Celebrating Israel

For This I Am Thankful

Tags: Yom Haatzmaut

By Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman

For everything there is a season – a time to mourn and a time to celebrate, a time for introspection and a time for congratulation, a time for self-correction and a time for appreciation. As a people and as a nation we need to learn to embrace each. At the same time, we need to learn to maintain boundaries and to allot to each its own distinct time.

Tree of Zion

Despite the pain inspired by Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and the cloud which it spreads over Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut at its core is a day in which we must learn the art of celebration and giving thanks. A day in which we put aside our self-criticism and aspirations, and connect to the gift that we have, and declare, dayenu.

As we celebrate Israel’s birthday, for this I am thankful.

I am thankful for the home that Israel has given me. While as a Jew living in the 21st century there are many places that could serve as my home, I appreciate this home and the sense of belonging to my people which living here facilitates. I appreciate the loyalty that I feel my fellow citizens have toward me, a loyalty which has been proven in a willingness to give both our lives and our taxes for the well-being of each other. A loyalty and care which I feel every time I walk in the street and know that when push comes to shove, my people have my back. I don’t need to live in Israel. I want to.

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I am thankful for the gift of being able to participate in the building of a Jewish homeland, a place in which Jewishness defines not merely the national identity of the majority of the population but the ideas and values that may shape the public sphere of our lives.

I appreciate the opportunity of being a player, helping to shape the identity of the Jewish and democratic state, both mining our tradition for values and resources capable and worthy of shaping a just and moral society, and then working to implement and disseminate them within our young country.

I am thankful for the gift and challenges of power and the dignity that it affords me. In the global economy we are all interdependent, and a country of Israel’s size, even more so. At the same time, my ability to participate actively in shaping my destiny, in having a voice in determining which path to take, is an immeasurable gift.

I am thankful for our democracy, which despite its challenges and shortcomings is still alive and breathing. I am thankful that despite living in the Middle East our political culture is still not of the Middle East.

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I am thankful for the perception of stability and the consequent opportunity for hope which, despite all odds, has taken root in our country. We dare to want more and even demand more, because the gift of Israel is to believe that it is possible.

Finally, I am thankful for the Israelis, an amalgamation of immigrants who despite their ideological and cultural differences create a society of warmth, caring, and spontaneity. There is no one else with whom I would want to share my life.

Tomorrow we have much work to do, much unfinished business, many challenges and shortfalls which need to be overcome. Today I am thankful.

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute and Director of the Engaging Israel Project.

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