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His Holy Land

Independence Day fireworks over the Knesset

May 14, 2019

Israel is likely the only country in the world where Memorial Day directly precedes Independence Day. We go from a day of mourning and sadness straight into a day of happiness and rejoicing. This makes a powerful statement: We cannot celebrate our country until we acknowledge those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for it. It is an extremely emotional two days that affect me deeply every single year.

Last week, when we celebrated these two momentous days, my gratitude to God for the state of Israel was greater than any previous Independence Day.

We are living in frightening times. The phenomenon of rising anti-Semitism is all over the news and fills social media. Nearly every day there is another attack on Jews somewhere in the world. Many people have compared our time to the 1930s, specifically the years that immediately preceded World War II. There are chilling parallels between the type of anti-Semitism we are experiencing now and the kind that led up to the Holocaust. A recent poll found that one-third of Austrian citizens believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again. It is terrifying to think that history might repeat itself.

However, there is a major difference between 1939 and 2019. This is absolutely NOT the 1930s! In 2019, there is a Jewish state with one of the greatest armies in the world. For the first time in 2,000 years, the Jewish people live as an independent nation in our biblical homeland. The establishment of Israel in 1948 was a game-changer for the Jewish people – one that I’m not certain we fully appreciate just yet.

When my grandfather and his family were experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust, there was no Israel to run to. There was nowhere to escape, since most countries denied access to Jews fleeing the Nazis. There was no Jewish army to swoop in and save my grandfather’s family. There was no Jewish leader who could intervene on their behalf. Praise God, today we live in an entirely different reality.

As my family and I sat on our blanket watching the Independence Day fireworks in the sky, I thought about how different my grandfather’s life was from mine. For all of the horrible similarities between the 1930s and today, there are miraculous differences. The state of Israel is one of them – and Christian friendship is another. Never before in history have the Jewish people had such dedicated, godly, and loving friends as we do today. As I celebrated Israel, I also thanked God for our Christian friends.

Make no mistake; history is not bound to repeat itself. We do not know what the future will hold for Jews around the world, but we know that our God is great, that He has given us His Holy Land, and that He will protect His people. Israel is a safe haven, a powerful advocate, a spiritual epicenter, and a place every Jewish person can call home.

I hope that you will join me in praising the living God who has brought about these miracles and brought us to this time. Our God is great, and the best is yet to come.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein

President

In Loving Memory of Rabbi Yecheil Eckstein 1951-2019

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