If you missed the Hebrew date to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day back in April, not to worry — you have another chance. May 14, 1948 is the date ingrained in many of our minds when the modern state of Israel was officially established. On Sunday, our community is marking the occasion in a big way — with a grand parade down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and a full-fledged fair at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s an opportunity that none of us should miss.
It’s not every day that the Jewish state hits 65. In human terms, that may be the new middle age, but when it comes to state-building, it’s downright youthful. If you’ve been to Israel any time recently, you can appreciate the incongruity between the nation’s age and its remarkable growth, talent and ingenuity.
Israel’s population today tops 8 million, according to recent figures from its Central Bureau of Statistics. With more than 6 million Jewish residents, it now equals or surpasses the Jewish population in America, depending on which figures you follow. Another 1.6 million citizens, or 20 percent, are Arabs; with the rest comprising other ethnic minorities.
Israel still clearly faces its share of challenges — both internal and external. It continues to confront absurd and unfair boycotts — think Stephen Hawking’s outrageous decision to boycott Shimon Peres’ annual presidential conference. But it also inspires many others, even non-Jews like the actor Ashton Kutcher, who returned to the country this week not only to study the Kabbalah but also to speak to some 1,000 Israelis about the business of high-tech.
We have much to worry about in our own local community and there is much that divides us. But one thing can and should unite us, regardless of our political or religious orientation: Israel is, thankfully, here to stay. We can support it in a number of ways — through personal visits and extended stays, through business ventures, political support and advocacy, and even aliyah.
Supporting Israel should certainly not be a once-a-year phenomenon. But the opportunity for our entire community to join together to collectively celebrate our love and appreciation for the Jewish homeland doesn’t appear every day. And that opportunity is right around the corner, with Sunday’s daylong festivities, planned and organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Come out and show your pride. It’s guaranteed to be a day of great music, food, arts and more, all with a distinctly Israeli flavor. For details, visit jewishphilly.org our calendar, don’t forget to come visit the Exponent booth, No. 51. We, too, are a proud sponsor of the event.