The words of the well-known Jewish blessing, the Shehecheyanu, are so very apt as we consider Israel’s Diamond Anniversary. “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, and sustained us, and brought us to this time.”
“The first miracle is the idea of a people who waited 1,900 years to return home. After the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem and saw their Second Temple destroyed in the year AD 70, how did they stay so patient for so long? How is it possible that over 19 centuries they never gave up on their dream?”
—David Suissa, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal, speaking at a Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) event
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word—which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly—it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.”
—Theodore Herzl’s journal entry on September 3, 1897, after the First Zionist Conference in Basel, Switzerland
“Independence is never given to a people, it has to be earned; and, once earned, must be defended.”
—Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel
“God, Lord of Israel, protect your soldiers. Grant blessing to their sword that is renewing the covenant that was made between your chosen people and your chosen land. Arise O Lion of Judea for our people, for our land. On to battle. Forward to victory.”
—Menachem Begin, commander of the underground Irgun, speaking on May 15, 1948 as he emerged from hiding and pledged his allegiance to the new government. He began his speech by reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing.
“At present our enemies have control of the skies. What this means with regard to Tel Aviv is common knowledge to everyone here. We have reason to believe this situation will not remain static, but I cannot say when the change will occur. Superiority in the air gives the enemy a great advantage, but our public is not afraid.”
—David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister’s Report: Declaration of a State of Emergency May 19, 1948
“After the War of Independence, I was often asked what part the Bible had played in the success of Zahal, Israel’s Defense Force. With the Bible a part of every soldier’s gear, a commander can easily find a chapter that tells of a battle our fathers fought, thousands of years ago, in the very place where his soldiers are about to fight, and read it to them.”
—Yigael Yadin, commander and military strategist during the War of Independence, Israel Defense Forces second Chief of Staff, archaeologist and politician
“In such a hostile neighborhood, Israel had every justification to develop a defensive crouch, a bunker mentality, a society obsessed with protection and survival at all costs. Instead, while it defended itself, it found the chutzpah and imagination and drive to create a vibrant and open society that honors democracy and celebrates life…It did not settle for mere survival. It aimed a lot higher—to thrive.”
—David Suissa, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal, speaking at a Yom HaAtzmaut event
“Israel was not created in order to disappear—Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”
—Then-Senator John F. Kennedy, speaking at the Zionist Organization of America’s convention in August 1960
“As a people, our monuments never commemorate victories. They commemorate the names of the fallen. We don’t need the Arc de Triomphe; we have Masada, Tel-Hai and the Warsaw Ghetto—where the battle was lost, but the war of Jewish existence was won.”
—Lt. Gen. David Elazar, ninth IDF Chief of Staff, who arrived in Israel in 1940 with the Youth Aliyah (immigration) program
“This is our common maxim and belief—that if through your efforts and sacrifices you win liberty and with it the prospect of peace, then work for peace because there is no mission in life more sacred…And so reborn Israel always strove for peace, yearned for it, made endless endeavors to achieve it.”
—Menachem Begin, upon receiving the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize alongside Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
“But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.”
—Ezekiel 36:8, 10
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Yes and amen! You have indeed granted Your people life, sustained them and brought them to this time—the celebration of 75 years as the reborn State of Israel.
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