Today is Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. 63 years ago, according to the Jewish calendar, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the creation of the modern Jewish state with the words:
[W]e, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine, and by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and of the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Israel.
We live in remarkable times. Few generations of Jews have shared in the privilege of living alongside a sovereign Jewish state. When we look back through the lens of history we realize that this blessing is unprecedented. It is unrivaled.
Most people think that our community is affluent because of its material success. The Jewish community has indeed achieved unprecedented levels of wealth, education, and stature, especially here in the United States. Our riches however are better measured not by these successes, but instead by the achievement of our age-old dream. The modern State of Israel represents the greatest riches we have ever realized.
Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote in what has become a classic, Israel: An Echo of Eternity (1969):
The return to Zion is a creative challenge to stabilization, shaking up inertia, a challenge demanding new action, new thinking.Well-adjusted people think that faith is an answer to all human problems. In truth, however, faith is a challenge to all human answers. Faith is a consuming fire, consuming all pretensions. To have faith is to be in labor.Well-meaning people used to say that a Jewish state would be an answer to all Jewish questions. In truth, however, the State of Israel is a challenge to many of our answers. To be involved in the life of Israel is to be in labor.What is the meaning of the State of Israel? Its sheer being is the message. The life in the land of Israel today is a rehearsal, a test, a challenge to all of us. Not living in the land, nonparticipation in the drama, is a source of embarrassment.
Each of us could participate in this drama far more. Each of us must participate in this drama far more!