"Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children." - Isaiah 66:8
Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, begins at sundown on April 22nd and continues through today, April 23rd.
As the sun sets on the 4th of the Hebrew month of Iyar and the 5th of Iyar begins, the nation of Israel undergoes a massive transformation. Weeping is turned into celebration; mourning the loss of those who gave up their lives for our country turns into joy at the fact that we have a country. Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, becomes Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Fireworks grace the sky as we celebrate the miracle that is the modern State of Israel.
Sixty-seven years ago, the scene was quite similar. At 4 p.m. on the 4th of Iyar, the British lowered their flag over the land, ending nearly two millennia of foreign occupation. Immediately, Israel raised her own flag. The flag, which was designed in 1897 by the First Zionist Congress, was white, to symbolize newness and purity. It had two blue stripes, the color of heaven, to resemble a prayer shawl, symbolizing the Jewish tradition. In the center was placed the Star of David, recalling the first King of Israel to rule from the capital of Jerusalem. While the Jews were forcibly pushed out of their land thousands of years earlier, they had never stopped trying to resettle the land or longing to reinstate their sovereignty. At last, the dream had become a reality, seemingly overnight.
Thousands of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?" Those words could have very well been written on May 14, 1948, when Israel declared herself an independent nation once again. Miraculously, after nearly two thousand years, the prophecy had been fulfilled and more biblical prophecies continue to be fulfilled as Israel is resurrected and her children return home.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, read the Declaration of Independence over the radio on the eve of the Sabbath as many wept for joy. He began, "The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here the spiritual, religious, and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world . . . " Once Ben-Gurion finished reading the declaration, a blessing was made praising God for bringing us to that day, followed by the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah, "The Hope."
Friends, as we celebrate Israel's independence today, let us open our eyes and see the miracle of it all. Let us praise God for all that He has done and recommit ourselves to doing our part in bringing about the complete fulfillment of every biblical prophecy and every one of God's promises.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President