Celebrating My Tenth Independence Day as an Israeli

Israel’s 67th Independence Day was especially celebratory for me this year. This was the tenth Independence Day I’ve experienced as an Israeli living in the Holy Land, as oppose to a Jew celebrating from the Diaspora in a far-off land.While I am not a very emotional guy when it comes to anniversaries, birthdays, or independence days, I was truly moved by this year’s celebration of Israel’s miraculous rebirth.The celebrations started at night. My wife and I took our three kids to the town square where thousands of people had gathered for Independence Day events. There were a number of stages with music, performances, and other attractions.I ventured to the stage where a band sang praises to God for the miracle of Israel and the fulfillment of His promise to our ancestors. In the words of the Bible, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land…'” (Genesis 15:18).We danced, sang, prayed, and received the blessings of the town’s rabbinic authorities, after which our kids watched an enchanting play about the Jewish people’s eternal connection to the Holy Land.The following morning, we wiped the sleep from our eyes and went for a hike with a couple of local families and friends. We hiked to some sand dunes along the Mediterranean Coast, where we climbed a sandy hilltop and watched as IsraelI Air Force jets flew to the air show in Tel Aviv.It was exciting, especially for the kids, to see these jets flying right over our heads. As the choppers and fighter planes soared by, we danced and waved our hands, wondering if the young pilots in the cockpits took notice of our own maneuvers along the Israeli coastline.The exhilaration of the jets flying overhead moved us to take out our prayer books to recite the Hallel Prayer – a compilation of Psalms recited on Jewish holidays that praise God for numerous miracles. As we sang the prayer, my friend played his tambourine, while my six-year-old tried to knock me over so I would roll down the sandy dune-hill with him – it was one of the best Hallel experiences of my life.As we recited the second paragraph of Hallel, a recitation of Psalm 114, I received into a verse I have uttered multiple times, but had never truly understood.”The mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs,” reads Psalm 114:4. As I recited this verse, I had a vision of Messiah’s arrival, of how every man, women, and child will venture into the streets, valleys, mountains, and hilltops of Israel. And then, every mountaintop and hilltop will be filled with people who will dance and sing.Israel’s Independence Day symbolizes the beginning of our return home. However, we must not forget that our redemption has not yet reached its conclusion. Our Temple in Jerusalem is still in ruins, the nations of the world continue to seethe with anti-Israel hatred, our borders are still undefined, and many of our fellow Jews are still in the Diaspora.So on this Independence Day, I felt so fortunate to be in Israel. I was so humbled to have the privilege my ancestors 2,000 years ago did not have – to be a free Jew in this land, praying and praising God with my children waving the Israeli flag by my side. Yet, the day when the nations of the world will no longer wage war, and Jerusalem will be the undivided capital of the God of Israel is still to come.And so we wait and pray for that day, when the mountains will dance like rams, and the hills like lambs!

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