Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

You may be reading the title thinking that I am a couple months early but today is Independence Day in Israel and for all Jews in Israel and in the diaspora it is a day during which we celebrate a new beginning, a new era, another year of having a country to call home. While my perspective surrounding this holiday has varied greatly over the years from growing up Presbyterian, to conversion, to oleh, to observance and finally ending up where I am now. As a proud conservative Jew who does not limit himself in the daily routines of life, I see this day as a turning point in our history when freedom was guaranteed no matter the questionable currents running throughout the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday and, more accurately, its history, here is some information from the Yom Ha’atzmaut page on Wikipedia:
Yom Ha'atzmaut centers around the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership led by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948. The mood outside of Ben-Gurion's home just prior to the declaration was joyous:

"The Jews of Palestine ... were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind’s largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world’s Jews, that people was returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state."

Independence was declared eight (8) hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948.

The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel of 14 May 1948 expresses the declaration to be by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. The operative paragraph concludes with the words of Ben-Gurion, where he thereby declares the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

The new state was quickly recognized by the Soviet Union, the United States de facto, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, which marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate.

It is on this day, above all others, when I am proud to be both a Jew and an Israeli. While it is not a major holiday in the religious sense, it is a primary point of pride as a Jew living in this time in history and as someone who was a very small, almost miniscule, part of the history of the homeland. And it is a moment and a time that I still remember vividly as if it just happened even with the sleep deprivation dulling my memory and my senses the day we landed in the Home Land and became Israelis.

So as you go about your day, remember the Jewish State and celebrate the flourishing democracy bringing life and liberty to the Middle East. Remember the history that brought us to this, the 66th Anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, and all the struggles that we faced both before its founding and all the strife that has and continues to occur within the small boundaries of this peace seeking country. Remember this day and all that makes Israel great (let Benji Lovitt help you with that) and embrace the words that served as the founding document and principles of the State of Israel.