Fmr ambassador to US: 'We will never be defeated'

'We live in an age of miracles,' says MK Michael Oren, where universal bereavement mixes with triumphant celebration.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Michael Oren
Michael Oren
Arutz Sheva/Eliran Baruch

Kulanu MK and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has deep roots in the United States. Originally Michael Scott Bornstein, Oren was born in New York and raised in New Jersey. His father was a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. Oren’s wife of 34 years, Sally, was also born and raised in the US.

But like so many other Israelis, native-born and immigrants alike, Oren has been inexorably linked to Israel through loss and bereavement.

On Wednesday Oren spoke to Arutz Sheva on Jewish unity in mourning, independence, and his family’s own tragedy.

In Israel, Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) precedes Independence Day (Yom Atzmaut), which Oren noted recognizes the tragedy of Jewish history, but ties it to the triumph of national liberation.

"It's a poignant and singularly sad day for the people of Israel,” said Oren. “Everybody in this country knows people who have fallen in battle, fallen in the course of their service, or been killed in terrorist attacks."

"My family is what you'd call a 'bereaved family'. We lost my sister-in-law, Joanie who was a Jewish day school teacher from the United States visiting Israel on a scholarship to Hebrew University and killed by a terrorist bomber on a bus in Jerusalem."

"We know so many other bereaved families of others who have fallen in battle. I was a paratrooper for a great many years and fought in wars and I have friends buried on this hill. It's intensely personal."

Unlike in the United States, Oren pointed out, Israeli Memorial Day is an intensely emotional time of remembrance – a time to express “profound sadness”, but also to remind Jews of the importance of Jewish statehood.

"Israel is unique in both respects: We're unique in the fact that we have a Memorial Day where we don't have picnics, we don't have barbecues, we don't have sales in our stores - many of the stores are closed in fact. And the entire country engages in collective mourning. It's an amazing experience in so many ways.”

“It shows one of the secrets of this country, that we are a family. But we're also unique in that we go from this profound sadness, this mourning in a matter of minutes to celebrating our independence.”

“The Founding Fathers and Mothers of this country made it that way on purpose, so that we wouldn't be always bereaved, that we could rise from our sense of tragedy and go to celebrating. We do it every year and every year it’s a debate in this country whether it’s a good idea. I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s very important for us to show ourselves and show the world that Israel can't be defeated. We will not be defeated, not by war, and not by terror. Am Yisrael Hai."

"Every once in a while we have to take a step back. I just returned yesterday from Auschwitz [as part of] an IDF delegation to Auschwitz. You saw at Auschwitz what the world looked like when we didn't have a Jewish state. Everyone once in a while we should just stop arguing and appreciate profoundly how fortunate we are to live at a time in Jewish history when we have a strong, proud, independent Jewish state, and remind ourselves that, in fact, with all of our difficulties, we live in an age of miracles."