67 years ago on this date in the Hebrew calendar, David Ben-Gurion read a proclamation declaring the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel. After millennia of dispersion, Jews had once again established sovereignty in the homeland of our people.
Some of us are of an age when we can remember the outpouring of joy Jews experienced on May 14, 1948. Others of us are old enough to recall Israel as a young country. Personally, I remember as a child attending a modest 15th anniversary celebration of Yom Ha’atsmaut (Israel Independence Day) in my home city of Long Beach. Other readers have no remembrance of Israel as a young country, but instead take its existence as an established fact.
As we ourselves mature, it is natural for our relationship to Israel to change over time: from youthful ardor to measured wisdom; from uncritical acceptance to a more nuanced perception. Despite these changes affected by experiences, I pray our love for Israel; our admiration for all of her remarkable accomplishments; and our commitment to see her live up to the ideals expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence never cease.
Yesterday, I read a prayer for Israel, composed by Rabbi Nahum Waldman, of blessed memory. May it touch your heart and mind on this Yom Ha’atsmaut:
We pray for Israel,
Both the mystic ideal of our [ancestors’] dreams,
And the living miracle, here and now,
Built of heart, muscle, and steel.
May she endure and guard her soul,
Surviving the relentless, age-old hatreds,
The cynical concealment of diplomatic deceit,
And the rumblings that warn of war.
May Israel continue to be the temple that magnetizes
The loving eyes of Jews in all corners:
The Jew in a land of affluence and relative peace,
Who forgets the glory and pain of his being,
And the Jew in a land of oppression whose blooded fist
Beats in anguish and pride
Against the cage of his enslavement.
May Israel yet embrace her homeless, her own,
And bind the ingathered into one people.
May those who yearn for a society built on human concern
Find the vision of the prophets realized in her.
May her readiness to defend
Never diminish her search for peace.
May we always dare to hope
That in our day the antagonisms will end,
That all the displaced, Arab and Jew, will be rooted again,
That within Israel and across her borders
All God’s children will touch hands in peace.