While much of the world and many American Jews were seeking to distance themselves from Israel's fight for security last summer, a 22-year-old native of Bucks County gave his life so that the Jewish people may live.
Michael Levin, a young man who made aliyah, was killed in battle during Israel's war with Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. His sacrifice was a tragedy for his family and all who knew him, but it also demonstrated that the power of Zionism to inspire remains very much alive. But given the unceasing stream of negative commentary about the State of Israel that emanates from its detractors, we often lose sight of this.
The image of the blue-and-white flag flying over the places where Jewish history began is something we take for granted in 2007. The notion of a proud Jewish nation with a growing economy, renowned universities and research institutions, and a formidable military was once the stuff of dreamers. Today, it's a given.
So as we pause this week to mark the 59th anniversary of the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, it's important to try and grasp the historical significance of this achievement. Unfortunately, appreciation of all that Israel is and aspires to be has become swamped by a flood of recriminations directed at it by those who fear it has been corrupted by its military power, or that its cause is no longer a just one.
In Europe and throughout the world, attacks on the right of the Jewish people to their one tiny state in their historic homeland have seemingly carried the day, as defenders of Israel have grown fewer in number and increasingly timid. Sadly, this same lamentable trend — largely rooted in falsehood and anti-Semitism — is starting to gain a foothold on American college campuses.
While support for Israel among Americans as a whole remains solid, this barrage of criticism has led some Jews to keep their distance. Many American Jews seem less interested in Israel and ever more reluctant to engage in activism on its behalf.
Let us specify that caring about the country in no way requires us to ignore its shortcomings. Nor does it mean that we must blindly cheer the policies of any or all of its politicians. Their leaders are as capable of folly and small-minded foolishness as the American variety. But it must be emphasized that attacks on Israel have little to do with the merits of its current government or the wisdom of any particular policy it has employed.
Israel's enemies object to any measure of self-defense that it employs against the forces seeking its destruction. After more than a decade of withdrawals and concessions in the name of peace, Arab and Muslim foes still want to put an end to Israel's existence by one means or another. And as long as Palestinians choose Islamist terrorists as their leaders and prefer to sacrifice their children on the altar of hatred, then Israel's leaders — be they wise or foolish, right-wing, left-wing or centrist — will still be trying to make peace with people who do not want it.
Yet despite this daunting task, Israel remains a fount of inspiration for those who seek to re-engage with their Jewish heritage and identity. It is still the center of Jewish life, and those who believe that they can cut themselves off from it are dooming themselves to irrelevance.
Michael Levin understood that. His example should move our entire community on this Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, to never forget their obligation to stand in solidarity with the Jewish state. In his memory — and that of all others who've done so much so that Israel might live — let us loudly and unashamedly proclaim our love for it, along with our willingness to answer its foes in any forum and under any circumstance.