We are often confronted with the question and challenge of what really is the remarkable uniqueness of the creation of the State of Israel? Is there something inherent in this nation’s independence that makes it that much more phenomenal than other nations throughout history?
The simple answer is a clear yes.
In our times, we have merited the realization of the prophesy of the ancient prophets. Members of previous generations would literally have given all of their personal wealth to see what we are seeing each and every day on the streets of Israel.
I realize that 69 years on, it is often a challenge to be reminded daily of the nature of this modern miracle. Today our nation is immersed in many internal challenges that divert our attention from the wonder of Israel’s existence. Our passion might also be deterred by elements of the haredi leadership who refuse to share the understanding that we are living a miracle and that those who gave their lives for this nation, and continue to sacrifice in its service are the ultimate modern heroes of our people.
But these distractions cannot and must not lead us astray from the appreciation of “Why is this State different from all the others?” And why should it’s existence be heralded by every Jew regardless where on the globe he or she finds themselves.
1. The existence of Israel is the most important element of our modern peoplehood. The Torah was given to be observed as a people living united as a nation- not as individuals. While an individual has specific requirements and observances, our strength and ability to serve God is best appreciated when we are a united people- and in our ancient Homeland. This land has given us the ability to build the primary Jewish institutions – such as a government and an army – both inspired and guided by Jewish values. And while we are welcome to be critical of specific actions or policies of those institutions- as is our right as citizens of a modern democracy- the very existence of these bodies as proud Jewish identities requires us to appreciate that Israel is unique and is a reflection of the values of Jewish tradition which have defined us as a people for thousands of years. Arguably no other nation in the history of mankind can claim such a heritage and an identity.
2. The existence of the State of Israel is the ultimate proof of our national survival. Throughout much of history- and in particular since the rise of Christianity – others have made the argument that Judaism was no longer relevant because we had failed to recognize their messiah. This contention became the source of rabid anti-Semitism which charted the course of anti-Jewish sentiment and manifested itself so tragically in the Holocaust. Every Jew-hater was inspired by the belief that we were not the chosen people and the days of our existence were numbered. But out of the ashes of Majdanek, Treblinka, Auschwitz and so many other awful places, came the creation of the State of Israel and the ultimate proof that they were wrong- and that we have won. To see this as anything short of Hashem’s remarkable influence in dictating the course of history for the ultimate benefit of our people is an insult to all those who fell in pursuit of this dream. We have been given the gift to come home and to show the world- to prove to our enemies- that we are a nation that has not been and will not be defeated.
3. It is here that our future lies as a Jewish people. Without diminishing the importance of Jewish communities across the globe, we are not being intellectually honest if we fail to admit that in Israel lies the future of our people as a Jewish nation. While the percentages are slowly changing, the reality remains that the majority of world Jewry has not yet found its way to Israel. This is not solely an issue of demographics but a question of national identity. Whereas in the Diaspora, those who are less observant often demonstrate a lesser connection to their Jewish identities and can easily fall victim to the threat of assimilation, in Israel even the so-called “secular” still closely identify with their Judaism and work passionately to pass that on to their children. I therefore contend that we must appreciate that the future of our people would not be possible were it not for the existence of this State.
This Yom Haatzmaut, I would implore Jews over the world to take notice of these three aspects which make Israel’s existence unique. The creation of the State which is celebrated on this most special of days is a miracle which must be appreciated and revered by every single Jew. Because we are not simply a country or a land in any classical sense. Rather Eretz Yisrael is the very central realization of who we are as a Jewish people.
Chag Atzmaut Sameach and in the merit of recognizing the power of this day may we be blessed that next year all Jews will be fortunate to come home and celebrate with us here in Israel.