The traditional opening ceremony celebrating Israel’s Independence Day features the lighting of 12 torches by accomplished personalities representing various streams in Israeli society. The committee tasked with the selection of torchbearers this year asked members of the public to propose candidates and list their various criteria. Among others, it asked that the nominees represent Israeli innovation in their personality and actions along with having a record of extraordinary dedication to building a better world and a more values-driven society.
Over the past few weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clashed with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, after Culture Minister Miri Regev announced that Netanyahu would address the public at the ceremony. In the end, Edelstein conceded, so Netanyahu will light a torch and briefly speak. Had Netanyahu been just another nominee, rather than crashing the ceremony under the aggressive sponsorship of the sharp-tongued Regev, the selection committee most likely would not have chosen him. If Netanyahu’s personality represents a “more values-driven society,” Israeli society is in trouble. Millions of Palestinians caged in Gaza by his government’s policies, without any hope of a better life, can attest to his “extraordinary dedication to building a better world,” as can Israeli human rights activists, Israel’s Arab citizens — the ones “flocking in droves to the ballot boxes” as Netanyahu warned on election day in 2015 — African asylum seekers branded “infiltrators” and run of the mill leftists and liberals.