Happy 70th Birthday, Israel!

Israel is not perfect! Israel is not Utopia! Israel is not the Garden of Eden.

Israel has a Prime Minister under investigation, a government that treats religious but non-orthodox Jews with disdain, a black eye over African refuges seeking asylum, and of course issues with the Palestinian population, which from ten thousand miles away, it seems to me Israel could do a better job of handling.

Why then, do I get goose bumps when I attend an Israel@70 celebration, and we sing Ha-Tikvah, (“The Hope”), Israel’s national anthem?

I get goose bumps because Israel –its very real flaws not withstanding—represents the end of 2000 years of Jewish exile and homelessness.

Israel represents the destroyed Jewish communities of Germany, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, France, Algeria, Morocco, Yemen and Spain. Israel represents the hope rising from the despair of two thousand years of exiles from these and other places around the globe.

When the Ottoman Empire dissolved after World War I, some twenty Arab/Islamic nation states forged identities on land that had been controlled by Turkey. No one questions their legitimacy.  Jews also lived in the Ottoman Empire. Jews also had national aspirations.  Israel represents a tiny sliver of Jewish real estate on the immense landmass on which those Arab-Islamic nations appeared.

Yet from the time Jews – many years before Israel became a state—began to return to their ancestral home, the Arab world swore they would not permit it.

They tried to drive Israel into the sea when the United Nations proclaimed it a sovereign state on November 29, 1947, but somehow, though surrounded by hostile enemies, the fledgling country survived.  The Arab world again mobilized to destroy Israel in 1967, but somehow the tiny country thwarted and repulsed the threat.

Now Israel is, thank God, strong militarily, and, lo and behold, all those people who never wanted Israel to exist in the first place, call her the oppressor.

They—inexplicably–lay at Israel’s doorstep the blame for defending herself against those who try to infiltrate her borders. They blame Israel because the Arab world keeps its refugees in squalid refugee camps instead of following Israel’s example of teaching the many Jewish refugees whom it welcomed a language, job skills and providing housing for them.

They blame Israel for the fact that from the cradle through nursery school and into adolescence Palestinian children are taught to glorify “martyrs.” They lionize those who die in the act of killing Israelis or Jews. They name roads and schools after terrorists, and they build monuments to them.

How does one make peace with people like that?

Then they blame Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from vicious acts of infiltration and terror. Hardly a week goes by that Israeli intelligence does not discover another series of tunnels under construction so that terrorists can cross Israel’s border in order to take Israeli lives.

No, Israel is far from perfect, but Palestinians who live there agree that life is better for them there than in any of the Arab countries.

It gives me pride that Israel has a vigorous free press where citizens are welcome to attack the government and its officials at will. I am glad that Israel does not suppress the voices of even its harshest critics. It gives me pride that in Israel Arabs serve on the supreme court and as heads of universities, as members of Parliament and in other high positions.

In what Arab country do Jews serve in similar positions?

So, in spite of Israel’s flaws, I still get goose bumps at “The Hope” Ha-Tikvah expresses: “To be a free people in our own land.”

Happy 70thbirthday, Israel!

In spite of everything, I pray that 71 will find you and your neighbors living in peace and harmony.

Yes, like everyone I wish there would be peace. But until there is peace, I am glad that Israel is strong enough to defend itself against those who wish to destroy her.

Like so many I ask, when will there be peace? The words attributed to Golda Meir say it best:

 “We will have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us!

Those words are still true today.