To paraphrase America’s 16th president, the beloved Abraham Lincoln, “three score and 10 years ago”…. our nation was re-born. Not BORN. But RE-BORN after an exile of 2,000 years. We returned and we rebuilt.

On May 14, 1948 Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion read aloud the Declaration of our Independence and on the following day, May 15th, we were brutally attacked by the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Joining with them were the Arabs of Palestine who rejected the 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine into two states.. one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. A precursor to today’s idea of two states for two people.

Our independence was not given to us as a gift from God. It was given to us from those who fought and fell in the battle for the re-birth of our nation.

From those early days, tragically to the present, 23,646 of our brave heroic soldiers fell. Today we mourn their memories.

Israel has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 70 years. 43% of all the Jews in the world live in Israel.  Ken yirbu…may the numbers increase.

The transition from Yom Hazikaron (the Day of Remembrance) to the next day Yom HaAtzmaut (the Day of Independence) is something akin to the Pesach seder.  First we eat the maror, the bitter herbs and then we follow it with the charoset, the sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts and wine . From the very bitter to the very sweet !

In one day, we go from grief and mourning to dancing and jubilation. How is it possible to mourn one day and to rejoice the next day?  That miracle is the real spirit of the people of Israel.

Now, although Jews are prohibited by law to pray and worship on the Temple Mount, our courts have ruled that it is, however, permissible for Jews to approach the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with loud proud shouts of “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel live).  As it is not a prayer but rather a national secular declaration it has been judged as permissible.

I would love to see tens of thousands of Israelis marching towards the Temple Mount shouting as they approach the site of our ancient King Solomon’s Temple “Am Yisrael Chai”… not only the people of Israel live but the re-born nation of Israel is alive and vigorous.

In our prayers, especially today, we say “ May He who blessed our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,  bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Force who stand guard over our land…. May God cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down… for it is Hashem, your God, who goes with you to battle your enemies to save you”.

And on the morrow, citing the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, we say “Our Father in heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel…send Your light and truth to her leaders, officers and counselors and direct them with Your good counsel… strengthen the Defenders of our Holy Land and crown them with victory… establish peace in the land and everlasting joy for its people”.

When I remember Yom HaAtzmaut on its third anniversary in 1951, I rejoice that God has granted me life to witness the glorious joy of our 70th year of independence.

Our hand is still stretched out to our enemies for peace but our finger remains tight on the trigger when we need to defend our land.

Today is the bitter day. Tomorrow is the sweet day. There will be dancing in all the streets of every Jewish town, city, village and settlement in Israel.  Falafel vendors will see a very prosperous day.

But even in our joyous rapture, let us pause to remember and to give thanks to those who made the past 2,000 years of dreaming into 70 years of reality.

AM YISRAEL CHAI… the people and the nation of Israel live!