Today, 67 years after the birth of modern Israel, we are celebrating our reborn nation with a mixture of pride, concern, hope, and faith – not just here in Israel but wherever Jewish communities exist around the world.
Before David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues proclaimed the state, there was the question of what to name it. Some early proposals were “Zion,” “Judea,” and “Israel.” And all these decades later, Israel is still a country defining itself.
There are so many questions – are we a Jewish nation or a nation full of Jews? Where should our borders stop? What role should religion play in public life? Should there be electoral reform? Should yeshiva students be required to serve in the army?
Then there is the question of the religious status of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Some rabbis saw the rebirth of Israel as a religious event – Providence guiding history, the dawn of Redemption – while others were and are fiercely negative.
For the late Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the tanks, planes, and uniforms of the IDF were implements of mitzvot in the service of settling the land.
It has been a long and difficult journey to reach this 67th birthday. There have been wars and terrorist attacks that have left the nation in mourning. There is the ongoing threat of a nuclear Iran, and large portions of the Middle East are descending into anarchy.
During all this time Israel has strived for peace with its neighbors without success. But the country has seen magnificent achievements in medicine, science, agriculture, technology, and every branch of the arts.
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has kept us alive, preserved us, and permitted us to behold this day.”