Dear Friend of Israel,
This year, Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of her founding. And when I read biblical passages such as Amos 9:15 – “‘I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them’” – I can’t help but think of the thriving land of Israel I am blessed to call home today.
We celebrate that land this year on April 19 – Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. On this day, we will remember the words penned by the Jewish leaders who gathered in 1948 in Tel Aviv to announce the birth of the Jewish state. The state of Israel, they wrote, “will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice, and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets.” Further, it would extend a hand to neighboring states “and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people.”
Much of this has come to pass. In Israel, freedom of religion is written into law and respected in practice. Israel is a democratic, multi-ethnic state. It is a state whose founding citizens – following the call of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, to “make the desert bloom” – transformed barren desert into productive farmland. It is a state that has always sought peace and cooperation with its neighbors.
Sadly, the dream of peace has not yet been achieved. What a tragedy it is that so many of Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors have never accepted her offers of friendship and cooperation. Despite her efforts, Israel has repeatedly had to fight to secure the independence she so boldly asserted in 1948.
It is appropriate, then, that one day prior to Israel Independence Day Israel observes Yom HaZikaron, Israel Memorial Day. On this solemn day, Israel remembers the soldiers killed during her many wars, and all Israelis who have died in the ongoing and seemingly never-ending terrorist campaign against the Israeli people. More than most nations, Israel knows all too well the truth of the old adage that “freedom is not free.”
As we rejoice on Israel’s 70th anniversary, let us also remember that her independence has been bought at a high price – a price paid in Jewish blood. And let us work for a future that sees Israel accepted by all as a full member of the community of nations.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President