Miri headshot 2017
  • miri eisin

    Former Israeli spokesperson, retired colonel

EPISODE 24: Celebrating 70 Years of Israel with Miri Eisin

Col. (ret) Miri Eisin, like many Israelis, is ready to party. That's because this month, Israel... Show more

Col. (ret) Miri Eisin, like many Israelis, is ready to party. That's because this month, Israel will celebrate 70 years of the modern state. For Miri, it's a time of joy and reflection. We discuss the significance of the upcoming anniversary, the incredible 48 hour period between Yom Hazikaron (memorial day) and Yom Ha'atzmaut (independence day) and Miri's hope for the next 70 years of the Jewish State. (Also beer, Kardashians, real estate, and beach workouts.) Show less

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Miri headshot 2017

miri eisin

Miri Eisin began her career in the IDF as part of the Israeli intelligence community. For over twenty years she served as the head of the combat intelligence corps, the assistant to the director of Military Intelligence, and as the Intel officer in combat units and research departments. After retiring from the military, Miri was appointed as the Israeli Prime Minister’s International Advisor and played an important role in the Annapolis Conference. Currently, Miri is one of Israel's main presenters that sheds light on regional geopolitics, security related issues in the global media, and the different narratives within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    let's talk a little bit about Israel's modern history. 70 years is obviously a pretty brief period of time but I think it's pretty safe to say Israel continues to be the most covered story in the world. Why do you think that is?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I think that we're still unique in the world. And we don't like thinking of ourselves as being different. We wanna be part of the world. We wanna be like everybody else. So there are some ways that we are. But if you look at it in day to day life, we're the only Jewish country. We're the only country where, at the end, our calendar is the Jewish calendar. We're the only country where Hebrew is the spoken language. And we're the only country that really did something that has not been done in modern times. We reinvented ourselves in the 20th century, 3000 year old people, modern state, that still is quite unique.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    And as a person of a certain age, I would say that when you hit a year that ends in a five or a year that ends in a zero, those are the ones where you do a little bit of self reflection. And if you look at the arc of Israeli history, how do you characterize the period that we're in now? Is this peacetime Israel?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I don't really think so and I say it in its own way sadly. I don't think that right now when you walk through the streets of Israel, you talk about peace, because when you're talking peacetime, you're usually alluding to our relationships with our close neighbors, immediate neighbors. It doesn't matter if it's Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, or the closer one the Palestinians. I can't call this a time of peace. Now, one of the odd things that happens here, is it's also not a time of war. I think that domestically inside Israel, we are in a very good time, we're in a strong economy, we're in a strong domestic front. But I can't really characterize it as being peacetime.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Is it strange for Israelis who have been in Israel for a long time and remember wars to adjust to the period that the country is in now? I know that even in the American Jewish community, there's the people who remember '67 and '73 and those who don't. And they have a different way of looking at the country.

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I think that there's a watershed line between those who remember and those who don't. Because anybody who's 40 and under sees Israel through the eyes, it can be of the first Intifada or the second Intifada. It can be of the first Lebanon war or of the second Lebanon war. But it's much more about wars that are a different type of wars than the all-out wars that we had five times against Egypt, against Syria, against Jordan, countries that since then we've signed peace treaties with. I wanna flip over for a moment what we just said, isn't it amazing that people 40 and under don't know a reality where Israel does not have a peace treaty with Egypt? To me, that's amazing. That people who are 40 and under have lived their entire life when there has been a peace treaty with Egypt. But it's certainly a watershed line because people over that remember the five horrific wars that we had with Egypt and then we arrived at peace. But because of that, you can really see that difference in the age group, those who are younger, those who are older. I'm not even sure that that's unique for Israel, but because we've had in our history so many harsh wars, because the wars themselves have changed a lot in the way that they're fought, the wars that were until, including 1973 and the wars that we fought since 1973. That even on that level, there's a watershed difference between those generations.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    So getting to a cheerier subject, it's an exciting time for Israeli diplomacy. We just saw in the last week, a commercial flight from India to Israel fly over Saudi Arabia, which is, I guess, has never happened before.Things appear to be changing for Israel and its place in the world. How would you characterize what's going on right now?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      It's definitely a thing that you're seeing. Remember that we're Israeli. So first, of course, for all of our listeners, remember [in Hebrew] "Good things happen." Let's not say something that'll make it change, right? But one of the things that we do see right now is that both locally, the Israeli-Egyptian relationship, the Israeli-Jordanian relationship, but even if you look a little bit broader than that, we suddenly realized that we're in the Middle East and we have a position in the Middle East which is not only connected to being against Israel or looking at Israel only through the eyes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's something broader. Both because there are other threats and challenges in the Middle East that are difficult for, and because of changes that have happened in the Middle East, totally not connected to us. What happened in Egypt has nothing to do with us. What's happening in Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with us, but it is having enormous impact on Israel in the arena. Saudi Arabia is going through amazing changes. We don't have diplomatic ties. We don't have direct relations. But as you said, a plane flew over Saudi airspace. That's enormous. That's big. And again, I don't like calling it in the terms of peace, but on our being a regular accepted neighbor within the Middle Eastern arena. We live in the Middle East. Our neighbors are Middle Eastern. Half of our population is Middle Eastern, but we've never felt part of the neighborhood. And I think that what's changing is that we're becoming part of the neighborhood and not in a negative way.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    This is also evident with the recent recognition - finally - of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In the next three to six months, maybe even a lot sooner, Israel's forever capital will be home of at least three embassies. What does that feel like to an Israeli to have this kind of recognition of Jerusalem at long last?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      Isn't it funny? On the one hand, it's like, "Oh my God, thank you. It's about time." And on the other side for the average Israeli, it doesn't make a difference. I wanna remind us all, all of us, our capital has been Jerusalem from 1949. Our united capital has been our capital from 1967. That's already over 50 years ago, old news. What's different is that it's not just for us. For me, I always had to go to Jerusalem for the legislator, for the executive, for the judicial. You always went there. The president resides there, the prime minister, the offices, they're all there and they've been there from 1949. But the fact that we have, for the first time, recognition, where the embassies will not be out of Jerusalem, but in the city of Jerusalem. The United States of America, the other countries following will fully recognize it as such. It's a feeling, again, of our being part of the world and not estranged from the world.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Speaking of this era of good feeling, let's talk about what's going to happen in Israel later this month. A lot of people don't know or understand exactly what happens during this extraordinary 20 to 30-hour period between Yom Hazikaron followed by Yom Ha'atzmaut. Can you talk about these two holidays and what it's like to feel that transition?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      So first I'm gonna talk about the words that you used because you said memorial day and then you said independence day. And I think that from most listeners, even from greater Boston, even people who are involved, you say memorial Day. And excuse me, Americans, okay? But it kind of means shopping day. You say independence day, you remember fireworks. In Israel, it's very different. Memorial day is really perhaps the most serious Israeli day of the year. When I say serious, serious personal and in your face. It starts with a siren that goes off on the eve of memorial day in the Jewish way where the day begins the evening before. So on the eve of memorial day, a siren goes off and throughout Israel, everybody stops everything for two minutes. You're standing and you're thinking. When you're thinking about the almost 30,000 people who have been killed from 1948 and even before that, on behalf of the state of Israel. All of the different ones from all the different branches, everybody in Israel knows somebody, that's part of the way that it is here. So it's very personal. It's not something that's happening to a certain category inside Israel. It's in the north and in the south. It's in the cities and on the farms. It's in the religious and in the non religious groups, it really is all encompassing. On the following day, memorial day, people again, at 11:00 AM, there's a siren of two minutes. You're standing, you're listening. It doesn't matter what the weather is. You're out there. You can be at school. You can be at home. Everybody is thinking about it. To the degree that I know, that Israelis on airplanes wherever they are in the world, at the time of that 11:00 AM siren, they'll stand up for those two minutes just to commemorate whoever it is that they have. : Now think about that. For almost 24 hours, we're sitting and talking about the people that were lost in wars, about heroism, about ethics, and morals, and the military, and fighting. And then, at 8:00 PM, we have a ceremony at the Western Wall which is incredible, that then transitions to the military cemetery. And from there, we go into the happiness of Independence Day. Because as an idea, as an ethos, our country was built on the fact that we have always had those who would stand up and defend for them, and we're going to make sure that after our 24 hours of mourning, we're not gonna stay there. We're gonna rejoice in the meaning for which they fell, and it's a very strong sense. A lot of people who come from the outside, it throws them off. How can you mourn and then become happy, or vice versa? And to me, that's the essence of how we've built ourselves as a state.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    To me, even secular "Jewish State" holidays follow the rhythm Judaism for me. We've had great tragedies and challenges, but (mostly) our holidays are all very joyful. **** happens, but in the end, we're joyful.

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I agree with you, and I think that it's beautiful that there's a... 'Cause it's a very national holiday. The additional aspect which is different about Independence Day is that on all of the Jewish holidays, the country closes down. We have all of our different issues about religion/state, but the country closes down. On Independence Day, you have cars, and you have buses, and you have trains, so people can go out and about. And on Independence Day, 'cause the eve is a whole celebration, and on the day itself, people go out. They go out to parks and they go out to picnics, and then they go, they open up the military bases. The day before that, people were mourning at the military bases. And the day after that, you go out and in and you rejoice not in our being a military hardware nation, in our having a spirit, a fighting spirit. In rejoicing in the way that our entire country really tries to bring everybody in, to be aware of the other. To be aware of the fact that we're all in there. There's a beautiful ceremony on Independence Day, which is the soldiers that were outstanding, that there's a ceremony at the President's house and it's soldiers from all different branches of the IDF, and it's just lovely to see how we all rejoice together with them. And last but not least, on a Jewish note, on Independence Day inside Israel, they have the world Bible final Hidon, which is the quiz. And this Bible quiz which has young... It's the young ones. It's for high schools. And every year they do it in Jerusalem and they do it on Independence Day. So on the one hand you have the soldiers and you're rejoicing in just the way that we are and who we are as a nation, and on the other hand you have this Jewish connection, Bible scholars, these 15 year old young women and men who know the Bible inside and out. It's just a lovely combination.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    What makes you most proud as an Israeli when you look at these two holidays?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I love the fact that we know how to both mourn and rejoice, that we can take hand in hand the fact that... And I don't like the idea of sacrifices. I like the idea that we believe in what we're doing here, that it isn't a sacrifice, that it's part of who we are. We're not gonna do it just for the fun of it. I just think that the fact that we can handle both the mourning and the rejoicing is part of who we are, and the fact that everybody's connected, both to the mourning and to the rejoicing.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    I want to finish with some of the challenges that we've been reading about quite a bit,: a growing rift with the diaspora, especially over issues of religious pluralism, the peace process or lack thereof, and a sharp divide in this country between how Israelis and how US Jews view the current administration. Are these issues overstated?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I don't think it's overstated. I think that all three of the gaps that you just talked about, both on religious pluralism, and on the way the people view the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, let alone on the present administration, all three of these gaps exist. The question is, is that what our relationship is all about? And in that sense, I think that it's a two-way street, and sometimes we have to be aware on both sides. And here I take a lot with on the Israeli side. We need to be much more aware of the different environment we live on. I say to North American Jews, "That at the end, being Israeli is not just about being Jewish. We're citizens of a country. We live in a specific arena. We view our challenges in different ways. We're a democracy. Democracies do not all have to be alike. They don't always have to agree on everything. That's a healthy thing, not a bad thing." On the Jewish pluralism, I look at Israelis and go, "Really? Only Israeli Jewish development is the way that you're willing to look?"

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      If we're the homeland for Jews, then we can't define Jews in a different way than the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. That's a challenge that I have here and these are challenges that are out there. To me, the most important part, and on this I say, "Everybody listening to us, let's make sure that we continue the dialogue." Because if we don't have the dialogue, then we're not gonna know what each others are doing. And this isn't about the Jews of America coming to Israel and saying, "Oh wow, you're amazing." or vice versa. It's about having an open dialogue on the different ways that you can practice Judaism, open dialogue on having differences of opinion when it comes to state issues just like we look different way at an administration, we can look at different ways at peace, we can look different ways in a lot of things, but let's make sure that we keep talking.

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      : I think that one of the beautiful things in Boston is that you do have an open table. I'm not sure that we have it everywhere in North America, and I know for sure inside Israel that this is something that I'm working on here. I don't think that Israelis understand what it means to be a North American Jew, and this is something that I need to help in educating on my side of the ocean.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    one of the things that always really impressed me about you is how you balance three things. And every time I've spoken to you I hear that balance. You are a senior IDF officer, you are an everyday Israeli who lives an everyday Israeli life, and you're a mother. And when you look at the next 10, 20 years, what are your hopes for Israel, wearing all three of those hats that you wear so gracefully every day of your life?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      It's funny how when we talk about self-identity, how would I introduce myself if I was doing so, and there's no question that you brought up three elements that are so center to my identity. And I look at those three and I'm sitting here and smiling. Because there's one thing that I know that happens inside Israel. There's a wonderful combination that every 10 years, we reinvent ourselves. So here we are, 70th anniversary, and I go, "Oh my God, where will we be at our 80th anniversary?" And Dan, I don't know where that will be, but it's gonna be amazing. And I say it in those terms because look at what we've done every 10 years. We've never stayed the same. 1948 to '58, we changed so much. 1958 to '68, we changed so much. '68 to '78, peace with Egypt. Who would have thought of that? And I say that because that's what happens every 10 years. So my answer as I smile is that in another 10 years, Israel will be, and I say this as a mother for my children, as an officer in the military, as an Israeli, that we will be in a different place than we are today and it will be where we are flowing to. Israel develops, we evolve, we change, we change in our demographics, we change in our arena, and who knows where it'll be in another 10 years. But I can promise you, is that we'll be here and that we will be even better version of what we are now.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    I love your optimism, I love it. And that's gonna take us right into the speed round where I'm gonna ask you ridiculous questions and you are allowed to give answers that are as ridiculous as you want. Okay. The current US embassy is one of the best beach front property in Tel Aviv, it could not be better located, who's gonna buy it? One of the Kardashians?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I'm not sure if it's gonna be the Kardashians or Arnold Schwarzenegger, who every year always donates an enormous amount of money to FIDF.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Okay, what color hair dye should Bibi try next? Do you think the blue was working for him?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      I'm not sure. I would go with purple. It fits better with his age.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    As you know, in the states, on the 4th of July, people tend to take big coolers of Bud Light and go to a park and drink a lot of them. And it's really an awful beer. What is the national alcoholic beverage of Israel for Yom Ha'atzmaut, is it Maccabee in cans?

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      it's only gonna be Goldstar. First of all, nobody drinks Maccabee. That's only the people who come from outside. Goldstar, Goldstar, Goldstar. But hey we have all sorts of new brands. So next time you come, I'm gonna give you Malka, which is the best beer and it's a queen and it's wonderful.

  • Israel360 logo AMA Host

    Well, Miri, thank you so much. I wish you a very happy Yom Ha'atzmaut. I look forward to seeing you again in Israel soon. And thank you so much for taking the time and being on the podcast today.

    • Miri Miri Eisin

      Well, Miri, thank you so much. I wish you a very happy Yom Ha'atzmaut. I look forward to seeing you again in Israel soon. And thank you so much for taking the time and being on the podcast today.

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