by: Kathy DeGagne, BFP Staff Writer
The evening of April 18, 2018 marks the start of Israel’s 70th anniversary and the nation is pulling out all the stops to celebrate. Themed “A Legacy of Innovation,” 70 non-stop hours of partying begin with the biggest fireworks display in the history of the nation. The beaches from Eilat on the Red Sea to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee will host all-night beach parties. There will be a Light Parade featuring Israeli innovation, as well as country-wide street parties—a trip back in time to May 14, 1948 when people danced an impromptu hora in the streets after Ben-Gurion announced the rebirth of the Jewish state.
Israelis have a lot to celebrate. In 70 short years, the nation has developed from a cultural and economic wasteland to a global powerhouse in agriculture, cyber technology and medical innovation. Israel’s economy has grown from $3 billion in 1948 to a whopping $300 billion today. The population has ballooned from 800,000 in 1948 to 8.8 million in 2018. Israel has become a global technology hub called the “Silicon Wadi”— rivalling their American counterpart, the Silicon Valley; and has boosted tourism to an all-time high of 3.6 million visitors in 2017. Out of defensive necessity, its military ranks as one of the top five in the world.
For their entire history, Jews have had to face constant danger, and this may be the secret to their success as a nation. They’ve managed to turn adversity into an asset. Striving to survive, they have thrived.
When Israel came into being in 1948, the prospects for long-term survival didn’t look good. Emerging scarred and battered from the Holocaust in Europe, the remnants of European Jewry faced another holocaust in British-mandated Palestine. Immediately upon the announcement of Israeli statehood, five Arab armies attacked, all intent on its destruction, vowing that Jewish blood would flow like the rivers of the Middle East.
The costs of waging a war while at the same time trying to absorb thousands of refugees coming from the camps in Europe and Cyprus, and setting up infrastructure and government programs would have been an overwhelming challenge for any young nation. Instead, Israeli ingenuity seemed to blossom.
Miraculously, Israel survived the war, but it was only the first of many wars and challenges to come. The same forces that threatened to annihilate Israel 70 years ago are very much alive and well today, with many more threats added in. Terrorism, boycotts and sanctions (BDS), delegitimization and all-out war are all sides to the same coin: anti-Zionism, a menace to Israel’s very existence. These are turbulent times for the still-young nation—will Israel continue to survive and thrive?
Iran is Israel’s greatest existential threat, a threat which is shared by other Islamic nations in the Middle East. Former enemies like Saudi Arabia have thawed relationships with Israel, secretly sharing intelligence as they face the potential threat of a nuclear Iran. Egypt and Israel are clandestinely joining forces to fight ISIS in the Sinai. Jordan is maintaining their peace treaty with Israel and acting as an eastern buffer between Israel and Islamic extremists.
While radical nations like Iran rage, Israel is quietly building strong reciprocal relations with nations like China and India. And Israel’s relationship with the United States is stronger than ever before under the current administration.
The return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is a story that is both unprecedented in history and an absolute miracle.
From its rebirth, millions of dispersed Jews have made their way back to Israel from Russia, Ukraine, Morocco, France, India and Brazil. Some nations cannot even be named, as Jews escape persecution with just the clothes on their backs.
Israeli Absorption Minister, Ze’ev Elkin said, “As anti-Semitism increases, terrorism surges, and sick ISIS operatives carry [out] murder in broad daylight, Jews around the world know they have a country and a family to return to” (CBN).
Like the resilience of the olive tree that has a remarkable ability to grow even if it’s chopped down, Israel has managed to lift the burden of persecution off its shoulders and stride, not limp, into its future as a sovereign Jewish state.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said about the 70th celebrations: “We are going to host the most talked-about and moving events in Israeli society, full of energy, positivity and joy. It will be exciting, distinguished and touching, just as this country that we love so dearly deserves” (Jerusalem Post).
The celebrations will also put Israel’s enemies and detractors on notice: “We’re back and we’re here to stay.”
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