As we celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the miraculous rebirth of Jewish nationhood, we should take pride in the extraordinary accomplishments achieved over such a short time. Israel represents the greatest national success story of the past century; there is no remotely comparable example of a people renewing its nationhood after 2,000 years.
Yes, we are saddened that peace with our neighbors remains a distant dream, and that much of the world has turned against us. We also realize that far from advancing democracy or human rights, the turmoil in the Arab world will almost certainly strengthen Islamic fundamentalism and intensify hatred against us and the West.
And as many of us predicted, our “peace partner” has united with Hamas, and in September will endeavor to obtain global endorsement for a Palestinian state dominated by genocidal terrorists.
But we must retain a sense of perspective and reprimand those exaggerating our shortcomings and promoting doom and gloom scenarios. We have overcome far greater threats in the past.
IN THE early years of the state we were admired as the plucky underdogs warding off barbarians. Alas, once we demonstrated our ability to defend ourselves, that changed.
Yet most of us would concur that if warding off those seeking to annihilate us obliges us to lose favor with confused bleeding-heart liberals, so be it.
In 1948, 600,000 Jews created a people’s army which successfully repulsed repeated unprovoked onslaughts by its Arab neighbors. And to this day it remains on the front lines of the global battle against Islamic terror.
The IDF has no easy solution for eliminating terrorist groups.
But it has evolved into one of the most powerful military forces in the world, capable of defeating the combined armies of all our Arab adversaries. It represents a formidable deterrent which even the xenophobic Iranians would hesitate to confront, with or without nuclear power. Besides, we should bear in mind that the nuclear threat from terrorists is no less severe for those living in New York, London or any major city.
One of our major achievements was the in-gathering of Jewish exiles from all over the world: Holocaust survivors from Europe, refugees from Arab persecution, Ethiopian Jews, and the miraculous absorption of over a million Jews from the former Soviet Union.
These Jews from different cultures and societies were integrated, and emerged as a resilient nation – the largest Jewish community in the world.
We are entitled to be proud of our vibrant social, cultural and religious creativity, which flourishes despite the ongoing wars and terror. We are the only country in the region guaranteeing genuine freedom of religion. We remain a democratic oasis in a region of autocracies, dictatorships and Islamic fundamentalist regimes. We provide the vote to all citizens, regardless of race, religion or gender – including 1.4 million Arabs, who elect their own representatives, many of whom openly promote subversive behavior.
Our social welfare system, in particular our medical system, provides services for all 7.7 million Israeli citizens without discrimination, even providing amenities for Palestinians.
Economically, despite pockets of poverty, we are a veritable powerhouse. We were one of the countries least affected by the global economic meltdown. Our economy grew 7.8% in the last quarter of 2010; hi-tech and startup facilities make this tiny country second in the world, surpassed only by the United States; we are at the forefront of alternative energy development.
And despite all the media complaints, in a recent poll, 63% of Israelis described themselves as “thriving,” resulting in Israel being ranked seventh out of 124 countries.
FURTHERMORE, I predict that over the next few decades there will be a substantial aliya from Western countries. Some will come because they despair about the future for their children in an increasingly anti-Semitic Europe. Others, especially from North America, will be attracted to a Jewish state in which their children are automatically provided with a Jewish education and encouraged by our thriving economy.
Regrettably, the conflict with our neighbors is intensifying.
Yet the PA-Hamas merger is not necessarily a negative development. Many of us were always convinced that the corrupt PA – which murdered more Israeli civilians than Hamas – would never become a genuine partner for peace because its primary objective has also always been the elimination of Jewish sovereignty. The difference is that while Hamas speaks the truth, and its charter unashamedly promotes genocide, the PA expresses sentiments of peace and moderation to the West, but internally incites the vilest forms of anti-Semitism.
The merger will clarify to our friends why we could never sanction a state pledged to our destruction. Should the Palestinians abort the Oslo Accords and gain recognition in lieu of negotiating with us, it would provide grounds for us to annex at least the major settlement blocs.
We harbor no illusions about achieving peace in our time, but must remain strong and resilient until our neighbors accept us as a sovereign Jewish state. We should exult that having overcome greater challenges in 1967 and 1973, when we genuinely faced annihilation, today we are better able to defend ourselves.
We are therefore entitled to take pride in our achievements.
We must inculcate an historical understanding in our young people, so they appreciate the limitations in Jewish life prior to the creation of Israel. We must explain how the Holocaust may have been averted had a Jewish state existed then. We must convey how their ancestors in the Nazi death camps never dreamt their people would rise like a phoenix from the ashes and create such an extraordinary nation. They should appreciate that they are the most blessed Jewish generation in 2,000 years.
On Independence Day, we will continue yearning for the peace that has eluded us. But we should also be profoundly grateful for what we have achieved, and pray that with the help of the Almighty we will continue to overcome the challenges facing us and maintain a thriving and creative Jewish commonwealth.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post