Monday, May 09, 2011

"Celebrating at 63"

Arlene Kushner

Tonight begins Yom Ha'Atzmaut -- Israeli Independence Day. There are those who have the impulse to remain subdued this year, even as celebration is called for, because of the many troubles we face.

But consider...

The return of the Jews to our homeland after 2,000 years was a miracle, and our ability over the years to survive and thrive beyond everyone's wildest imagination has been a miracle.

With the help of the Almighty we shall prevail, and we shall grow. Our role is to be strong, and to trust that we can do it.
Aish's musical video -- "Wave Your Flag" -- sings, "When I get older, I will be stronger, they'll call me freedom, just like a waving flag."

See it here.


Nefesh B'Nefesh is a marvelous organization that has helped thousands of people from English-speaking countries, mostly Americans, to make aliyah. This year, the group held a special celebration honoring the 45 sabra babies born to families that have come over the last year:

How's that for having faith in Israel's future?


JPost editor David Horovitz ran a piece last Friday that I've been saving to share for Yom Ha'Atzmaut. It's called, "Out of the ashes, to the height of self-sufficiency."

Horovitz writes about Benny Gantz, the new IDF Chief of Staff (who came to this position almost by political fluke, but, it seems, was meant to be where he is now).

"The IDF is strong, ready and a deterrent to our enemies," Gantz said during Yom HaShoah ceremonies last week. "It is capable of thwarting any enemy that rises up to kill us." (emphasis added)

Elaborates Horovitz:

"Born in Israel to a mother who was barely alive when she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, Gantz emblemizes the near-miraculous revival of the Jewish people after the Holocaust: The survivor's child is now chief protector of the insistently surviving nation. (emphasis added)

"Standing tall and straight, Gantz nonetheless carries a perpetual air of concern. He exudes confidence and gravitas but also, in the furrows of his forehead, and the lines around his eyes, shows the burden of responsibility. All the way through to his gut, he knows the evil that humankind is capable of doing to the Jews. He knows that it falls to him, more than anyone else, to ensure that 'never again,' rather than becoming an empty slogan, remains an iron-clad fact.

"...In today's often morally misguided world, it is very difficult to be recognized as both strong and just. Usually, however absurdly in some cases, it is the weak who are automatically regarded as having justice on their side.

As it turns 63, the Jewish nation sometimes feels as though it is back, not in 1948, without a friend in the neighborhood, but a few years earlier still, with barely a friend in the world. But in life-saving contrast to those dark years, we have revived our homeland, and it flourishes.

We are and will continue to be both strong and just. We have built a vibrant, diverse, declaredly contented society. And with an army now headed by a general who emblemizes that rise from the ashes to the height of self-sufficiency, 'we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.'" (emphasis added)


Some Interesting Facts about Israel (with thanks to Rebecca M.)

Israel is only 1/6 of 1% of the land mass of the Middle East
The Kinneret, at 695 feet below sea level, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world.
Israel is the only nation in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the oldest continually used cemetery in the world.

Israel has only 2% of the population of the Middle East.
Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world.
Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation in the world - by a large margin.
Israel has the highest number of PhD's per capita in the world.
Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation in the world, per capita.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown over the last 50 years.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Muslims and Jews are all free to vote.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy full political rights.

Economics and Hi-Tech
Israel has the largest number of startup companies per capita in the world.
Israel is the world's largest wholesale diamond center.
Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies outside of the US and Canada.
The cell phone was developed in Israel at Motorola's largest development center.
Voice Mail technology was developed in Israel .
The first anti-virus software for computers was developed in Israel in 1979.
Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed in Israel by Microsoft.
Both the Pentium-4 and Centrino processors were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel.

Hebrew is the only case of a dead national language being revived in all of world history. Israel has more museums per capita than any other nation in the world.
Israel has more orchestras per capita than any other nation in the world.
Israel publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world.

And how about this: The most independent and free Arabic press in the Middle East is in Israel .

Stand tall, my friends, hold up your heads and be proud!


A short video featuring Hatikva:


Before closing, I want to look back to what I had written yesterday:

The number of fallen that I cited yesterday -- 22,867 -- referred only to soldiers. Another 4,500 have died of terror attacks.

A reader has asked me if the number provided of those who fell defending Israel referred only to members of the IDF since the founding of the State. The answer is yes. But the point raised by this question is valid. If not for those who fought for Jewish rights before May 1948, we would not have seen the founding of the State. It certainly did not come about in a vacuum, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice prior to Israeli independence must also be recognized. I am not at all certain, however, that there would be a way to now tally the number who died in this era: there were separate groups, some clandestine, each following its own vision.


After I wrote yesterday's posting I watched the proceedings for Yom HaZikaron at the Kotel. Select family members of soldiers who have died were present and the camera from time to time focused on their faces. They wrenched the heart.

And so I would like to add this: We owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to all those who have fallen defending the State. But we also owe a debt to those who have lost sons and husbands, fathers and brothers. Theirs is an on-going sacrifice.


Yesterday, when I mentioned various members of Congress who are opposed to providing additional financial support to the PA, I neglected to include Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she is one of our very best friends. The fact that I've alluded to her many times in the past does not excuse her exclusion here. (Thanks, Stephanie.)


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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