When Israel celebrated its independence day last spring, Tal Shaked Cretella organized a first-ever ceremony in Tel Aviv, where thousands of people gathered for readings of the Jewish state’s declaration of independence, she said.
Now in Chicago as an emissary of the Jewish National Fund, Shaked Cretella hopes to establish the reading ceremony as a tradition in the U.S.
To that end, Anshe Emet Synagogue in Lakeview will host a series of readings of Israel’s declaration of independence Monday night, followed by presentations from local Jewish leaders, to mark independence day, known as Yom Ha’atzmaut. It is the first ceremony of its kind to take place in the States, Shaked Cretella said.
The holiday comes as peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have broken down and Jewish organizations in the U.S. are divided over Israel’s handling of the conflict.
The division was evident last week when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to deny membership to the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, which is sometimes critical of the Israeli government.
An Israeli activist, Shaked Cretella said she conceived the event after realizing that the independence day holiday was missing a key feature shared by other Jewish holidays: the reading of a sacred text.
“Most of the holidays are mentioned in the Bible or were created in ancient time and there is already a tradition,” Shaked Cretella said Sunday in an interview. “Every Jewish holiday, usually, you have a text. This is something special about the Jewish culture or religion.”
Shaked Cretella’s idea was to make the Israeli declaration of independence the central text of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The declaration addresses the challenges that were faced by Israel at the time of its creation, many of which remain today, Shaked Cretella said.
Among the ideals that the 1948 document outlined was that the state, “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Shaked Cretella said the text can be used as a tool to continue discussing that ideal.
“It's very important that we keep on making sure that people that are not Jewish will get equal rights and the same opportunities,” Shaked Cretella said. “The declaration gives us a very good vision, as a start of the discussion.”
The reading is also an opportunity to recognize Israeli contributions to the world, including inventions and technological advancements, Shaked Cretella said.
As much as the holiday is viewed by some as an opportunity to honor Israel, others said they would not be celebrating the day.
“We view the celebration tomorrow as entirely inappropriate,” said Lynn Pollack, a Chicago chapter leader of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that opposes Israel’s policies toward Palestinians and the continued expansion of settlements in the region.
“The creation of Israel completely obliterated the lives of the Palestinians,” Pollack said. “I'm not saying that Israel is all bad or that wonderful things haven't come out of Israel, but it doesn't make it right.”
Pollack said her organization will mark the holiday next Sunday at Water Tower Park, where they will hand out fliers highlighting the history behind the conflict.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun