Cherishing, protecting and celebrating Israel

During these unprecedented and incredibly difficult times, please allow me to take a pause from the day to day news that now seems to be a part of the new “normal,” the new everyday life. Permit me, just for a moment, to shift the conversation away from the uncertainty that we all feel today, as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Instead, I would like to share with you, on Israel’s Independence Day, a personal enlightenment that I experienced just two years ago, when my family and I celebrated our first Yom HaAtzmaut in the United States.
As an Israeli, it is only natural that תואמצעה םוי — Israel’s Independence Day — is considered to be a sacred day. On this day, Israel gained its independence and sovereignty after almost 2,000 years. Our generation has been fortunate enough to see this goal become a reality with our own eyes. To live the dreams of generations of Jews, who prayed three times a day that they might one day return to Jerusalem and live in a Jewish state.
At first, when I saw the Jewish communities here in the United States coming together to observe Yom HaAtzmaut, I was taken aback by how much time, effort, and programing went into celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. Only when I was able to personally get to know the members of the Jewish communities was I able to understand why Americans would put so much attention into celebrating an Independence Day, other than their own. This discovery presented itself in two different dimensions.
First, I realized that all members of the Jewish communities here in the United States and around the world see Israel as their homeland. Many visit Israel on a regular basis, others invest in Israeli companies and startups, and some even decide to make aliyah and become Israeli citizens, themselves. That is why Israel is so dear and close to our hearts. Whether you live in Israel or are a part of one of the Jewish communities here in the U.S., you are interested in what happens in Israel. You follow the news. You celebrate its successes and bereave its losses. Overall, you feel connected to Israel.
Secondly, for the first time in my life I understood, in-depth, what the Jewish state stands for and what it really means. Israel belongs to each and every Jewish individual who lives on this planet. Regardless of where he or she lives, their personal beliefs, or even their political views — Israel is your home. Those 13,795 square miles belong to all of the Jewish people. The hills and valleys, the forests and shores, the fields and seas are all yours just as they belong to the Israelis that live there.
That is why, in my opinion, the day Israel was founded — ח”שת רייא ’ה — May 14, 1948 — is one of the most important dates in Jewish history. For me, this date is as significant as the day that the First Temple was inaugurated as it is written and emphasized in the first book of Kings: “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.”
Both dates changed Jewish history dramatically. When King Solomon built the first temple, it was the first time in history that the Almighty dwelled in a permanent Jewish home. When modern Israel was established, it was the first time in modern history that the Jewish people were recognized and entitled to a national home of their own, as The Balfour Declaration acknowledged in 1917. Our Independence Day, after almost two millennia, was the day that Israel finally gained its own seat at the international table— sitting alongside countries that in the past, and others in the present, did not recognize the legitimate rights of the Jewish people to have their own state, their own army or even their own currency.
Today, 72 years after the establishment of Israel’s independence, the existence of the Jewish state is a natural fact. Make no mistake, the story of Israel is a story of great success. We must never forget that just two generations ago, the world and sadly the vast majority of the Jewish people never believed in their wildest dreams that Israel would become an essential player in the international community. This is why remembering this historic day is incredibly important. We must all remember that the creation of the modern Jewish state, Israel, is something that we should cherish and protect. We should be proud of our one and only Jewish state, a state that contributes to the world in so many aspects of life.
For all of those reasons and many more, we should thank God. We can also never forget all of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who have sacrificed their lives fighting for our independence and security. We must remember the innocent victims of terror who were murdered only because they were Jewish. It is our duty and honor to walk in the giant footsteps of our pioneers. I believe with all of my heart and soul that Israel will continue to thrive and in the coming future, we shall all see even better days.
Happy Israel Independence Day.
Gilad Katz is the Southwest Consul General of Israel.

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