Op-Ed: Looking Back at Yom Ha'atzmaut
Andrew HershThe writer is a leader of the Israel Awareness Commission, which helps to promote pro-Israel advocacy, counter bias, lies, half-truths, hypocrisy, and slander against Israel on college campuses in the U.S. and across social media platforms.
On April 26th, a day earlier than the Hebrew date of 5 Iyar because of the Sabbath, Yom Ha'atzmaut was celebrated both in Israel and among Jews living outside of Israel.
This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrated 64 years of independence for Israel. Yom Ha’atzmaut always celebrates the fact that the Jews finally have a place to call home after more than 2000 years of exile.
People ask me why I'm passionate about supporting Israel. Briefly, a number of reasons come to mind.
What does Israel represent? The size of New Jersey, it is a Western, democratic, liberal society in a sea of backward, corrupt dictatorships who slaughter their own people by the thousands for protesting.
Despite having multiple security threats, the fabric that holds Israeli society together has not weakened, and has remained strong.
Despite being able to take the easy way out when targeting terrorists and simply bombing their (as many countries do) neighborhoods out of existence, Israel constantly finds ways to reduce civilian casualties, whether it's developing a missile that can be stopped in midair or calling off strikes if there's a civilian in the area.
And then there's the technological aspects, and helping to save the world. For a tiny country under constant threat, this represents the epitome of impossibility. And yet, some of the world’s finest R&D Centers are in Israel - whether Intel, Microsoft, or Better Place. Warren Buffet chose Israel as his first foreign country in which to invest. Israeli technology makes life easier for the entire world, and Israeli aid missions rescued children in Haiti and Japan after disaster struck.
Israel is my birthright. Israel is a refuge, but a refuge under siege, as former anti-Israel activist Nicky Larkin famously wrote.
But there is one factor that is perhaps most important - the fact that Israel is my birthright. Israel is a refuge, but a refuge under siege, as former anti-Israel activist Nicky Larkin famously wrote. It is the place where millions of Jews have found a safe haven after the horrors of the Holocaust, the Russian Pogroms, the Arab massacres, the Crusades, the Cossacks, the blood libels, the ghettos, the inquisitions, the expulsions, and all of our troubles throughout 2000 years of exile. There are two things that bind Jews together - their common religion and Israel. And Israel is here to stay.
There is no country whose right to exist is denied – except Israel. There is no other country which faces hurdles in the morally bankrupt U.N. with as many resolutions condemning them. No matter if they execute the most people each year (China) or are planning to acquire nuclear weapons, fund terrorists, and execute dissidents or homosexuals (Iran), or starve their entire population and threaten another country with nuclear weapons (North Korea).
There is no other race, religion, or ethnicity in the world whose right to self-determination is denied, and as a result, false narratives are created, the truth is stretched, and blatant lies make their rounds among propagandists.
Take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan was founded by Muslims living in India (controlled by the British) who wanted a state of their own, instead of living under control of the Hindus. The solution was a partition plan – and indeed, partition was the result. Yet, does anyone question the right of Pakistan to exist?
The residents of the British Mandate of Palestine were also offered partition – twice. While the Jews accepted peace, the Arabs didn’t, and proceeded to launch a genocidal war with the intent of throwing the Jews into the sea.
Does anyone question the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran to exist? North Korea? Zimbabwe? Saudi Arabia? All of these have terrible, oppressive governments, yet to deny the right of their country to exist is ludicrous. It is certainly acceptable to dislike their government, and hope for regime change.
In the case of Israel, however, many anti-Israel haters hide behind the mantra of “I don’t hate Israel, I just hate their government and the occupation of Palestinian lands.” Is this true?
We have seen anti-Israel haters ever since 1948 – actually, we’ve seen them since before 1948. Could it be that they’ve opposed every Israeli government, even before Israel conquered Judea and Samaria and Gaza in self-defense and it became disputed territory (“occupation”), but don’t actually oppose Israel? Does anyone really believe that they have an intense hatred of the democratically elected government, but not of the citizens and country as a whole?
But do not despair. Israel is here to stay, forever. And Israel has strong bonds with many countries, the foremost being the leader of the free world, the United States of America. The U.S. was the first country to recognize the newly established state of Israel, when President Harry S Truman went against the wishes of the State Department and recognized Israel as a legitimate country. The State Department feared angering the Arabs, and assumed that the country would perish within 24 hours when the Arabs attack, while President Truman understood the moral importance of recognizing this country.
64 years later, the country stands as a vibrant and strong democracy. The U.S.-Israel relationship has only increased throughout the years, Obama's attitude notwithstanding, and has been vital to the security and economy of both countries. It is not a one way street, but rather a two way street, in which both sides help the other benefit from their relationship.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is a day of celebration for me, but also a day in which we can reflect on our lives and thank those who have made an impact on us, whether they are alive or not, and whether we knew them or not. It is a day to commemorate the valiant men and women who took an idea and acted upon it, and helped create the state of Israel, against all odds.
In 1897, Theodore Herzl wrote, “At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.”
Herzl was off by just one year. Let us take this message, and apply it to our lives. If you set your mind to it, you can achieve great success, even when the odds are against you. As Herzl also wrote, “If you will it, it is no dream.”