Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel spoke with Arutz Sheva about the period when the state was announced and emphasized how much we need to bless G-d on Independence Day.
How should we relate to Independence Day and Remembrance Day?
These are great and profound days which require reflection and attention. As a young boy of ten I experienced the establishment of the state while living in besieged Jerusalem. I remember that Friday of the 5th of Iyar, the newspaper headlines described the fall of Kfar Etzion, and there were many mourning notices for the more than 100 people who fell.
My family had a deep connection to Kfar Etzion as my father was a member of the religious Hashomer in Poland together with many members of Kfar Etzion and we had a relative who was the last surviving member of her family and she too died there, so it was a very bitter day. However in the afternoon we heard about the establishment of the state. There was no radio then, but we saw that the British flag had been removed from the building which represented their center of government and people were standing and singing Hatikva. This was my Independence Day and this for me is the connection to Remembrance Day, which I believe was established because of the Kfar Etzion massacre and the sense of mourning and then suddenly the state was born and the British flag removed. This juxtaposition should make us realize that the establishment of the state was not simple and involved many sacrifices.
What was the reason for the establishment of the state?
This state was established on the ashes of Auschwitz. Before this there was a debate whether to establish a state or not, there was talk of establishing a Jewish colony without a state. The Holocaust brought us to the conclusion that we needed independence, independent security arrangements so that we could absorb immigrants and defend ourselves. So it is impossible to ignore what happened earlier.
The Second World War ended on the 28th of Iyar 1945, and the state was established less than three years later on the 5th of Iyar so that the connection between the Holocaust and the state is very strong. We need to remember that we have merited the state after 2000 years and so much blood and tears, we should think twice about every divisive or critical statement.
Sure there are complaints, this is a democracy and there are numerous problems but we need to realize what we have merited- a Jewish state. This requires us to introduce content. Even if there are problems and not everything is perfect from an economic, security and political perspective we should still thank G-d we have Independence. Maimonides states that one of the characteristics of Messiah is that there is no subjugation by the gentiles. Whoever was in the diaspora knows what subjugation means, whoever immigrates to Israel knows what freedom from subjugation means. We who were born here remember the British rule. Now that we have merited more than six million Jews in Israel we must give gratitude to G-d and thank all those in whose merit we came here.
How should we celebrate on Independence Day?
Its a shame that people go to the woods, but we must thank G-d that we have woods and we can go out freely in our land. I don't go there but I make a festive meal within my family. Now that the basis has been established it is our obligation to build here what the Torah wants, to build the higher levels of a true Jewish state.