By Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback in Israel this week with his sixth grade students
בְּשׁוּב ה׳, אֶת-שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן–הָיִינוּ, כְּחֹלְמִים
The State of Israel turns 68 years old this week, and you can feel the joy in the streets of Tel Aviv, where I’m accompanying some of our Wise School sixth-graders on our inaugural visit to our twin-school through a Federation-sponsored partnership.
It’s a time for celebration and thanksgiving. Sitting on the beach in Israel this Yom Ha’atzmaut with the warm Mediterranean waters lapping at my feet, watching Israeli Air Force planes flying overhead in formation, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude: for this extraordinary place, for its amazingly creative and resilient people, for the delicious food I’ve been enjoying all week, for the Hebrew language that gives me so much joy to speak and understand, and for the sense of home I feel whenever I’m here. I am so grateful for all of these blessings.
However, the way we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut reminds us that these blessings come at a steep cost. Israel Independence Day is immediately preceded by Yom HaZikaron – the Day of Remembrance for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.
On Wednesday of this week, I visited the home of a fallen soldier, Eran Berg (ז״ל), who was killed during his army service on February 22, 1994. Each year on Yom HaZikaron, friends and family gather in his parents’ home to remember. It was especially moving to witness his commanding officer visit. Even though the commander no longer serves in the IDF, he comes each year to pay his condolences. He arrived yesterday with his sixteen-year-old son, who is preparing to enter the IDF in just a few years. Our joy is lessened as we think about those whose sacrifice makes our celebration possible. They should be here to rejoice with us…
In our prayer for the State of Israel, we call this extraordinary place “The First Flowering of Our Redemption – רֵאשִׂית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ.” May it continue to flourish, grow, and develop into all we wish it might be. This is the Hope – the Tikvah – that has animated our dreams for the past 68 years and, indeed, for the previous two millennia as well.
With prayers for peace
and goodness for Israel and for our entire world,
P.S. To see photos from our trip, visit me at on my Facebook page
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