Yom Ha-atzmaut – Israel’s day of independence, the countries 4th of July, is always a cause for celebration. In the course of 61 years, the Jewish state has created an exemplary, thriving democracy and has become a world leader in medicine, biotechnology and in fact the entire realm of technology. In addition the universities are combustion engines of innovation, discovery, controversy and provocative thought. Fields of study like desert reclaiming (the Negev is the only desert in the world that is shrinking in size) and advanced agricultural methods have attracted students world-wide while schools of art, dance and music add to the excitement of the land’s vibrant culture. Even in athletics Israel has become competitive like Davis Cup tennis and world cup soccer. Every Jew wherever they may live can take enormous pride in what Israel has accomplished and what it will continue to accomplish.
All this of course in what has been a perpetual state of war for the country since those founding moments in May 1948. Nothing brings this to mind more so than yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron – the day of remembrance for the young men and women who gave up their lives in defense of Israel. The entire country comes to a standstill on this day for a moment’s silence as the people pay tribute to its fallen. Yesterday at a memorial service in the Federation building, a video was shown of Michael Levin, a young Philadelphian who made Aliyah upon completing high school. His dream was to live in Israel but first to become a member of its armed forces. Michael was a sparkling personality who had so much to offer. He was killed in battle and his loss epitomizes the losses suffered by so many families to enable the country to survive. But survive it has and flourish it has and let us rejoice in that regard on this special day.
Mervyn K. Danker