Celebrating Jewish independence
By Justin Amler
In the last few days, Israel has commemorated and celebrated what is the essence of Jewish life.
On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, we began to commemorate all those who died defending this great country – whether it was soldiers in the battlefields, or citizens in the supermarket. And when the siren sounded, it was a call to all those who live in Israel or live abroad – the memory of those who have fallen will not be forgotten – and this siren of sorrow pierced the furthest corners of this earth, reaching into every crevice and every curve and every bend and every turn.
And then we seamlessly moved from unlimited sadness to unbridled happiness; from endless darkness to boundless joy; from tears of despair to tears of delight.
The price for this happiness is steep – too steep, and yet it continues to be paid every day, because without that price, there would be no Independence Day after Memorial Day. There will be no joy to follow the sorrow. There would be no elation to follow the misery. There would be only eternal night with no light to greet us in the morning.
And oh what a morning…
Because Yom Ha’atzmauot is not just a holiday to celebrate Israel’s independence, it’s a holiday to celebrate Jewish independence. It’s not just a holiday to celebrate Israel’s 69 years, it’s a holiday to celebrate the Jewish people’s 4000 years.
It’s to celebrate that Jews are once again masters of their own destiny, no longer subject to regimes whose tolerance for Jews throughout the ages would ebb and flow along with the eternal tides of the oceans. It’s to celebrate that the yoke that was placed around the Jewish people has been shaken off. It’s to celebrate that the impenetrable ceiling placed over the Jews, preventing them from seeing the stars above has been blown away, revealing the eternal universe with its limitless potential and its everlasting light.
Israel is not the story of a country, but of a people. It’s the story of a people who had no business existing for so long yet nevertheless continue to exist anyway. It’s the story of surviving against insurmountable odds and not only surviving, but thriving.
Israel guarantees the security of Jews worldwide, whether it’s America or Australia or France or Finland, because I often think of those times – those so many times – when Jews would find themselves in the darkest moments in history, where dark forces ruled and Jews were the victims. I think of those times when the light of goodness was snuffed out by the darkness of evil. I think of those times when there was no hope, save for a far flung dream, an ancient dream, an impossible dream, a dream that one day we’d return to Jerusalem.
A dream that is no longer still a dream, but a reality – a miracle of the world we live in today.
Jews worldwide should celebrate this special day, because for those of us who live outside the country, Israel will always remain that lighthouse on the hill when during dark tides and rough seas will guide us home.
But Israel doesn’t solely exist for when the world turns ugly. It doesn’t just exist as a lifeboat for those in need.
It exists, because in Israel the sky is not the limit to what you can achieve.
In Israel, there is no limit.
Seeing the Israeli flags line the city streets from Efrat to Jerusalem to Hadera to Ra’anana to Netanyah to Tel Aviv and to every other town or city, is to know the pride that people feel and the appreciation for what exists today, but did not exist just a short time ago in history. We can never take Israel for granted, just as we can never take our personal freedoms for granted either. And these freedoms that exist – freedoms that allow any Jew to be the kind of Jew they want to be whether religious or secular or any kind in-between. These are freedoms that do not exist in Europe right now.
To celebrate Yom Ha’atzmauot is to celebrate life. And Israel is a country of life, where the chains of oppression from the past have been truly cast aside.
Jews have often been successful in the diaspora world, despite much prejudice and restrictions, but in Israel that same potential is immense and cannot be measured. And today, we are seeing the results of what happens when some of that potential gets unleashed, through humanitarian programs, water saving technology, security software development, disability technology and so much more.
Despite problems Israel faces externally and internally, they continue to forge ahead, truly making a difference in the world to the poor, the disabled and the needy.
But the one point that stands out the most clearly… is that despite all she has achieved, this is just the beginning.
Israel may be the homeland of a 4000 year old people, but it can never be described as old, for her eyes are young, her heart is light and her soul is full.
We celebrate her past, but know that her greatest days will always lie ahead.
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is a regular contributor to international publications, including the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Justin is also a valued Israel Forever blogger, writing about his connection to the Jewish state. You can reach Justin on Twitter, Facebook & Google+.