November 29 is one of the more iconic dates in Israeli history, though rarely mentioned outside of the land of Israel. It was on this date in 1947 that the United Nations voted to adopt a formal partition plan for what would become the modern state of Israel. What had been a mere dream for centuries, prompted further by Theodor Herzl’s tireless efforts, urged on by Zionists stretching across the global and ideological spectrum, further motivated by the atrocities of the Holocaust, would at last become a reality.
We all know where the story goes from that fateful day in November. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, would announce statehood in May of 1948, even as war already threatened Israel’s existence. In downtown Tel Aviv, HaTikvah played in the streets. Jews the world over celebrated the firm arrival of a Homeland.
We live in a time when the existence of Israel is real. In ways that our grandparents and great-grandparents could have never imagined, we can go to Israel, touch Israel, be touched by Israel: the people, the sites, the foods, the rivers, valleys, and epic vistas. From the vast beauty of the Negev Desert to the lush green mountains of the Golan, from the inspiring grandeur of Old City Jerusalem to the bright lights of Haifa and Eilat, Israel is very real in our lives today. What a blessing.
Of course, Israel is as complex as ever, a fact made even more stark by its recent election results. Benjamin Netanyahu, buoyed by various ultra-right wing political arms, has returned to power. What will this mean for Reform Jews, asylum seekers, LGBT groups, would-be converts to Judaism, and the heretofore breadth of religious, cultural and political diversity in Israel? Only time will tell. Regardless, I for one will never stop advocating for an Israel of tolerance, inclusiveness, and the highest of Jewish ideals.
This coming May Israel will turn 75 years young. What a feat for a nation that so many have bet against over time. What a feat for a tiny nation, smaller than the state of New Jersey, that has had to defend itself again and again from would-be assailants. 75 years since May of 1948 and the experiment is less a hope and more a statement that the Jewish people, and the State of Israel, will not be silenced or stifled, not by antisemitism, not by anti-Israel sentiment, not by hate and prejudice.
I would LOVE for you to consider joining me and Cantor Levy on our congregational trip to Israel this summer. Together we will explore, learn, and bask in the wonder that is modern-day Israel. We will come away renewed, transformed, and as motivated as ever to align ourselves with this incredibly special place. It will be fantastic and FUN. (If you’re so inclined, you can even join us for an optional extension to Greece afterward).
May Israel go from strength to strength. Am Yisrael Chai.