As Israel celebrates its 71st Independence Day today, we join with people, and not only Jewish people, in recognizing all that Israel has become in such a short time. Following the evil that was the Holocaust, the early Zionist pioneers and so many Holocaust survivors were determined to create a homeland for the Jewish people: a country wherein Jewish values and ideals would reign supreme. A land of freedom, democracy, and opportunity for people to come together from what our tradition calls “the four corners of the earth.”
Confronted by hostile neighbors, and attacked numerous times, including this past weekend, there was a collective will to establish a homeland, the likes of which the Jewish people had not known for some 2,000 years.
Yes, they drained swamps and made the desert bloom. But the people of Israel did far more than that. Israel became one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to science, medicine, agriculture, and of course, technology. A people longing for nothing more than to live in peace with their Arab neighbors as they raise their children in a safe and nurturing environment.
I believe that we all stand taller as Jews today because of Israel. No longer a homeless people, Israel represents the fulfillment of centuries of prayers and longings and the realization of a dream “to be free people living in our own land.”
Yes, Israel has changed both the world’s perception and the self-image of the Jew. Thanks to Israel, it’s no longer about what the world has done to us. Rather, it’s about what we have done for the world. Profound advances in medicine and technology – these are among Israel’s gifts to our world, if only the world would embrace Israel and look truth and worthiness in the eye.
May we continue to stand with Israel, and may this very unique country continue to be a blessing unto humanity.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Greenberg