It was May 7, 2004 when Salim Joubran, was given a position on Israel’s Supreme Court. When he became the first permanent member of the Court from the Israeli Arab community the world should have realized that Israel was in fact, a democracy like none else in its region.
Justice Joubran knew that as well, and he also knew what Israel was, why it was formed and how he managed to rise through its ranks as a Christian and not a Jew.
It would seem odd, or possibly some act of defiance, when the New York Times carried a story about Justice Joubran earlier this week, presumably refusing to sing the Israel national anthem because the words “Nefesh Yehudi homiyah,” which means, “A Jewish soul still yearns,” do not apply to him.
The anthem was not new to him when he became a lawyer, nor when he became a Supreme Court judge. It may indeed be an uncomfortable concept to sing, let alone believe by one who is not Jewish.
It highlights the delicate tightrope Israel walks in its pursuit of peace and prosperity through the promotion of democratic statehood.
For Jews, living in Israel ironically removes Jewish identity from the everyday life of the average Jew. Unlike most places, where for many, Jewish identity is worn on our sleeves so to speak; on our heads actually for some, but also with the often uncomfortable vacation requests at work, among the other unique aspects of Jewish life.
In Israel, Jewish holidays are the State holidays and no one really feels out of place donning a skullcap. With Judaism all around, maybe the overtly Jewish words should, or maybe other ubiquitous Jewish symbolisms should be removed to make those not of one of the 12 Tribes feel as comfortable.
There is a movement among secular Israelis, Jewish ones mostly, to eliminate the Jewishness from the State itself. The fights between the ultra orthodox and those less so have been growing to the point where they have made the front pages of some of the world’s most antagonistic-to-Israel media venues.