is inevitable.

The holiness of the green line established in 1948 has to be abandoned, as it has been already on the ground.

Still, I think the solution of giving the Palestinians self rule is the right one. The new settlements I'm talking about wouldn't be in Palestinian areas, but uninhabited areas.

My family has been in this land for 11 generations; they came in the early 1800's from the area between Russia and Poland.

Most people forget that there were 50,000 Jews in Israel - or southern Syria in those days - before modern Zionism even started.

I hope the next 60 years will be years of solidarity and the unification of the Israeli people.


M Fishburn, settlement in the northern West Bank

I have lived in Israel since 1968. My husband and I live according to mainstream Orthodox Jewish customs and beliefs. We have four adult children and 12 grandchildren so far.

M Fishburn

Although we were both born in England, we came to live in Israel because of our strong connection with our faith.

We are quite convinced that the ancient Hebrew city of Jerusalem is our current state capital.

Obviously, with the majority of Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, I hope first and foremost for peace, or at the very minimum, non-belligerent co-existence with our neighbours.

I really have no idea what to do about borders, but it is clear that the 'ethnic cleansing' of the Jews from the Gaza Strip by Ariel Sharon's government has caused terrible trauma in our society.

It has also exposed us to constant missile attack from Gaza.

What do I value most about my country? Well, the fact that I am a practising Jew and have brought up children and now grandchildren who are proud Jews who don't have to hide their religious identification, is a great thing.

I am very proud of our modern state and its achievements. I also like the sunny climate and the more relaxed, family-centred lifestyle here.

My dream is that our neighbours will accept our right to be in this land, but I doubt if it will happen, even in my grandchildren's time.


Sana Khsheiboun, 46, social worker and student, Jerusalem

I am an Israeli citizen by law - I have an Israeli ID card. But I have problems wherever I go because of my looks - I look Arab, as I am.

Sana Khsheiboun

Malls, airports, everywhere I go I have to explain where I'm going and why.

But it's easier for me than for other Palestinians who don't have Israeli ID.

If I go to the airport, I need three hours to check in. I've never been to the duty free shop because I've never had the time. They even escort me to the boarding gate.

I am a PhD student in the Hebrew University, they even treat us differently there.

I am researching the impact of house demolition on Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

All the while settlements are growing - but if one Palestinian wants to build on his own land, he has no permission.

It's a political thing, to keep a majority of Jews and a minority of Palestinians in Jerusalem.

I am friends with lots of Jews: I am in university with them and I worked with them in my previous job. One of my supervisors is a Jewish professor.

As individuals and humans of course we can live together. But it's not us, it's the political leaders who make trouble.

I come from Cana, in Galilee. My family stayed in Cana, in 1948.

There is a new settlement overlooking our town; they took our land and the land of nearby villages and built new houses for Jewish people. It's expanding all the time.

What should happen is that we have two countries for each people, but I cannot see that happening in my lifetime. I think all the refugees from '48 should be able to return.

However, I don't want to be asked to move again. Not because I don't want to be under Palestinian control, but because I am already on my land.

I don't think Israel is doing well at the moment. It is an occupying force - and that's not a good way to live.

Not good socially, economically - if you are at war you are constantly worried about losing people, money and dreams.


Moshe Ivri, 29, student, Jerusalem

I wish that we had peace with our Arab neighbours, that's the issue we're all concerned with.

Moshe Ivri

I think our borders should follow the 1967 line, more or less. Although the big settlements, such as Maale Adumim, should be in Israel.

The smaller ones, those with the more religious settlers, should be under Jordanian/Palestinian rule.

And the settlers in the outposts - those caravans on the hilltop - they should go.

My grandparents on both sides came from Morocco after 1948.

I think people are now more open to accept and absorb the cultures that came with the people who make up Israel, than before.

There's a Moroccan tradition called Mimuna which is a celebration after Passover.

It wasn't celebrated here in Israel in its first years of existence. Now, it's become a festival day and I think that's great.

Other things I want to see in Israel: I want to see prosperity spread widely, not just among the few.

And I think we should take more responsibility for environmental issues, which are ignored.


Jonathan Rosenblum, member of the Haredi community

Haredim are the most theologically conservative of the Orthodox Jews. Young Haredi men are exempted from Israeli army service and spend their time studying traditional texts.

It is a fact that Haredi Jews tend to live in separate communities and I believe that that will continue to be the case.

Jonathan Rosenblum

The aggression towards the Haredi community here is a feeling on the part of the Jewish secular community that they've lost their way of identifying themselves.

We have to understand that the fundamental values of this community are antithetical to the largely hedonistic, secular culture.

And that, by the way, is a major reason why I don't believe you will ever find 18-year-old Haredi boys going into the army.

I find that there's a tremendous search for reconnecting to Jewish roots.

Many Israelis are now understanding that Zionism itself is inadequate. It created a state. But now that project has been done, what will it do next?

And for that, we're going to have to return to some more traditional understanding of ourselves as a people.

We have to show that the Torah is a guide for every aspect of life, not just something for the study halls.

Whether it be for child-rearing, for the environment, the Torah has something to say about every pressing, modern issue.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenblum by Tim Franks


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