Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut This Year

Picture credit: Hen Mazzig, 2021
Picture credit: Hen Mazzig, 2021

“You see who people really are in hard times, not the easy ones,” my mother used to tell me growing up. And this year has been particularly – if not devastatingly hard. On so many levels, we saw who people, governments, and nations were. As we look ahead to Yom Ha’atzmaut – the celebration of Israel’s independence – I’ve been thinking, who has Israel become since its independence? If the darkness of COVID-19 showed us our true selves, Israel made it clear that we are a light in the shadows.

In a year of chaos, Israel made incredible strides toward peace with our neighbors. By entering into the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Israel took a historic step to maintain and strengthen diplomatic relations in the region. Along with this, Sudan normalized relations with Israel, as did Morocco. Israel’s leadership resulted in incredible strides being made towards peace in the Middle East.  

As COVID-19 devastated the globe, Israel helped lead the fight to defeat it. Israel was ranked fifth most resilient nation in terms of its response to the COVID-19 crisis by Bloomberg. With the Israeli government’s coordinated effort to vaccinate its all citizens as quickly as possible, the title is well deserved. Although Israel may have been going through hard times with COVID at home, we still managed to send aid worldwide. But we understood that we are not in the fight alone; Israel sent doctors to Italy, PPE to the US, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Australia, and to Syrian refugees. Our tiny nation sent hygiene kits to Guatemala, education and awareness programs in Vanuatu, and stress relief to US health workers. The aid and care that Israel has given to its citizens and those around the world underscores our dedication to helping all.

On top of all of this, Israel kept and expanded its reputation as an innovator and start-up nation. Despite the devastation of COVID-19, Israel saw a sharp rise in high-tech investments – likely because the world saw how we excelled under the high-pressure chaos of the past year. Meanwhile, TIME magazine chose 6 Israeli inventions for its best of 2020 list, saying these advancements make “the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun.” One of my favorites was Xvision, a headset that uses augmented reality to look at a CT Scan and convert it into a 3-D visualization to guide spinal surgeons through operations. It reminds me how the Israeli innovative and resourceful spirit doesn’t just save time but lives.  

For Israel, it is not enough to just care for our own people but set an example for the globe. Israel’s existence in itself is a miracle; for the first time in history, Jews are free to live in their homeland – and finally, have a sanctuary from the horrors of antisemitism. However, it still is a thrill to see how we never rest on our laurels and how we can be proud of not just Israel’s origin or purpose but the nation it has become. Happy Birthday, Israel. Here’s to many more.

About the Author
Hen Mazzig is a Senior Fellow at The Tel Aviv Institute (TLVi). He is a writer, digital communications expert, international speaker and LGBTQ+ advocate. His work focuses, among other topics, on the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
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