Last year during Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut , I had the privilege of chairing a Men’s Mission to Israel for the Jewish Federation and bringing 20 Bergen County men, many for the first time, to Israel. On the way, Jason Shames and I stopped in Paris to show solidarity with their Jewish community after the terrorist attack at the kosher supermarket. We spoke with the woman who is in charge of the Jewish security agency in France. She refused to be photographed with us. At first, we thought it might be personal. But, then she told us that her life would be in danger if she were identified. We also drove to a suburb of Paris where Jason and I were warned that if we exited the car and were identified as Jewish, “we would not make it to the corner of the block” without being beaten.
When we landed in Israel, we felt a sense of safety and pride. We were in a country that is not only a haven for the Jewish people, but like the United States, a bastion of freedom, opportunity, creativity and diversity. We toured Google Israel and met employees of Waze an Israeli company. With my sense of direction and distain for traffic, this App alone would be reason enough for me to support Israel. We attended a lecture given by the doctor who was in charge of the Israeli relief efforts in Haiti and Japan. He described how Israel brings everything it needs to assist a country, including food, water, housing and medicine so as not to burden the host country. They then leave all the equipment and supplies behind.
We had the unique opportunity of experiencing Yom Hazikaron, by attending the memorial ceremony at the Western Wall. It was a ceremony marked by complete silence and reverence throughout since each citizen is not more than one degree of separation from a fallen soldier. In a crowd of a a thousand people, only a few of us along with a stray Canadian or two, were taking videos on our phones. At the end, there was not a dry eye around when we all rose to sing Hatikvah.
The next day, Israel transformed herself from a country in mourning to one of exuberant celebrations on Yom Haatzmaut. Though the citizens of Israel do not all agree on the path the country should take in the future, or pretty much anything at all, they all were celebrating the miracle of her birth and continued existence in the face of unimaginable adversity. They celebrated her accomplishments in medicine, technology and women’s rights. It is for these reasons that my wife and I are taking our children Noah and Dina (who is here today) to Israel in June, so they can see for themselves what Israel is about.
It is also why we must all stand with Israel and against the abhorrent misrepresentations and distortions of the truth permeating the BDS movement. In our country, we are required by our freedoms of expression, assembly and press to allow this fraudulent, barely veiled hate movement to exist. However, we are also obligated by our country’s moral values and principles of truth and justice to oppose its revolting philosophy. It is attempting to not only rewrite history but to erase it. I applaud our political leaders for their resolve in fighting along with us to limit the damage the BDS movement is causing to the very freedoms that, ironically, allow it to survive.
Through the assistance of her friends in the United States, including in New Jersey and here in Bergen County, Israel can and will continue to thrive. We greatly appreciate all of the support of our leaders who recognize the importance a vibrant Israel has for our local community and for our country. Thank you very much for everything you do and for making this day possible. Am Yisrael Chai!