Celebrate Israel

By Rabbi Steven Bayar

Yom Ha’atzmaut — Israel Independence Day — is celebrated April 22-23.
Years ago we had a speaker on Israel. It was during the height of the intifada – when tourism had stopped and suicide bombers made the most dangerous jobs in Israel belong to the security guards outside of restaurants. He was an American who had made aliyah to Israel years before. He talked about security – how he now lived in a neighborhood outside of Jerusalem (Talpiot) which received stray gunshots from the West Bank. No one felt safe. Yet for all of that and much much more – he remained optimistic about Israel’s future.
During the question and answer period following his presentation he was asked, “How can you be so optimistic about your future when you have to worry about security breaches daily?”
His answer has stayed with me until this very day. He said “It’s not that we are not scared for ourselves and our children. But when we look at the ‘big picture’ of history, if we go back 50  years or more to the founding of the state of Israel we see a land beset by enemies, with no economy, large influx of immigrants and the worry of where all the food and support was going to come from. Look at us now – yes we still have those problems, some have gotten worse and some  have not improved – but look at what we have accomplished. Look at our industries, our exports our culture. Look at how much we have achieved. If we  have been able to accomplish all of this despite all of that, how can our future not be bright?
This week we celebrate Israel Independence Day. Existential threats exist, political and economic disparity exist and religious issues abound. Yes, there is much to be done – but we should not forget what has been accomplished – and celebrate it for what Israel is – a miracle.