Sharing responsibility and joy on Israel's Independence Day

Thousands of our people, in communities all over the world, are still very much in mourning

PREPARING FOR Independence Day. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PREPARING FOR Independence Day.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With nearly 200 Israelis and thousands of Jews around the world losing their lives due to coronavirus, it’s easy to focus on despair. After all, every death is more than a statistic: it represents a mother, father, son, daughter mourning over the loss of a loved one.
For many Jews, the hardship of this loss was compounded many times over. Due to social distancing restrictions, many were not able to mourn according to Jewish custom and couldn’t have an open, public shiva. Thousands of our people, in communities all over the world, are still very much in mourning and, especially as synagogues and cemeteries remain closed in most places, many are grappling for ways to cope with their grief in these uncertain times.
But the Jewish people is no stranger to tragedy.
As chairman of the Jewish Agency, I’m acutely aware of these times of tragedy, as I oversee an organization that has a 90-year history of aiding Jews in times of crisis. As a result, the agency’s operations fully embody the concept that all Jews are responsible for one another.
Our shlihim (emissaries) remain on the ground in communities all around the world. They’ve stayed put in their communities, administering a delicate balance of being a shoulder to lean on in these times of tragedy, as well as a source of inspiration through their continued fostering of ties between global Jews and Israel, bringing positive aspects of Israel to many longing for a human connection in this time of isolation.
I also must note how moved I am to see the ongoing expressions of concern among Israelis and in the Israeli media for what is happening in Jewish communities around the world.
Even as Israeli innovators race to create solutions for various aspects of this pandemic, I hear over and over how they hope their new developments can also ease the burden of this situation on their Jewish sisters and brothers throughout the world.
And just yesterday a crowdfunding campaign was launched by the Spirit of Israel, a Jewish Agency subsidiary, along with former shlihim to Italy who felt it was their duty to assist the Italian Jewish community in this time of crisis.
Jews in the United States are also taking their responsibility to help humanity to heart. Thousands of Jews in the New York area who’ve recovered from the coronavirus are donating their blood plasma so scientists can cure others.
These single acts of kindness give me hope that, as the Jewish nation, we will all emerge stronger and more unified after this crisis subsides.
As a people, then, we are not only responsible for each other’s safety, but for our respective prosperity as well. Am Yisrael is not a people that only laments its troubles and tribulations. We are a constantly flourishing people with a rich history, and we have much to be proud of. As such, for every crisis, there is also time for celebration.

THIS INDEPENDENCE DAY should be no exception.
True, there are no lavish gatherings. In Israel, street parties and the annual flyover of IAF fighter jets – a powerful display of Israel’s might – have been canceled as well. However, for Jews worldwide, the agency has a more intimate celebration in store that will – as ironic as it sounds – make this Independence Day one of the most celebrated ceremonies in Israel’s history.
The agency has worked with global Jewish organizations to bring Independence Day right into your living room. Jews around the world will be able to share in six hours of content celebrating the miracle that is Israel. Segments showcasing Israel’s culinary innovations, contributions to sports and lifestyles, as well as moving musical performances will be on offer to remind us of our wonderful achievements and lift our spirits, together.
This impressive lineup is possible only through cooperation with organizations and personalities from both Israel and around the world. As we’ve seen over and over throughout this crisis, members of the Jewish people have truly been there for one another. Communities and organizations support each other, even across the oceans, to ensure we make it through this crisis, together.
This unity is the source of our strength. And strength is exactly what we need, as we navigate these uncharted waters.
I encourage all of world Jewry to focus on the positive. In the hit Broadway show Hamilton, the wife of the title character exclaims, “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now!”
And we are lucky to be alive right now.
But how lucky are we to live in an era where we have the means and know-how to overcome these challenges; where technology at our fingertips allows us to be even more connected than ever before.
We have a robust Jewish state that will emerge from this crisis fortified and united. More than ever, the Jewish heart beats as one.
So, let’s take a moment to celebrate, together. Enjoy Independence Day, and let us fill our hearts with the energy we will need to continue persevering.
While circumstances separate us, they also are drawing us closer together. Unity among world Jewry is growing stronger from our shared challenges, giving us all the more reason to sing: “Am Yisrael hai!”
The Jewish Agency Independence Day celebration can be viewed on its English Facebook page.
The writer is chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency.