It is more than OK to celebrate Israel
Israel's 70th Birthday
It is Yom Haatzmaut - the 70th birthday of the modern State of Israel. Israel;s population stands at 8.842 million people and its Jewish community makes up 43% of world Jewry. Since it is ten hours later there, I missed the evening celebrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These celebrations come after a week of memory. Last Thursday was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and today, our Tuesday night and Wednesday comprises the day of memorial for the fallen soldiers of Israel (23,646) and for terror victims (3,134).
Perhaps by coincidence, I met with a member of our community last week and he handed me a printed copy of our bulletin (remember those?) in which my article is entitled "Israel at 60." I wrote the following, "In 1948, in the aftermath of the tragic events of the Shoah, the Holocaust, the rebirth took place. The pangs of that birth were painful and the merging life has had good and bad days ever since. For sixty years the life of the Jews in the Diaspora has been tied closely with the breaths and heartbeats of M'dinat Yisrael, the State of Israel."
I could easily change the 60 to 70 in that paragraph except for one piece of it - the last sentence. Because of the constant struggles in the Middle East, because of the occupation, because Israel has had trouble gaining willing partners for a peace process, because some within Israel support policies that, in my humble opinion, lay obstacles in the road toward peace...because of these many factors and more, Jews in America are not there for Israel as they used to be. Our younger generations, at times, express fatigue and disinterest in the events in that part of the world.
From my perspective, the living, modern Israel is a testament to the strength and viability of the cultural, spiritual, religious, and historic yearnings of our people. In spite of the challenges, Israel's independence is a vital part of the life of world Jewry, if only from the perspective that 43% of our people live there. It is that community of Jews that continues to make great scientific, technological, medical, and intellectual contributions to the rest of world civilization. It is the people there who are teaching the impoverished how to make better use of their land. It is the people there who have flown worldwide to address the needs of human beings following a natural disaster - earthquakes, floods, tornados, landslides. I am constantly inspired and joyful that, as a Jew, I am part of all of that.
I hope that on this Israel Independence Day we can celebrate with deep joy seventy years of struggle and, even more, seventy years of accomplishments.
Please join us on Sunday morning as our community celebrates this 70th birthday.
Chag Samayach! Happy Holiday!!
Rabbi Ted Feldman