The Fourth of July falls on Shabbat this year, but that’s not why World Likud Chairperson and Knesset member Danny Danon is boycotting and calling on his Likud colleagues to also shun celebrations of American Independence Day events in Israel this week. Indeed, the United States’ ambassador to Israel scheduled his Independence Day party on Wednesday to avoid a conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. The Jerusalem Post reports that Danon, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, is conducting his boycott to protest the Obama administration’s renewed peace initiative based on a two state solution, a formula which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently accepted in principle while insisting on conditions that no Palestinian leader could possibly accept. I wonder whether Danon’s public announcement of his intention to not attend celebrations of America’s national day isn’t also a dig at the American educated Netanyahu who speaks Hebrew with an American accent and to whom Danon lost a primary race for leadership of Likud last year.
Danon represents the far right of the Israeli political spectrum, but anecdotal evidence from Israeli friends who support a two state solution indicates considerable pessimism that peace is actually possible. The State of Israel was created by visionary optimists who saw possibilities that others could not conceive of and ignored the long odds against the realization of their dream. Today’s Israelis seem to me to be hard nosed realistic pessimists who would be pleasantly surprised should peace efforts exceed their low expectations.
Closer to home the decision to move the July Fourth fireworks from the East River to the Hudson River and its timing just after the end of the Sabbath will likely diminish attendance by Brooklyn and Queens’ large observant Jewish communities. Contrary to snarky comments by some this decision was not made out of an anti-semitic animus but rather to mark the four hundred year anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson’s ship The Half Moon up what is now the Hudson River in 1609. Some of the fireworks displays may be high enough in the sky to be visible from rooftops in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights, but I expect motivated sabbath observant fireworks enthusiasts from central Brooklyn and eastern Queens have already solicited invitations to spend Shabbat with friends on Manhattan‘s Upper West Side or in Riverdale.