As we launch into our 65th Independence Day celebrations it is timely to review
and rationally assess the extent to which our Zionist objectives have been
When the Jewish state was proclaimed in 1948, the 650,000 Jews
who constituted the Yishuv were totally engaged in a desperate battle to repel
the combined military forces of our Arab neighbors who from the outset were
determined to deny Jewish sovereignty.
In their wildest dreams, the
founders of our state fighting a war of survival could never have envisioned the
dynamic and thriving nation of eight million citizens that would emerge from
Indeed, by any benchmark, taking into account numerous
wars, failures and disappointments, this extraordinary Jewish nation-state will
indisputably be recorded in the annals of history as one of the greatest
successes of the past millennium.
There is no historical situation which
remotely compares to the Jewish people’s renaissance and transformation into a
Jewish nation. After being exiled for 2,000 years to all parts of the globe and
having suffered endless cycles of discrimination, persecution, exile and mass
murder culminating in the genocidal horror of the Shoah, we reconstituted
ourselves into a nation state.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, an
ingathering of the exiles took place with Jews from all over the globe flocking
to find haven in the newly established Jewish state. There, against all odds,
they bonded together into a melting pot of Shoah survivors, refugees fleeing
persecution in Arab countries, Jews escaping from the underdeveloped societies
of Ethiopia, and from discrimination in the former Soviet Union – and succeeded
in creating one of the most vibrant and resilient societies in the
The ancient and sacred Hebrew language has been revived as a
living, pulsating cultural force and lingua franca for Jews, uniting those from
totally different cultures. There has been a renaissance of Torah study with
greater numbers of Jews familiar with the traditional texts and teachings of
Judaism than at any period in our history.
Who could possibly have
imagined that a people, subjugated and powerless for 2,000 years, would emerge
in a very short space of time, as a dominant regional military superpower able
to deter and defend itself against the vastly numerically superior military
forces of its combined regional adversaries? Who could have dreamt that this
tiny, arid strip of land would become the fulcrum for a dynamic economy and
emerge as the second-largest hi-tech startup nation in the world, exceeded only
by the United States? And as a special gift, on the eve of our 65th anniversary,
this country, devoid of the oil reservoirs which have empowered some of our
adversaries, virtually overnight became energy self-sufficient and is now even
exploring markets to export its surplus gas resources.
success far exceeded the expectations of our idealistic founders. By any
rational benchmark it would be deemed a modern-day miracle.
despite this, there are those in our midst who constantly whine about our
failings and transform self-criticism into masochism. Instead of celebrating
they predict doom and gloom.
There is also a tiny, but highly vocal
minority who disparages our achievements and complains about the sacrifices
required to ensure our security and existence, some of whom even mock Zionism
and challenge the merits of Jewish statehood.
Also there are some young
Jews, never having experienced the dehumanizing impact of powerlessness on the
Jewish psyche, who take the State of Israel for granted. They never underwent
the chilling experience of their European antecedents in Europe who in the 1930s
desperately sought – mostly unsuccessfully – to obtain entry visas to countries
to escape the impending Nazi genocidal onslaught.
And nor do they
appreciate the soul-destroying impact of living in an environment of
anti-Semitic incitement where Jews are considered pariahs and the mainstream
media shamelessly promotes frenzied anti-Israel and anti-Semitic
However, despite the prevailing belief that after the
revelation of the horrors of the Shoah, anti- Semites would become an extinct
species, the world’s oldest hatred has returned with a vengeance, particularly
in Europe, whose soil had been drenched in Jewish blood only a few years before
The extent of the current European malaise is
exemplified by youngsters in some public schools seeking to hide their
Jewishness in order to avert torment or social exclusion. In many European
cities there is also a growing reluctance to outwardly wear Jewish symbols like
kippot to avoid random violence from hooligans in the street.
especially in France, the UK, Scandinavia, Hungary, Greece, Ukraine and
throughout South America there are daily reports of increasing anti-Semitic
violence, of incitement and even murder.
Whereas, in North America, where
public opinion is strongly pro-Israeli, the campuses have been transformed into
launching pads for visceral anti- Israelism and anti-Semitism.
in these dark areas, Jews are comforted in the knowledge that today there is a
State of Israel which will defend the Jewish people. A Jewish state which will
always provide a haven for them if their world collapses. Of course we face
challenges and genuine threats. The dream of peace for which we all yearn
remains a distant vision and future generations of youngsters will continue to
carry the burden of defending the nation against its adversaries.
yes, there are still many problems in Israeli society which must be overcome.
There are too many poor people and we suffer internal divisions between
religious and secular and between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. We all agree that we
must continue striving for a better society to achieve the ultimate goal of
becoming “a light unto the nations.”
But today, almost half the Jewish
people are happily domiciled in Israel. The word happily should be stressed
because despite our masochistic self-criticism and endless complaints, all polls
show that Israelis are numbered amongst the happiest and most satisfied people
in the world.
Our numbers will increase and an ever-growing proportion of
global Jewry will return to live in its homeland, increasingly out of choice
rather seeking a haven.
Thus, as we celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary,
notwithstanding all the challenges and threats confronting us, we should remind
ourselves of our humble origins and give thanks to the Almighty for having
enabled us to be the blessed generation that is privileged to live in freedom in
this extraordinary country, our ancient homeland.
Chag Sameach! The
writer’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He
may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org