Israel Independence Day symbolizes the empowerment of all Jews in the wake of the most successful renaissance of a nation after two thousand years of exile. It highlights the dramatic contrast between our status today and that of our powerless kinsmen facing doom on the eve of the Holocaust. It is not a celebration exclusively for Israelis but for Jews throughout the world.
But as we celebrate, we should be under no illusions. Our remarkable status is due to our independent power and the fact that we do not rely on the goodwill of others for our survival.
The world has not changed or learnt from the tragic consequences of appeasement in the 1930’s which led to Nazi aggression and the Holocaust. Today we witness again a state of global turmoil, confronted by an evil Islamist menace which threatens to undermine the Judeo-Christian moral structures of our civilization.
Europe is in a state of near anarchy. The decision by Chancellor Merkel to open Europe to “refugees”, most of whom are anti-democratic and fiercely anti-Semitic, has created massive demographic and social upheaval. Conventional political parties are disintegrating and populist and radical right wing parties are on the upsurge, with governments obliged to restrict civil liberties to strengthen security.
In the U.S., the liberal left has still not come to terms with the fact that the populist Donald Trump was elected as their president. But he has astounded them by showing that despite his America First policy, he was not reticent in employing force to bring vicious war criminals like Assad to heel and sending a clear message to the North Koreans and Iranians that the days of Obama groveling were over.
What is the status of Jews in this insane world?
Jews who remain in the diaspora have forfeited the privilege of being part of the greatest miracle of the last 2000 years: the ultimate realization of the most sacred Jewish prayers, faith and hope during endless years of exile and persecution.
And today, the high cost of remaining in the diaspora is becoming all too clear.
Anti-Semitism is at an all-time high with Jews in most European countries treated like pariahs, facing constant terror threats and in many cases requiring security forces to guard them at their synagogues and their children in their schools.
In the United States madness prevails with far left “liberal” Jews spearheading “Jewish religious” campaigns against Trump. Even mainstream groups like the ADL and sectors of the Reform movement sought to accuse Trump and his administration of either supporting or harboring anti-Semites.
The problem with many of these Jews is that they are utterly ignorant of their Jewish heritage and view Israel through the far-left prism in which regarding it as a colonialist implant is a critical component of their DNA.
But despite this dismal picture of Diaspora Jewry, most Jews are reassured that with the existence of an empowered Jewish state always ready and willing to accept them, they will never face the horror that their ancestors experienced in Europe in the 1930’s when no country would grant them haven.
But at the end of the day, it is inevitable that it will be a struggle for Jews outside of Israel to retain their identity, whether because of anti-Semitism or assimilation, and as their commitment to Israel diminishes, so too will their connection to the Jewish people and Judaism.
Yom Haatzmaut should be more than a holiday and barbecues. We should focus on the spiritual aspects and seek to convey to younger generations that the rebirth of their nation – which so many seem to take for granted – is truly miraculous.
We need only remind ourselves of the incredible devastation that took place 75 years ago following 2000 years of wretched dispersion, persecution, expulsion and murder and climaxing with the holocaust. We should view this in the light of our resurrected nation which has grown from 600,000 Jews in 1948 to 6 million Jews today. We should remind ourselves that our vibrant nation state revived the sacred tongue of our ancestors and molded broken refugees and survivors from all corners of the globe into a thriving national culture.
Despite being one of their smallest states in the world, Israel has created one of the most powerful global military force which has defeated superior forces seeking its destruction and today deters its enemies. Israel is an economic miracle with one of the most successful economies in the world, creating more startups in the technological and medical arena per capita than any other country. Over recent years, Israel has discovered vast gas fields which will make it an exporter rather than an importer of energy. And it has produced the most efficient desalinization program in the world which enabled it to overcome the water shortage and provide assistance to other nations.
Never in their wildest dreams could those who survived the Holocaust ever have imagined the miraculous success of the recreated nation state based primarily on refugees from Eastern European pogroms, Nazism or Arab persecution.
It was a wise decision, reflecting compassion and insight, to directly precede Yom Haatzmaut with Yom Hazikaron, a day to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our homeland.
Above all, as we celebrate we should pledge to ensure that as a nation we must continue strengthening ourselves militarily, economically and socially. The reason for our extraordinary success in nation-building flows from our inner strength and determination.
Israel today has been blessed with an American leader who is deeply sensitive to Jews and has displayed unprecedented support for Israel. We should seek to continue improving our relationship with the Trump administration and cooperate with his efforts to renew peace negotiations. We can hopefully progress toward reaching an accommodation on the settlements, annexing the Golan and have Washington formally recognize Jerusalem as our capital by relocating its embassy.
Where appropriate, we should continue building both covert and open alliances even with countries traditionally hostile towards us who share the common threat facing the region from the Iranian terror state.
Despite living in a region where barbarism is rampant and facing threats from religious fanatics pledged to our destruction, Israel has never been as strong and secure as it is today. We have every reason to count our blessings, rejoice and give thanks to the Almighty.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom