Israel Stories

Friday, September 02, 2005

Yom Ha’atzmaut 5765

Yom Ha’atzmaut 5765

The episode of the spies in the book of Bamidbar left such irreversible damage to the nation of the Exodus that almost the entire generation that witnessed the plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai and the miraculous desert battles did not enter the land of Israel. Their sin according to our commentaries was speaking evil of the Promised Land. The rabbis say we are constantly in all generations, punished for this offence. Not only was this an affront to the Almighty but an opportunity missed. 40 wasted years wondering in the desert waiting to die so the next generation could enter and establish Israel.

Sound familiar, seems to be the path of Jewish history. Four fifths of our people never left Egypt, never got off the starting mark to follow Moses. Did we really refuse to return from Babylon to Israel when we had the chance? Ezra pleaded with us to return but we were too comfortable in exile and so only thousands and not hundreds of thousands followed him to the Promised Land.

Did we really ignore the calls for settlement over the next 2000 years? In every generation visionaries rose up and tried to convince us to leave the Diaspora and settle on the Holy Land. We never listened favoring pogroms, inquisition, blood libels and Holocaust.

And then, when not just a generation but a whole world had been wiped out we returned. Unbelievably even after the darkness, after praying for a return to Zion (are they real prayers or just empty words) after singing the Hatikva (The Hope) our return was not the triumphant march back to sovereignty, but for many a necessity, an escape.

So we chose exile over sovereignty. We chose anti-Semitism over religious freedom and we chose to turn our backs once again on Israel.

Well I didn’t. You see I can walk wherever I like in Israel and wear my kippa. I don’t have to worry about going home early on Friday afternoons or asking the boss for Jewish holidays. I can walk into my local shopping center and know that 99% of people are Jewish. I know that all the food in my local supermarkets is kosher. My police are Jews, my army is Jewish. My judges, bakers, petrol attendants, train drivers, farmers, computer programmers, taxi drivers, doctors, bin men and lawyers are all Jews. I pay taxes and national insurance to support a Jewish country. My gas, water and electricity are all provided by Jews. My house was built by Jews, my garden is tended by a Jewish gardener and any repairs or decorating is done by Jews. On Succot every balcony and garden around me has a Succah, on Chanuka every window and doorway shines with candles, on Purim every child in the area wears fancy dress, I can wave flags and dance in the street on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) with no fear or feeling self conscious.

I live under the Star of David, not the Cross of St George. I live in a country where the Jewish people decide their fate for better or worse. I feel safe and secure regardless of the current situation. I feel liberated and free knowing that I live in the Promised Land.

I have beaten the system. I have forced my way out of 2000 years of exile. The ultimate redemption may still be just around the corner but as we read in Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) “The buds can be seen in the land, the time of singing has arrived and the voice of the turtle dove can be heard throughout our land.”

It’s time to come home.


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