Thursday, April 23, 2015

Independence Day: We have reason to rejoice - Isi Leibler

by Isi Leibler

Our miniscule state enabled an ingathering of exiles from all corners of the world, providing a ‎haven for survivors of the Shoah, refugees from Arab persecution, Jews from underdeveloped ‎countries like Ethiopia and over a million from the former Soviet Union. Out of this melting pot ‎Israel has created one of the most vibrant and resilient societies in the world.‎

The Bible quotes Balaam describing the Jews as "a people that dwells alone and is not counted ‎among the nations." Alas, that aptly describes the status of the Jewish state on the 67th ‎anniversary of its rebirth. Yet despite enormous challenges confronting us, we have every ‎reason to celebrate.‎

Yes, Israel is the only country in the world whose right to exist and defend itself is continuously ‎challenged. We have neighbors who still dream of driving us into the sea; we face an ongoing ‎global tsunami of anti-Semitism; the world judges us by double standards; Israel is an oasis in a ‎region in which primitive barbarism reigns as hundreds of thousands of people are butchered ‎as a matter of routine.‎

But despite this, by any benchmark Israel unquestionably represents the greatest national ‎success story of all time.‎

Exiled and scattered throughout the world for 2,000 years and suffering endless cycles of ‎persecution and mass murder climaxing with the Shoah, the Jews miraculously resurrected a ‎nation state.‎

Since the late 19th century, Jewish idealists have been returning to their homeland and ‎transforming deserts into gardens. ‎

In 1947 the world was astonished when incredibly for a brief moment, both the U.S. and the ‎Soviet Union unprecedentedly agreed to endorse the creation of a Jewish state.‎

There were only 600,000 Jews in Palestine when the State of Israel was declared. Yet against ‎all odds and despite inadequate armaments and lack of military training, fighters from the ‎fledgling state successfully vanquished the combined military forces of its Arab neighbors, ‎determined to destroy us.‎

Victory was not achieved without painful sacrifice and 24 hours before rejoicing on ‎Independence Day, we pay tribute to over 20,000 Jews those who gave up their lives to ‎defend our Jewish state.‎

Our miniscule state enabled an ingathering of exiles from all corners of the world, providing a ‎haven for survivors of the Shoah, refugees from Arab persecution, Jews from underdeveloped ‎countries like Ethiopia and over a million from the former Soviet Union. Out of this melting pot ‎Israel has created one of the most vibrant and resilient societies in the world.‎

Today we boast a thriving nation of over 8 million citizens and represent the largest Jewish ‎community in the world. ‎

Israel has become a veritable economic powerhouse, emerging as the second-largest country ‎‎(after the U.S.) in high tech and startup facilities. We overcame our water problems by an ‎extraordinary desalinization program. And now we are effectively energy self-sufficient and ‎will even be exporting surplus gas resources.‎

While there is room for improvement, our social welfare structure and in particular the ‎medical system provides outstanding services for all Israeli citizens without discrimination.‎
Culturally, we are a pulsating country in which our ancient and sacred language has been ‎renewed as the lingua franca for Jews coming from totally different cultures. There has been a ‎dramatic revival of Torah learning with more Jews familiar with the texts and teachings of ‎Judaism than at any time in our history. ‎

Despite external threats and terror, we remain a democratic oasis in a region of barbarism, ‎providing the right to vote to all citizens and guaranteeing genuine freedom of religion and ‎freedom of expression.‎

But the most incredible transformation is that after 2,000 years as a subjugated and ‎persecuted people, we have become a regional military superpower. The empowerment of ‎the Jewish nation, the success of our people's army and its ability to deter the combined force ‎of all its enemies is mind-boggling. As we face tough challenges such as the threat of a nuclear ‎Iran, even the mullahs realize that an attack on us would lead to their decimation.‎

Although the American people and Congress remain strongly supportive, as long as the Obama ‎administration remains in office, Israel may soon be denied the U.S. diplomatic umbrella at the ‎United Nations and the Europeans may well be hatching further schemes to sanction us. Yet, it ‎is mind-boggling that our prime minister was invited three times to address Congress and on ‎each occasion received standing ovations. That Winston Churchill was the only other leader ‎honored in this manner says it all. ‎

Lessons from our bitter history have taught us that when the chips are down, we can only rely ‎on ourselves. We were initially perceived as the unfortunate underdogs. Today, we are ‎accused of being too powerful. Most of us concur that if the price for being strong and ‎independent obliges us to lose favor with confused bleeding heart liberals, so be it. The reality ‎is that we are stronger today and better able to withstand political and military pressures than ‎ever before.‎

In Europe, popular anti-Semitism has again transformed Jews into pariahs. Yet Jewish ‎communities will always remain and Israel must encourage efforts to strengthen their Jewish ‎identity and support their struggle against anti-Semitism. Diaspora Jews are fortunate knowing ‎that if their world collapses, Israel provides them with a haven. But many will not wish to see ‎their children grow up in an environment in which they feel obliged to conceal their Jewish ‎identity and have military personnel guarding schools and synagogues. Increasing numbers are ‎therefore likely to make aliyah or at least encourage their children to do so.‎

In the United States, aliyah will attract those Jews concerned about their grandchildren ‎remaining Jewish in an open society -- where currently 80% of non-Orthodox Jews are ‎marrying out. Committed Jews are also increasingly attracted to the opportunity of living in a ‎pulsating Jewish state which provides a cost-free Jewish education, in which the Hebrew ‎language, culture and national holidays create a unique Jewish lifestyle which they can never ‎experience in the Diaspora.‎

We must surely appreciate the privilege of living in a Jewish state and not facing the painful ‎Jewish identity issues confronting our Diaspora kinsmen.‎

So despite the challenges facing us, we should dismiss the purveyors of doom and gloom who ‎transform self-criticism into masochism and continuously whine about our failings and reject ‎the highly vocal fringe elements who disparage our achievements, mock Zionism and challenge ‎the merits of statehood.‎

Of course, many aspects of Israeli society, as with any other, require attention. These include ‎issues of growing inequality between rich and poor and the ongoing irritants in relationship ‎between the state and organized religion. Not to mention the dysfunctional political system.‎

Alas, the dream of peace with our neighbors remains just a dream. But we should exult in the ‎realization that we are stronger today than in the past when we overcame far greater ‎challenges and genuinely faced annihilation. ‎

Opinion polls indicate that we rank among the happiest and most contented people in the ‎world. However, many young Israelis now take Jewish statehood for granted, never having ‎undergone the chilling experience of European Jews in the 1930s as they desperately sought ‎entry visas to countries to avoid the impending Shoah. Nor can they appreciate the ‎devastating impact of living in an anti-Semitic environment where Jews are considered ‎pariahs.‎

Today, on our 67th anniversary, we should give thanks to the Almighty for enabling us to be ‎the blessed Jewish generation, privileged to live in freedom in our resurrected ancient ‎homeland. We should continually remind ourselves that our success defies rationality and by ‎any benchmark must be deemed miraculous.‎

Chag Sameach.‎

Isi Leibler's website can be viewed at He may be contacted at ‎

Isi Leibler


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

No comments:

Post a Comment