We Hereby Declare

On Independence Day eve, I had the privilege of participating in “We Hereby Declare,” an event created by the Bina Center.

Ben Gurion declaring independence 311 (photo credit: GPO)
Ben Gurion declaring independence 311
(photo credit: GPO)
On Independence Day eve, I had the privilege of participating in “We Hereby Declare,” an event created by the Bina Center. For the first time since the original Declaration of Independence in 1948, people gathered in the very room in which the State of Israel was declared and read the document.
Along with other public figures, I was invited to read part of the declaration, and offer my interpretation of it.
The room was filled to the rafters, and hundreds more waited outside. The demand was amazing. The event sold out within 15 minutes, as if it were a performance by the Israeli rock band Kaveret.
It is clear that this event fulfilled a real need. It is almost too obvious that part of Independence Day should be dedicated to studying our nation’s foundational texts, marking our return to our homeland.
We root every other Jewish holiday in our history and texts – so why not Independence Day? Why did we have to wait 65 years for such an event? Since the Zionist revolution, our nation has focused its energy on creating the State of Israel, primarily the physical aspects of this momentous change in our nation’s history. Infrastructure had to be created, and every single thing had to built from scratch: security, an economy, an education system, a healthcare system, social services, towns, cities, in short – everything and anything necessary for a state.
Today, 65 years later, we can begin to have the conversations that are necessary for defining the state’s moral character.
What kind of country do we want to live in, and what fundamental values do we hold dear? What values do we share? What role does Judaism play in the country, and what kind of Judaism should be present in Israelis’ lives? We should, and must, find answers to these questions. It won’t be easy, but if we succeed, we will have outlined the future of our country and our society alike.
We no longer live in the shadow of the larger-than-life generation of the founders. Therefore, we have a chance to succeed in this endeavor. We are the first generation to have been born into a state where many problems had already been solved: We have a capital city, state institutions and a flourishing cultural scene. Our generation has not known times of uncertainty, but rather has lived in its country naturally – which is exactly what enables us to engage with questions over its nature and character.
We face a challenging yet wonderful task. But we are lucky enough to be part of the generation that will shape Israel’s core values. Therefore, events such as “We Hereby Declare” are indicators of change. The public is thirsty for values, meaning, and contentbased activities, and I hope that together we can shape Israel and Israeli society.Rachel Azaria is a Jerusalem city councilwoman and head of the Yerushalmim party.