Yom Haatzmaut- A Day of Common Celebration

There are challenges that require Israel and the Diaspora to work together to create a stronger Jewish future.

Rabbi David. Stav,

Judaism Rabbi David Stav
Rabbi David Stav
Yoni Kempinski

This week, the people of Israel will be filled with pride and celebration as we commemorate the 67th anniversary of the creation of our modern State. The natural question that many in the Diaspora may be feeling is how can you best relate to the modern miracle of the independence of the State of Israel if you have not yet been blessed to call this nation your home.  

To that question, or for some perhaps even a moral dilemma, I would say that there be no need for concern. Indeed, you deserve to rejoice and give gratitude to God with the same enthusiasm as your fellow brothers and sisters living in Israel.

It is our firm belief that the events of 1948 serve as the modern realization of the ancient prophesy that “the people will be returned to the borders.”  It is the very vision which my grandparents dreamed of but were never able to see occur as they were mercilessly murdered by the Nazis on the blood-soaked earth of Poland.

Indeed we are living the realization of nothing less than a dream and what we have in Israel today far exceeds what our ancestors could have ever expected.  Sometimes, I like to pause and just imagine what some of the rabbinic giants of generations past would say if they could see modern Israel.  In every way we are experiencing a nation defined by physical and even spiritual growth and Israel has become the land which welcomes Jews of all backgrounds and of all nationalities. Remarkably, for the first time since the Davidic dynasty, we can say that close to a majority of the Jewish people are living in the holy land under sovereign Jewish rule.  

Our economy - even with all the protests and poverty which must be addressed - is booming.  Agriculture and hi-tech have become a standard modeled after by even the most developed nations of the Western world.  Academia, in all of its shapes and sizes - including of course Torah study - is at the highest of all of levels. 

Even the security situation, while far from ideal and terror attacks continuing amidst the looming threat from Iran, is being addressed by a proud and strong army.

All this gives me every reason to be filled with joy and gratitude to God on Yom Haatzmaut but also reminds me that we are not alone in this enterprise.

Firstly, it is important to recognize and stress that the very security of the Jewish people has been strengthened exponentially by the existence of the State of Israel.  Of course, we can speak of a safe haven for Jews in the event of disaster or persecution which has been sadly realized in recent months in France, Denmark, Yemen and elsewhere.  But beyond the security aspect, there is the reality that even if Jews won’t yet choose to make Israel their home, Jewish identity around the world is strengthened by the knowledge that there is a Jewish state.  The pride to be a Jew is amplified when they are able to share in our national accomplishments and know that it is Jewish ingenuity that has allowed Israel to develop at such a remarkable pace. 

But our bond extends past this element of pride to an appreciation that we face common challenges that require Israel and the Diaspora work together to create a stronger Jewish future.  

Specifically, I can speak of a growing alienation among Jews to their tradition.  To the shock of many outside of Israel, this trend, typically referred to as “assimilation” is as troubling here in the Jewish State as it is in America, Canada, Britain, Australia or anywhere in the Diaspora.  Certainly, issues like intermarriage aren’t as apparent in Israel but all too many young Israelis feel very little connection to their Jewish identities and are ignorant of Jewish tradition and history.

Countering this disturbing trend will require the same vigilance in both Israel and abroad.  We need to highlight religion and religious practice not as something to be rejected but understand that it must be embraced as a tool to our heritage.  Through organizations like Tzohar we can show young Jews that they are being treated with understanding and compassion and these are the true ideals of Judaism.

Yom Haatzamaut therefore is not simply a national holiday in the historic sense but rather a national holiday in the communal Jewish sense celebrated as a recognition of our common fate and common goals.  

It’s a holiday that belongs to us all and should be commemorated with the same passion by everyone- regardless where on the globe we happen to find ourselves.

Rabbi David Stav is the Founder and Chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization