Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, is unique among the nations. The date chosen is the date that the Declaration of Independence was read , but it wasn’t actually the day that Israel became a sovereign country.
The declaration was read on Friday, the 5th of Iyar, 5708 (May 14th, 1948) at 3:30pm, though the British mandate ended only 8 1/2 hours later, at midnight that night, a different date by the Gregorian and Jewish calendars. But midnight was already Shabbat, and this is a Jewish country. Desecrating the country’s first Sabbath would hardly be a good start. Therefore, David Ben Gurion announced that the land is now under Jewish rule before the Jewish Sabbath, a few hours early.
It was early from another respect as well. Before, but especially during, the period of British rule, the Arabs within the Mandatory borders were not very happy about the growing Jewish Return to Zion since 1882. There were attacks, pogroms, murders, and of course, pressure on international bodies. Due to pressure from the local and international Arab leadership, most of Europe’s 9 million Jews could not find refuge in the Holy Land from Hitler’s death machine. In 1937, after the Nuremberg laws had been passed, and Germany’s Jews were waking up to the reality of the Nazi goal to make Europe Judenrein (Jew-free), The British Foreign Office issued its White Paper, substantially limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Armed attacks on Jews grew harsher as time went on. When the United Nations voted to replace the Balfour Declaration with their Partition Plan in November 1947, the Jews were ecstatic as they felt it defined safe borders. The local Arab leadership, on the other hand, declared war, recruiting militias such as the Army of the Holy War from Egypt. This Civil War did not end with Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The next morning, as the last of the British soldiers set sail off Israel’s coastline, armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, supplemented by other Arab League members, declared international war against the newly founded Jewish State.
There was plenty of reason to worry that the State of Israel’s independence was assumed a bit too early. And yet, somehow, when armistice lines were drawn in 1949, there remained a Jewish State on the map.
That 600,000 Jews including many Holocaust survivors – with one fighter plane, no tanks, and very little ammunition, -survived these attacks, was and remains an unimaginable miracle. As the Passover song says, if we had only received this favour from Gd, it would be enough to say thanks.
Coupled with victory were many tragedies, such as the 1% casualty rate,- fully one percent of Israel’s Jews fell in the war of independence. Among the tragic battles, stands out the destruction of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, and the expulsion of Jews from the Old City. As the central kibbutz in Gush Etzion, Kefar Etzion, was destroyed (and its remaining defenders shot by firing squad after surrendering) on the day before independence was declared, a decision was made to mark the day before Independence Day as the national Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror.
In preparation for these two auspicious days, a group of young adults from the Ein Prat Midrasha came up with an idea to enhance the meaning of our independence. As with everything else about Israel, it is unique to a people who aren’t sure if we are now in the best of times or the worst of times. They propose a new national custom: Parallel to the Ten Days of Awe and Repentance culminating in the Day of Atonement, they introduce the Ten Days of Gratitude.
In an emotional video showing mothers, neighbours and in-laws being thanked for their love and support, Ein Prat’s students and graduates invite all Israelis to use this time to recognize the good in our personal and national lives – amidst hardships and wars, in economically turbulent times, and without forgetting that we still have goals to reach, we can reflect on the positive we have and show appreciation.
With chalkboards set up in major cities, a facebook page, and virtual postcard software that allows citizens everywhere to thank anyone, anywhere, the Ten Days of Thanks program is looking to become a national tradition. The Ein Prat Midrasha, headed by Dr. Micah Goodman, is hosting 3 events in Jerusalem as part of the Ten Days Of Thanks period – a lecture, an evening of songs and personal stories and a special closing ceremony at the beginning of the celebrations Monday evening, as sunset ends Remembrance Day and ushers in Independence Day.
Please watch the introduction video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdd7RLAK1Bo
And write a Thank You note on the Wall of Thanks at https://www.facebook.com/10thankyoudays?sk=app_647134642021226&