Today, we switch from the pain and sadness of Yom HaZikaron to the triumph and celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously said, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” The sad reality is that the IDF is essential to the survival of the State of Israel, and that is exactly why we commemorate the lives of the soldiers and victims of terrors that were taken.
Almost 71 years ago, on the 5th of Iyyar (May 14, 1948), future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. It was recognized immediately by the United States, the Soviet Union and most countries of the United Nations. Since Israel’s founding, the country has truly emphasized the meaning of ״אור לגוים״, being a “light unto the nations”. As Alan Dershowitz frequently points out, “No country in the history of the world has ever contributed more to humankind and accomplished more for its people in so brief a period of time as Israel has done since its relatively recent rebirth in 1948.”
In Israel, 12 torches, symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel were lit. As former President John F. Kennedy said, “Israel was not created in order to disappear — Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honours the sword of freedom.” Each torch, lit by some of Israel’s finest, represent the spirit of the Jewish nation and of Israeli culture.
This year, one of the 12 torches was lit together by Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer, and Racheli Fraenkel, the mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014. Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped by Hamas-linked terrorists on the night of June 12, 2014, at a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem and killed soon afterwards. These three women, who did not know each other prior to losing their sons at the hands of terrorists have since become a symbol of strength and resilience in the face of senseless violence. They simply stated: “We light this torch for the unity of the Jewish people,” prior to lighting the Independence Day torch in memory of their sons and all victims of terror, as well as for the glory of the State of Israel.
These three women embody the message of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. That message is clear: In the midst of tumult and tragedy, pain and suffering, and even war and terror, the Jewish people, the people of the Land of Israel and the modern-day State of Israel will not be swayed in our support for Israel and Jews around the world!