The modern State of Israel will observe the 59th anniversary of its founding on April 23, corresponding to the Jewish date of the 5th of Iyar, officially known as Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. On the Gregorian Calendar in common use, May 14 will mark the 59th year since that historic date in 1948, when David Ben-Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first prime minister, read out Israel’s Declaration of Independence in the Tel Aviv Museum, standing beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism. For the first shining years of its existence, Israel was often referred to as a “Modern Miracle.” For the first time in 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 of the Common Era, there was an independent Jewish nation-state, with a Law of Return, which guaranteed that any Jew seeking refuge from tyranny or escape from genocide could attain immediate citizenship.
Israel, which has had to endure seven major wars in its brief existence, and which has established numerous world-class universities, and which has absorbed over 5 million Jews from the remnants of the European Holocaust; 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim nations; 84,000 Jews from Ethiopia and nearly l million from the former Soviet Union, is indeed a continuing miracle both literally and metaphorically. In l948, when Ben-Gurion read out Israel’s Declaration of Independence, he put strong emphasis on the wording which extended the hand of friendship to the Arabs within Israel, who were granted full citizenship in the new state, as well as to those in neighboring nations with whom Israel sought peace. Tragically, for most of Israel’s existence, peace has been an elusive goal.
The State of Israel also miraculously revived the ancient Hebrew language as the current language of the modern state, and the word “shalom,” Hebrew for peace, is used in place of hello or goodbye in everyday conversations. As Israel prepares to celebrate its 59th year of independence, let us repeat the ancient and fervent prayer that the Eternal Source of Peace, will grant us Peace, the Eternal’s “Most Precious Gift.” And let us all say, “Amen!”