Celebrate with Israel this year
Celebrate with Israel this year

The day the paper of which I am editor rolls off the presses, Thursday, is a holiday in Israel and one that is marked in a good deal of the Jewish world.  The day is Israel Independence Day---Yom Haatzmaut, the day the modern state of Israel was declared by then Prime minister David Ben Gurion 67-years ago.

It’s a great and even historical day that most of us contemplate in the course of the day with at least a semblance or a tinge of pride and satisfaction.  The politics notwithstanding on the matter of the religious veracity of the state, the truth is that we---klal yisroel, the Jewish people, are all better off because there is a sovereign state of Israel.

The matter of religion and state, whether here in the US or in Israel, is always a complicated one.  In a sense the presidential election here is about the relevance of religion in our lives and how these deeply held beliefs can be interfaced with the laws of the land and others who either subscribe to a less intense version of the law or consider the entire legal structure based on faith irrelevant.

But that is deep analytical and substantive material of which it is possible a conclusion that all can live with can probably not be reached.  So in lieu of that potential objective we are left with drawing definitive conclusions based on the cosmetics and superficialities of otherwise important issues. 

To that end you are either an unquestioning supporter of everything that Israel does, or you are the exact opposite or possibly even conflicted and somewhere in between.  That is pleased with some things and dissatisfied with other issues impacting Jewish life in Israel.

One thing, though, is certain.  Jews and Israel are under assault and it is a time when there is a need for a united stand against the forces emanating from many directions that are seeking to hurt Israel and for that matter most Jewish people everywhere. 

Here in the 5 Towns, in parts of Queens, Brooklyn and other areas this week,  some of our schools will feature great merriment and celebration with students of all ages dancing with the blue and white of the flag of Israel.  Some shuls will have recited Hallel, some will have made the deliberate decision not to while in most it will be just another inconsequential day.    

The level of recognition of the state founded sixty-seven years ago might be a source of great internal discussion and debate.  But be assured that for those who are detractors of Israel, know well that the non-Jews, along with all too many Jews along with official governing bodies like the United Nations, the European Union and the Obama administration are indeed watching us closely and deriving great pleasure and satisfaction at the efforts from within to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

It is important that you are aware that those knocking or disparaging Israel may have credible and even legitimate gripes and complaints, but rest assured that these efforts are also emboldening and giving aid and comfort to our enemies.  Attacking the state of Israel from within is a matter that should not be taken lightly by those concerned about anything from simply undermining the plight of the Jewish people to plain old fashioned desecration of G-d's Name, chilul Hashem.

So are things perfect with the Jewish state as she celebrates 68 years of independence? Far from it, of course. But if you want to criticize and even protest something about Israel, more than anything else one should be mindful of being respectful of oneself, our people and co-religionists regardless of their level of observance.

A nagging and disturbing vision that actually haunts me was a scene of just a few weeks ago outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan.  It was the night of the annual gala tribute hosted by Friends of the IDF (Israel Defense Force).  As we proceed through the main entrance and though it was already dark outside I was somewhat taken aback by police barricades that were corralling what looked like a group of about 200 men in hassidic garb with beards and long payos (sidelocks).  They of course have the right to assemble lawfully and to protest whatever it is that irks them.  In fact there was a large contingent of police officers. 

Without being able to confirm their identity the best assessment is that these men belonged to the group---Neturei Karta—that is the virulent anti-Zionist, anti-Israel group.  I’ve seen them at their protests numerous times in the past.  Mostly they are just ignored, that is except by the news media that just enjoys much too much illustrating how even Jews---and one’s that seem by their dress anyway to project an image of piousness---are opposed to the existence of the state of Israel.

In any event, on this particular night several members closest to the first row after the barricade were chanting the following: “IDF STOP THE MURDER,” and I also heard, “IDF MURDERERS.” I’ve observed these folks in the past in Washington DC at the AIPAC Policy Conferences and even a few years ago at a Christians United For Israel convention also in DC.  At The FIDF dinner I stopped for just a few seconds to watch these guys do their disgusting thing.  All I could think about was that this was a colossal chilul Hashem and in a most extreme fashion at that.

I know that the motivation and that which energizers these embarrassing and misguided demonstrations is supposed to be based on a complete and pure belief that man should not try to manipulate the plan of the Almighty by settling the land of Israel before what they perceive is the Divinely designated time.  But it is at best a complicated issue and at its works distorted and misunderstood.  But these folks do not want to be confused with the facts.  The most important point, however, is that these internal philosophical squabbles are completely misunderstood by the non-Jewish world and we look like our own worst enemy has finally come to town.   

Those who advocate these positions even if they do not participate in the protests are plainly doing the wrong thing.  Jewish life in Israel---as it is around the world---is a work in progress.  Then there is the matter of the day prior to the wild celebrations of Independence Day, that is the day on those who fell in battle defending the Jewish state and pour people are remembered.  There are few things in life more emotionally riveting than the country coming to a standstill with motorists bringing the cars to a halt so that along with the rest of the population that can stand at attention, in silence and reflect upon the numerous sacrifices that were made so that Jews and Israel would be able to survive.

And then the celebrations begin.  Thursday is/was Independence Day, a holiday and the beginning of a holiday weekend in Israel.  The custom is outdoor BBQ’s as the weather is summery and quite cooperative.  One of our contributors in Israel, Shmuel Katz, wrote me the other day explaining that one of his daughter’s friends is serving in the IDF on a base  in the south of the country and none of the organizations that usually do these things----that is arrange BBQ celebrations for the troops---have included these soldiers in this year’s plans.

So Shmuel asked me if I know anyone that would underwrite a BBQ in Thursday for about 50 young men and women at this particular Air Force Base to help them celebrate accordingly.  The unit deals with Patriot missiles and drones.  So its early in the morning and I’m sitting here writing some paragraphs for this week’s paper when the instant message from Shmuel jumps up on the screen.   He asks if I know anyone that can sponsor a Yom Haatzmaut BBQ for these soldiers.  So I ask him how much he needs and what exactly is involved.

He says he needs $500 for a couple of charcoal grills, hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, chips ( I guess French Fries) and soda.  I’m sitting here thinking to myself, let’s see who do I know that would be interested in doing this.  It took a minute or two while I was thinking, but then thought to myself---why don’t I do it?  And that is the end of that story.  These kids in those drab IDF uniforms will be chomping on burgers, franks and chips on Thursday courtesy of the 5 Towns Jewish Times.  Shmuel it seems, is traveling down there with a few of his kids to organize the whole thing and celebrate the day with the chayalim (soldiers).

Frankly I do not understand the objections that emanate from so many corners.  When G-d forbid, there is a terror attack and Jews are wantonly and indiscriminately murdered we are hurt and saddened and very often recite chapters of Tehilim beseeching Hashem to divinely intervene and save our people. 

Why is it that we so easily cry and mourn for Israel but are so resistant to celebrating with her?  Whatever the reasons are, this weekend is the time to set them aside.  Beginning on Thursday it is a time to sing and dance and celebrate the Jewish People, Am Yisrael.