Sunday, September 21, 2014 Elul 26, 5774

Celebrating Israel's 63rd

May 4, 2011
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Amid a turbulent week of news, it might be easy to forget that Israel will be celebrating 63 years of independence next week. That would be a shandah.

Unfortunately, the hostility of the neighborhood hasn't changed much since Israel declared itself a state on May 14, 1948. In fact, the current turmoil in the Arab world appears more threatening to Israel's survival than it has in years.

We are buffeted by the headlines: Fatah agrees to a unity government with the terrorist Hamas that refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence; Egypt is shifting its foreign policy toward Iran and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to make significant gains in upcoming elections; Syria is brutally crushing its opposition.

The most dramatic development -- Osama bin Laden's death -- strikes, at least symbolically, a powerful blow to world terror and restores some confidence in U.S. intelligence and military prowess. But despite the relief, it's unclear what impact his death will have on the continuing scourge of radical Islamic terror. And his demise is unlikely to affect the forces that most threaten Israel: Iran and its proxies.

Amid the increasingly remote prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors and the vitriol that characterizes even our internal debates over Israel's future, it is easy to lose sight of the magnitude of what it means to have a Jewish state in our historic homeland.

The establishment of that state, which this year is celebrated on May 10, according to the Jewish calendar, restored Jewish control over our own destiny for the first time in centuries. Since then, Israel has developed into a thriving society, a vibrant democracy, and an amazing laboratory for cultural and scientific achievement.

Like all democracies, it is an imperfect society, but that imperfection should not detract from our pride and connection. As the political and religious debates escalate, we tend to overlook the real danger here: that more and more American Jews are turning off and tuning out when it comes to Israel. That instead of educating and engaging our communities, and particularly our youth, we are growing a generation of Jews ignorant about -- and disengaged from -- the only Jewish state there is.

It's both ironic and yet not so surprising to those of us who do know Israel that on the eve of its Yom Ha'atzmaut, the country ranked seventh in the world in the happiness level of its residents, according to a survey conducted by the Gallup Institute. Israel scored higher than the United States, which came in 12th.

Some 63 percent of Israelis are satisfied with their lives, illustrating the quality of life that exists among the mayhem. Now that's something to celebrate about.

Chag sameach.

 

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