Both my parents helped Israel win it’s independence. My father, in particular, was an officer, first in the British army and then in the newly formed Israeli army. He changed his name from a European name to an Israeli one—Amir—when they asked all the officers to do so. I bear that name still.
Israel began celebrating 62 years of independence on Monday evening. Yet, it still fights to retain its freedom as it continues to find itself surrounded by enemies.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reaffirmed the strong relationship between the United States and Israel in a video message for Israel’s Independence Day. She said, “Congratulations Israel on 62 years of independence! This is an opportunity to celebrate all that Israel has accomplished and to reaffirm the bonds that unite our two nations—our strategic partnership, our shared values, and our common aspirations.”
“I have a deep personal commitment to Israel, and so does President Obama,” Clinton continued. “Our nation will not waver in protecting Israel’s security and promoting Israel’s future. That is why pursuing peace and recognized borders for Israel is one of our top priorities.”
Clinton, in the name of the Obama administration, called for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East “that provides Israelis, Palestinians, and all the people of the region security, prosperity, and the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.”
“The United States will continue to stand with you, sharing your risks and helping shoulder your burdens, as we face the future together,” she concluded.
How much good this speech will do, I don’t know, although it’s nice to think Israel has the supposed support of the U.S. That said, each time Israel is attacked by its neighbors, it also is attacked by its friends for how the tiny nation responds. Plus, this speech won’t likely dismiss fears about the Iranian nuclear program and what some believe is the Obama administration’s less-than-sensitive attitude to the Jewish state and its interests.
Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day is celebrated in Israel through Tuesday. The holiday commemorates Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. Celebrated annually on or around the 5th of the Jewish month of Iyar, in Israel an official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on the evening of Yom Ha’atzmaut. It includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset, a dramatic presentation, a ritual march of soldiers carrying the Israeli flag, and the lighting of twelve torches—one for each tribe of Israel. Every year a dozen Israeli citizens who made a significant social contribution in a selected area light the torches.
However, every year Israelis celebrate Independence Day right after a 24-hour period of grief for fallen soldiers. Before the fireworks display on Monday night they heard many a story of servicemen and -women killed, the Kaddish prayer and mournful speeches. People stood in silence honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror on Monday morning after sirens wailed across Israel, bringing traffic to a halt. Yom Hazikaron, or Israel’s Day of Remembrance, is dedicated to remembering the sacrifice of 22,682 soldiers and some 2000 victims of terror.
I once wrote a piece for the Sh’ma bi-annual anthology on how to make Yom Ha’atzmaut a more spiritual holiday. I later wrote a blog post about this topic. You can read it here. A year later, I wrote a similar post for this Examiner column. You can read that here.