Today is Israel’s Independence Day-a day which marks Israel’s sixty-seventh year as an independent nation. While I do not live in Israel, I believe that I have a stake in Israel’s coming to be and its continued existence. For I can only begin to imagine what it was like to be Jewish prior to the State of Israel; the sense of dependence that our people felt upon their host nations, and the depth of betrayal that we felt as the world permitted ongoing Jewish vulnerability, ultimately resulting in the Holocaust.
I have often said that we all walk taller as Jews today because there is an Israel. We feel a greater degree of both pride and security than did previous generations. We marvel at Israel’s accomplishments and the prospect of Israel being an even greater “blessing” to our world, if only our world will embrace that blessing.
I want to quote a passage from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, as I believe that it speaks to our hopes and visions, especially in the troubled world that we experience today. “The State of Israel will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. It will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex. It will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions…..”
While Israel has a way to go in realizing all of those worthy ideals, let us be proud that all of this continues to be the vision that most Israelis embrace. For that reason is Israel so dear to them, and for that reason is Israel so dear to me.
Yes, Israel knows way more than its share of unfounded international resentment and condemnation. Someone arriving from some distant place might well be led to believe that Israel is a “bully” nation, powerful, domineering and unjust. To that person we can only say: “Travel to Israel, experience its people and their values and visions and you will be left with a different truth.” As Hatikvah expresses, “still we have not lost our hope.” Israel will yet be known as a “light unto the nations” and a place where the highest ethical spirit will one day prevail. Shalom al Yisrael…may the people of Israel know peace, and may we ever-lend our support to that hope.