Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations, Gilad Erdan, highlighted the strong bonds between Israel and the United States in a virtual event celebrating Yom Ha’azmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, on Wednesday night.
The event featured greetings from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and from bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The celebration also included Israel’s diplomats stationed across the United States and musical entertainment from Israeli singer Kobi Afflalo.
More than 20,000 people from the US, Israel and around the world joined the online event, which marks Israel’s 73rd Independence Day.
“While we may occasionally have different views on specific policies, the United States and Israel stand united on our guiding principles,” said Ambassador Erdan about the shared values between Israel and the United States. “We believe in true democracy. We embrace the human spirit and value human lives. We cherish and preach tolerance, understanding and accepting the other. We hold dear the basic principle of human rights and personal freedoms. The principle of freedom and democracy. The principle of combating hate and defending human rights. And the principle of standing strong in the face of terror and threats. These shared principles guarantee that our nations will endure and that our friendship will flourish.”
Ambassador Erdan added, “We face the opportunity to widen the circle of peace and reshape the Middle East by expanding cooperation with all of the Abraham Accords countries and beyond. I intend to work in the coming year with the US administration, in every way possible, to expand the circle of peace. I am certain that there will be more countries in the region who will choose the path of peace and coexistence with Israel. And together with this opportunity, we face the challenge of countering radical regimes, especially Iran, and the murderous terrorist groups they support.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken greeted the audience in Hebrew and shared a message of support for Israel on its Independence Day, saying, “In your 73rd year of freedom, we salute Israel’s determination, bravery, and ingenuity, which have made possible your country’s prosperity and hard-won security.”
Secretary Blinken continued by highlighting the strong US-Israel relationship: “The US commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. And together, we’re at work strengthening all aspects of our partnership, just like we’ve been doing since the U.S. first recognized Israel in 1948.”
The Secretary also addressed the expansion of the circle of peace in the Middle East, saying, “The United States welcomes and supports the recent normalization agreements. We will continue to urge more countries to normalize relations with Israel – and will look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region. As a result, I expect Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the year ahead.”
In a strong bipartisan message of support, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the event emphasizing the US-Israel alliance. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his support for the US-Israel relationship by saying that “The United States Senate will stand as your friend, ready to affirm decades-long alliance and work together to build a secure and prosperous future for our two countries. The relationship between Israel and the United States, as long as I am Majority Leader, will remain like this.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also talked about the strong relations between the two countries: “I’m hopeful that this day of celebration will inspire leaders in Israel, the US and around the world to keep building on this momentum. I’ll do everything I can to make sure the United States continues to stand firm with Israel, whether we’re joined in celebrating moments of historic achievement or facing down shared challenges side by side.”
This year’s virtual event celebrated the relations between Israel and the United States not only through the lens of Washington, but also by highlighting the important outreach work by Israel’s consulates around the United States. Tasting the engagement of Israeli diplomats around the continent added another layer to the depth of the shared values between Israel and the United States.
The celebration also featured a musical performance by Israeli singer Kobi Aflalo. The national anthems were sung by Wanda Battle, the Director of the Tour Ministry at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor.
Ambassador Erdan met Ms. Battle during his recent trip to Alabama and he was inspired by her devotion to keeping the legacy of Dr. King alive every day. He knew immediately she would be the perfect person to sing both the Israeli and American national anthems, highlighting the shared legacies of the African American and Jewish communities, as well as the unwavering bond between Israel and the United States.