|Yom Ha-Atzma'ut 5772: Israel Independence Day|
INDEPENDENCE DAY 5772
Jewish life consists of many joyous celebrations, coupled with times of deep mourning. On Shabbat, Sukkot, Shavuot, Passover, and Purim, we celebrate. We recall what God has done for us, and we recall the history of these days and their deep meanings for both ourselves and the world around us. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, and on the 9th of Av, plus a number of minor fast days, we recall the times of suffering our people have endured, including the murder of 1.5 million Jewish children, just a little over a generation ago. That is Jewish life ... joy and suffering woven together. Today, life in Israel is, logically, much the same way. I cannot describe the "nachas" that living in Israel constantly brings to me. On the other hand, the international political prejudice against this nation, replete with national death threats and growing worldwide anti-Semitism, weighs upon me.
Israel's Independence Day celebrations are always preceded by a day of mourning. Today, one day before Independence Day, is Yom HaZikaron—Memorial Day. We recall the loss of some 22,000 soldiers who have given their lives to insure the survival of the Jewish nation. On this day, I always find myself glued to the television set, often fighting tears, watching portions of the Memorial Day programming. I look at the program's showing of photos of killed soldiers: starting with the young men and women from 1947-1948. They gave the ultimate sacrifice, and never knew if their efforts were even successful. Their deaths are the backbone on which our precious state was built. And my mind will annually go back to memories of Yehudah Traub, of blessed memory. We were both young fathers serving in the IDF; he and I prayed Shaharit together in our unit's synagogue in Gaza in 1988. Hours later, he was killed in an ambush. Most people I know here have similar stories: either a family member, classmate, army buddy or friend has been lost in the struggle for survival. The atmosphere of this day is always somber; our nation's hearts go out to the bereaved parents, spouses and children. This days begs the question: "Will all of this pain and suffering cease for us and our children?" All Israelis asks themselves that very question on this day. Of course, no one can answer it.
Deep sorrow followed immediately by great joy ... this is the reality of Israel's modern history. It is so well illustrated by the actions of Israel's first Prime Minister, David ben Gurion.
Sixty-four years ago, on the day that ben Gurion declared our Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv, that city broke out in dancing, singing and great joy—the Jewish State had been born out of the inferno of the Holocaust. And it was also kabbalat Shabbat: another reason for happiness. But ben Gurion did not dance in the streets with his people. He retired to his study, teary-eyed, knowing that war would quickly break out, and the singing and joy would turn into bloodshed once more, entailing more mourning and great difficulty. That was the only available road to independence and survival. For that, I am grateful to those who have defended this nation, and those who are doing so today. May God protect each one, and may they see the redemption of our people, in our Land, and experience peace.
UMJC rabbi, Givat Zeev, Israel