Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day begins on Monday night, May 13. This year, as with many of the holidays since October 7th, it seems even more important to celebrate Jewish life. 

In 1948, the world watched as Ben Gurion, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, stood at the Tel Aviv Museum amongst a large crowd and read the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.

In 1897, Theodore Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to establish their own country. This was recognized in the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, in which the League of Nations gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. 

Following World War II and the Holocaust, survivors immigrated to Israel as they had nowhere else to go and this land was home. 

“On the 29th November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Today, we feel the right of Israel’s existence is being challenged in the protests on college campuses and around the world. And rather than celebrating Israel’s Independence Day, we feel like we have to be defending Israel.

Let’s pause from feeling defensive and embrace a moment to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the ONLY Jewish country in the world. This Yom HaAtzmaut, we have the chance to reflect on Israel’s remarkable journey over the past 76 years. From transforming deserts into fertile lands with innovative farming techniques, to pioneering high-tech advancements that have become integral parts of our daily lives – from cell phones to computer chips. Israel stands as a beacon of progress, leading the way in medical research and innovations that save lives globally. It’s a time to honor and appreciate the remarkable contributions of Israel to the world.

Happy Yom HaAtzmaut and let us always remember, Am Yisrael Chai.