Israelis gather to watch the annual Independence Day flyover..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Pirkei Avot teaches that a 70-year-old has reached a “ripe old age” (“seiva” in Hebrew), a term used in the Book of Chronicles to describe King David, who died at age 70.
On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day (April 19), the Jewish State will become 70, with hopes for a long future ahead.
During those seven decades, Israel’s population has grown from 806,000 to 8.68 million, and its main export has shifted from oranges to hi-tech start-ups purchased by Apple.
A country started by destitute people with no experience in farming made the desert bloom, beleaguered Holocaust survivors built the IDF into a strong army, and there are now more people studying Torah in the land of Israel than ever before, despite the loss of Europe’s Torah teachers.
The light that the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to extinguish is now brighter than ever. Israel is striving to be the light unto the nations that its prophets predicted.
On Hanukka, Jews are commanded to light their hanukkiot in the window where their neighbors can see them, in order to “publicize the miracle.” On Yom Ha’atzmaut, we should behave similarly.
We should want the world to see Jews around the world celebrating the miracle of Israel turning 70 against all odds and thriving despite all logic. The best way to publicize the miracle is to bring Jews together to unite behind Israel.
History has proven that when Israel faces challenges of war, Jews around the world have been able to set aside their differences and come together to help ensure the country’s survival. But families must also come together in good times and celebrate what God gave them.
Religious Zionists in particular believe in thanking God for the modern State of Israel. We endured 1,878 years of exile with no state to save the Jewish people from pogroms, crusades, inquisitions and the Holocaust.
We can see the contrast of what happens when we have a state of our own to absorb Jewish immigrants from the four corners of the earth. Israel took in a million people from the Former Soviet Union, brought Africans to the promised land on the wings of eagles, and became a destination for aliya by choice of Americans seeking better quality of life.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly, he said he had visited six continents in a year and a half, because the world wants to know about Israel’s expertise in innovation and its unfortunate experience in successfully fighting terrorism.
The world has also been seeking out Israel due to its natural gas discoveries off its coast after decades of believing incorrectly that the Land of Israel was not blessed with the most lucrative natural resources.
The world leaders Netanyahu meets with often still criticize Israel, but that has become a small part of a larger conversation, as the world realizes more and more how much Israel has to offer.
The fact that, amid all that success, there are too many poor Israelis being left behind means that there is still much to be done by the Jewish Diaspora to support Israel, even as the relationship becomes more of a two-way street.
Politics must not be permitted to get in the way of that relationship. Just like we do not always understand all the decisions made by our children, we must continue showing them love.
Israel remains a work in progress, as its politicians and world renowned legal system continue their give and take, figuring out what it means to be a Jewish, Democratic state. “Israel” itself means struggling with God, in both present and future tense.
The messiah has not yet come and brought about the prophecy of 70 nations from around the world coming to Zion (though former president Shimon Peres’s funeral came close). That miracle has not yet transpired.
So the Religious Zionist of America have decided to bring 70 inspiring speakers from Israel to speak on the Shabbat before Yom Ha’atzmaut in North America’s 70 largest Orthodox synagogues. Those communities will be marking the milestone of Israel’s 70th birthday by expressing gratitude to God in their prayers and learning from their Israeli guests about the Jewish state’s bright future.The author is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.