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May 2, 2017 10:21 am

A Birthday Celebration for Israel

avatar by Shahar Azani

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Israelis gather on the Tel Aviv beach promenade for an Independence Day air show. Photo: Deror Avi via Wikimedia Commons.

Now is a great time to lift one’s head from the daily hustle, and take a bird’s eye view of the larger picture.

Little more than a century ago, the State of Israel was only a dream, and Jews hid behind closed doors in fear of rioters and pogroms. For most Jews across the world, the idea of Israel was a beacon of hope — shedding light on yearning hearts in some of the darkest corners of the world.

Wherever Jews lived following their expulsion from Israel 2,000 years ago, they always longed to return. As they would say on Seder night: “Next Year in Jerusalem.” This prayer echoed for generations — from one corner of the earth to the other — and was spoken by people who often weren’t even aware of each other’s existence.

Israel’s rebirth was nothing short of miraculous, and it is unparalleled in the annals of the modern world.

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Since the very beginning, Israel has continuously faced enormous challenges. Just imagine a small Jewish community in the British Mandate trying to sustain itself, while simultaneously welcoming Jews expelled from Arab countries and Holocaust survivors, who were just emerging from the ashes of Nazi hatred. This population, numbering but a few hundred thousand, had to face the wrath of millions of Arabs in surrounding countries, who were lethally hostile to their very existence.

In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, Israel emerged triumphant.

These geopolitical challenges haven’t changed, yet Israel has stood as an island of stability in this very unstable region. Today, the Jewish state is a lighthouse of democracy in a very dark Middle East.

Israel has also helped the world in other ways. The country’s harsh terrain, and Jewish ingenuity, has given birth to some incredible advances in technology, from drip irrigation and water conservation to health care procedures, cybersecurity and the Waze traffic app. Israel promoted women’s rights long before it became fashionable, and worked towards environmental sustainability before it was even a concept in international affairs. The Jewish state is indeed a land of marvel.

Antisemitism is a resilient disease. It has haunted the Jewish people for thousands of years, and today, it not only targets Jews, but Israel itself. For example, an old blood libel from the 1800s will re-appear as a modern allegation against Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers. Or Palestinian terrorists will say that they only want to kill Israelis — not Jews. Those who hate Israel have tried waging wars against her, launching suicide terror attacks, shooting missiles at schools and kindergartens, and boycotting Israel to strangle it economically — yet Israel not only survives, but thrives.

Israel teaches the world that people can do the impossible. It is a vibrant democracy — dealing with earthly challenges, but constantly looking up to the skies to dream. It is a nation with a heart; Israel shares its advances with the world, and is always the first to rescue those in need across the entire globe.

Israel is here to stay, to grow and to flourish — and the world is so much better because of it.

Happy Birthday, Israel.

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