High atop Mt. Herzl overlooking Jerusalem, 12 beacons were lit as afternoon gave way to Evening yesterday - marking the beginning of Israel's 30th anniversary celebrations. It was the custom of the ancient Israelites to light beacons from the highest hills to announce holidays and festivals and so the ceremony is a link between the Jewish state, Barely a generation old, and the Jewish past which extends back to the morning of recorded time.
Despite the official ceremonies and the obligatory festivities, the 30th anniversary of the state finds Israelis in a somber mood. The significance of the anniversary lies not so much in numbers. The 25th was a more logical date to celebrate. The significance is that this is the first anniversary in which power is not held by the Labor Party and because the anniversary comes six months after the visit of Egytian President Anwar Sadat and his historic opening to peace.
As the Jerusalem Post editorialized yesterday "Egytian peace terms . . . would put an intolerable strain on Israel's defense capability. But legitimate concern with security must not be - must not even seem to be - translated into willful dogmatism.
"The minds of too many Israelis have lately been racked by doubt whether their government is really determined to do everything in its power not to let chance of peace slip through its fingers. Should the doubt spread further, it could sap the nation's strength to the point of real danger."
For the government and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the anxiety is no less great. Sadat may, as he said, have solved 70 percent of the problem by acceptance of the Jewish state as a legitimate partner in the Middle East. Yet, for Israel the remaining 30 percent could make the difference between real peace with security or a false hope for generation to come.
This year's festitities are different from those for the 25th anniversary in 1973, which were marked by a huge display of military and preceded by five months the outbreak of war.
Despite earlier plans that Begin envisioned, this time, the emphasis will be far less on military might. The highpoint in Jerusalem may well be today's outdoor concert in the Hinnom Valley at the foot of Mt. Zion. Ten thousand people will gather on the ground under the walls of this ancient city to hear the Israel Philharmonic - an event marred only by the fact that quest violinist Isaac Stern, in the words of Mayor Teddy Kollek, "left his fiddle behind by mistake." In a mixup as old as marriage itself, Mrs. Stern thought her husband had packed the violin while he thought she was bringing it from their home in New York.
ISRAEL'S 39th anniversary comes at a time when its dependency on the United States is greater than ever before. Yet, the United States is no longer willing to give Israel nearly everything it wants without asking any questions. There is the nagging fear here that as Israel grows more dependant on Washington, the United States, in turn, is growing more dependent on Arab petroleum and that this is beginning to affect policy.
Thirty years ago few Israelis would have predicted that the Jewish state would have the living standard it enjoys today or that industrialization and urbanizationwould become so predominant. Yet Israelis are also aware that there has been nothing to speak of in the way of economic growth for nearly five years and that inflation roars on at nearly 40 percent a year.
"None of us who wire around 30 years ago would ever have believed we were in for a 30-year war," said Meron Medzini, former head if the government press office. The trauma of the 1973 war still remains, not only because of the early reverses and heavy casualities which shook Israel out of the military arrogance that followed the quick victories of 1967, but also because it became the "fathers and sons war' in which many of the men who fought for independence in 1948 saw their own children dying in basically the same war generation later.
Israel may stand at the apex of its military might, but the realizationthat no political benefit can accrue to it in another war is beginning to seep down through the political and millitary thinking here. Israel may defend itself again but it will be just a defense of the status quo with even higher casualties than before without real peace likely to follow.
FEW PEOPLE in the early days of the state would have believed that by 1978 more than half the population would be made up of oriental Jews from such places as Morocco and Iraq. They thought then that Israel would be basically a state made up of people from European backgrounds. The strain between the two groups has lessened during the last five years but a disproportionately high number of top jobs in industry and government are still in the hands of Jews of European origin.
The situation regarding Israel's Arabs - the half million or so Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship out of the total population of 3.6 million - has deterlorated in recent years. The Israeli Arabs have good reason to feel discriminated against and, politically, they are driven more and more into the ranks of the New Communist Party.
There will be little celebrating in Israel's Arab villages and it is ironic that the Foreign Ministry has had to hold up the distribution of the 30th anniversary issue of their cultural magazine Ariel, which is printed in four languages, because of a poem by one of Israel's best-known Arab poets. At the last moment, with 23,000 copies printed an official reportedly noticed that "Lamentations" by Samih Kassem expressed, in allgorical form, some Arab nationalist and anti-Zionist fellings.
IN THE SITUATION regarding Israel's own Arabs, who technically enjoy full rights of citizenship, is worsening, the situation regarding the million Arabs who live under Israeli military occupation remains a cancer in Israel's body politic. The Zionist dream of Jews with a hoe in one hand and a gun in the other to defend his farm was a different image than that of Israelis in an occupying army with deportations, torture and the midnight knock on the door by securitypolice.
The military authorities have long been lying to hide their abuse of power, as was recently revealed when the commander in the occupied West Bank of the Jordon River was fired, and many Israelis would simply rather not know about the problem, Israel cannot keep the occupied Arabs,under their control forever without either giving up the idea of remaining a Jewish state or that of being a democratic state.