Israel at 70: The best is yet to come

We are only beginning to carve out our destiny, and we need and want every Jewish soul to be an integral part of that destiny.

April 12, 2018 20:38
4 minute read.
A SOLDIER paints a Star of David on a child’s cheek during a display of IDF equipment and capabiliti

A SOLDIER paints a Star of David on a child’s cheek during a display of IDF equipment and capabilities, as part of the celebrations for Independence Day in Sderot, 2017. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

In Jewish tradition, the number 70 holds a very prominent, even mystical position.

Says the Midrash Zuta: “God, who has 70 Names, gave the Torah, which has 70 names, to Israel – which also has 70 names, and which originated from the 70 people who went down to Egypt with Jacob (listed in Genesis 46:8-27). Israel was chosen from among 70 nations (Genesis 10), to celebrate 70 holy days in the year (52 Sabbaths and 18 festival days). The Torah was transmitted to 70 elders and safeguarded by the Sanhedrin of 70 Sages (Numbers 11:16). There are 70 facets to the Torah (Zohar, Gen. 36), which was translated into 70 languages to make it understandable to the 70 nations (Sota 32), and was engraved on 70 stones after Israel crossed the Jordan (Deut. 27:8) on their way to the Holy Land. In the Holy City of Jerusalem, which itself has 70 names, they built the Temple, which has 70 pillars. There, on Sukkot, 70 sacrifices were offered (Numbers 29:13-34) for the sake of the 70 nations of the world, who have 70 representatives among the heavenly angels.”In another well-known quote, Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 5:25 proclaims: “Seventy is the age of sitting back in satisfaction and contentment.” Certainly, Israel, at 70, has done much to fill the Jewish people with satisfaction. This incredible nation has made the desolate land blossom, with an amazing ability to grow anything, anytime, anywhere; we have built modern, magnificent cities; we have revolutionized Torah study – thanks to Israel, more Jews are studying Torah today than at any other time in our entire history; our technology guides the planet, our army is second to none, our economy is booming; our cafes and restaurants are overflowing. We have one of the highest satisfaction ratios and one of the highest average life spans in the world.

But, with all that, we are far from content. We know that there is so much more we can do, we should do, we must do. We are growing numerically at a mind-boggling rate – 1,200% in just seven decades – and very soon we shall house the majority of Jews currently in existence. The Jewish nation that emerged from the Shoah, bereaved and broken, has regained its pride and rightful place as a force to be reckoned with, in the Middle East and far beyond.

But despite our celebration of this awesome miracle, we cannot afford to write off those who still live apart from us.

And so, as I write these words, I am preparing to leave for the United States, as part of a 70-person delegation sponsored by the Religious Zionists of America – Mizrachi movement. We are being sent to 70 diverse Jewish communities across North America, in an effort to strengthen the bond with Israel and accentuate the centrality of our one and only homeland.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would never leave Israel on the eve of such an auspicious occasion; I want to be a part of the grand 70th celebration, a truly remarkable event, particularly as it comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s courageous affirmation of Jerusalem as our eternal capital. Indeed, many of my friends living abroad are arriving here, even as I depart.

But these are not “ordinary” circumstances; we live, rather, in what can only be called extraordinary times. This is an era that the sage Hillel would certainly describe as an “If not now, then when?” moment.

While surveys consistently show that American Jewry overwhelmingly supports the Jewish state, there is ample reason for concern. Unrelenting criticism of Israel by a hostile international media – directed in particular at our policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians – has caused many Diaspora Jews to question our moral stature and the wisdom of our government’s policy.

The rather vicious nature of Israeli politics – a condition largely taken for granted by the local populace – often makes it seem to outsiders as though we Israelis are perpetually at each other’s throats. Even the Israel Defense Forces, the darlings of society and the “great equalizer” in our country since before our independence – has come under increased attack for overstepping its boundaries and becoming embroiled in a “gender war.”

While all these issues certainly do exist, none of them should be allowed to eclipse the big picture. And that picture is nothing short of spellbinding. We have carved out for ourselves – literally – an oasis in the desert. We have absorbed everything our maligners and mayhem-makers have thrown at us, and we have come out stronger.

Tragically, we have buried some of our finest young men and women, but when we left the cemeteries, we wiped away our tears and returned to nation-building. No people on Earth have endured what we have endured and still maintained our sense of Divine purpose and the ability to carry on.

For a human being, 70 connotes the onset of old age. But on a national level, 70 suggests we are still very, very young – in our infancy, really. We are only beginning to carve out our destiny, and we need and want every Jewish soul to be an integral part of that destiny. But don’t do it only for us; do it even more so for yourself; for I am absolutely confident that the best of Israel is yet to come. 

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana;

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