BY RABBI JEFFREY T. SEGELMAN
In just another week, we will join with our brothers and sisters in Israel to commemorate Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), followed immediately by Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israel’s Independence Day). As you know, Yom HaZikaron is not at all like our American Memorial Day. There is profound sadness throughout the country as every Israeli has lost a family member or a friend in the defense of our homeland. And then, as the sun sets, the mourning turns to rejoicing as if to tell the souls of the fallen, “you did not die in vain.” We are here. Our state is here. The Jewish nation is strong.
Israel is strong. In these 71 years, she has defended herself against the odds. She has grown from an underdog to one of the finest defense forces in the world. She has grown from a relatively poor quasi-socialist state to one of the great start-up economies. She has grown from a nation who experienced attacks on the very first night of existence and since has not known one single day of peace, to be one of the happiest countries on earth in the latest UN report. And in the last 71 years, no other nation on earth has contributed more to the betterment of humanity—in medicine, in technology, intelligence and security—than Israel.
But by no means should this keep us from recognizing Israel’s serious issues. We have yet to provide our Arab Israeli citizens with the equality of opportunity that we promised. In the Jewish State, we cannot figure out how all Jews, of any denomination, can share equally in the land of our common ancestors. And with the passing of time, it seems that the vision of the Jewish future that once united Israel and American Jews is now two visions which divide us.
There is much to celebrate. There is much about which to worry. There are moments in the past 71 years which we wish to relive over and over again. There are others which we wish to forget, but we know we cannot. This is the balancing act that, in one way or another, has been the hallmark of our people for 3,000 years.
But next week, on Yom HaZikaron, let us remember the 23,645 soldiers and officers who died defending Israel. Let us remember 3,134 civilians killed in acts of terror. Let us resolve that they did not die in vain. And on Yom HaAtzma’ut, let us stand tall and proud with the State of Israel. Google the Declaration of Independence and read it. Discuss it. Israel may not yet be all that we dreamed, but it is ours and we are stronger and prouder that it is ours.