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Aug 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

It has become a tradition in Israel to celebrate Independence Day (Yom Ha'Atzmaut) by having a barbecue, either in one's own garden or, if one is not so blessed, by decamping to one of Israel's national parks or beaches. Some prefer to be among crowds of people engaging in a similar pursuit, while others prefer the illusion of seclusion in a small forest clearing. Some people even set up their barbecue equipment on the green verges of roads, which seems a dubious pleasure to me, but chacun à son goût, as we say.

Being in the fortunate position of having a small garden of our own, we generally invite a few friends round for the occasion. Everyone contributes something to the meal, and, if the weather is clement, we can even sit outside.

This year we were fortunate for, although it was warm, the sky was overcast. Thus, we could enjoy our repast on our pocket-handkerchief lawn, screened from passing cars by our hedge of jasmin, forsythia, wysteria, roses and honeysuckle.

As is generally the case in Israel, the conversation soon turned to politics. None of our number could be considered rabidly right-wing: opinions ranged from centre-left to extreme-left, and all points in-between.

None of those present would vote for Sharon, but no one saw fit to criticise his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Some of us would have Israel withdraw from the West Bank and all the settlements without further ado, while others sought to obtain some kind of concession in return, as well as remaining in certain selected sites.

But in the end we all agreed that the fact that Israel exists at all is little short of miraculous, and no matter how loudly the dogs of Europe may bark, this caravan will continue on its way.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

previous article:Sights, sounds and smells of 1920s Berlin