As Israel marked its Independence Day anniversary earlier in the week, I want to try to articulate some of the reasons why I have a deep and prideful connection to Israel.
For almost two-thousand years, we Jews were without a home. Look at history and you will see the degree to which Jews were vulnerable and at the mercy of their host countries. And in most cases, anti-Semitism eventually prevailed and Jews found themselves oppressed or expelled, and looking for a new home. Such is not the case today for the Jews of our world.
I travel with people to Israel, and they are amazed at what this tiny country has accomplished in so short a time. Whether in medicine, science, technology or agriculture, not only has Israel flourished, but it has shared its advances with many countries of our world and been a true “light unto the nations” in spite of United Nations sentiments and condemnations.
We Jews cherish the ideal of Tikun Olam/fixing the world. I take great pride in Israel’s recurrent active response and help whenever disaster strikes a country. Immediately Israel is there to set up a field hospital, and in many cases, to bring victims back to Israel for the kind of treatment that they cannot receive at home.
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that advocates and implements laws that protect the most vulnerable of society in a part of the world where women and gay people are denied equality and respect
And I love Israel because I know that its military is the most humane military in the world; a country that has repeatedly been forced to fight, even as its soldiers are compelled to embrace the ideal of avoiding civilian casualties, often putting themselves in danger to do so.
Years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Technion, Israel’s leading university. There I met a professor who has spent years working on desalinization of ocean salt water. He treated me to a glass of such water, and yes, it tasted like any other water. What hope and promise such efforts represent for our world!
Yes, Israel has serious conflicts with its neighbors and with its Palestinian population. And I am not so naive as to believe that these conflicts can be easily resolved. For these hatreds run deep and Arab children continue to learn of the goal of destroying the Jewish state. But we continue to hope that the ideals of peace and cooperation might yet be realized, and that the people of Israel, our “brothers and sisters,” might continue the genius and passion that has made Israel into the country that it is.
As we recognize that we all have a great stake in Israel’s well-being, may we deepen our resolve to stand proudly with its people. Yes, I love Israel because I believe that all Jews walk taller in a world that knows of Jewish strength, while maintaining a value system rooted in the pursuit of justice and democracy-ideals that are too hard to find in our troubled world.