Monday, May 5, 2008
ISRAEL'S SIXTIETH YEAR OF INDEPENDENCE-A REASON TO BE GRATEFUL
The approaching celebration of the State of Israel's sixtieth birthday has many obvious reasons for gratefulness, first and foremost among Jews , and among all people everywhere, as well.
After two millenia of homelessness and dispersion, a defenseless people, subject to unremitting prejudice and persecution finally returns to its ancestral home. In the aftermath of the annihilation of one-third of its total population, its succeeds in establishing a democratic society that within sixty years has emerged as the most modern and technologically advanced in the Middle East, and in some areas of endeavour, in the entire world.
In its brief existence, it absorbs millions of disenfranchised and destitute Jews, providing them with homes, education, employment and opportunities for a secure and successful life.
Jewish pride and self confidence are resurrected, and no longer does the Jew cower in fear before his enemies.
In the fields of medicine, the arts, literature, and science , Israel has pioneered new paths and ways of overcoming obstacles of human difficulty and hardship.
It has transformed a neglected backwater country into a place of physical growth, natural blossoming and human achievement.
The Jewish people and the world are grateful, and can comfortably and thankfully celebrate this historic occasion.
Yet, so many problems stand in her way, so many challenges, political, social, economic and moral , stubbornly confront her, leading to consequences of fear, animosity violence and death.
Can one be totally grateful when independence is wrenched from war and conflict? How can we celebrate with a full heart knowing that millions of human beings still regard this time of deliverance as an event of sorrow and shame? Many may be quick to lay blame on Israel's enemies for their own suffering and for not entering into peaceful relationships with their Jewish neighbors? Perhaps they are right! Yet, a review of human history in general and recent Israeli history in particular will bring to light the inescapable conclusion that even in the best of circumstances resulting in justifiable victories for the victim and underdog, fields of human battle are still strewn with the corpses and calamities of countless innocent victims, no matter which side they may be on. Even in victory, morally legitimate and necessary, the agony of war assails the full measure of celebration and rejoicing.
Only a few days ago, our Passover celebration echoed with the words of God admonishing the angels for desiring to sing God's praises while the works of His hands, the hated Egyptians, drowned in the turbulent waters of the Red Sea. Just this past week, we read in our Holy Scriptures, the Torah-"The stranger who resides with you shall be as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."(Leviticus 19,34)
Exile and homelessness not only brought suffering and loss to our people; it transmitted a moral lesson in human sensitivity, it transformed an ordinary people into a people of moral commitment and courage, a people that translated its own suffering into a narrative of not only Jewish redemption but of the redemption of the total human community, stranger and foe alike.
Yom Haatzmaoot, Israel Independence Day ,beckons us to rejoice, to celebrate, to dance and sing , and to eat fallafel, and to gratefully praise the Rock of Israel for this moment of glory. It is also a powerful opportunity to renew our gratitude for being a people dedicated to right the wrong, to seek peace and nurture it, to establish a society of righteousness and compassion for all people within its borders and beyond. With pride and gratefulness, we continue to sing with full hearts-Hatikvah-The Hope ,for universal freedom and peace. Amen