Israel celebrates its independence day tonight and into Tuesday (Yom HaAtzmaut), while last night after sundown and today, it mourned its losses (Yom Hazikaron). The quick turnaround, marked by a day of mourning and a day of celebration in a two-day time-frame, personifies Israel’s existence.
At the conclusion of Yom Kippur and Passover services, the Jewish people have recited the words “Next year in Jerusalem” for thousands of years. The dream, to bring the exiled Jewish people back to Israel, finally became a reality in 1948.
The Zionist ideal, to establish a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel, remained dormant for many years. The movement was reinvigorated largely due to Theodor Herzl’s 1895 Der Judenstat (The Jewish State). Herzl felt the only way for the Jewish people to be safe from anti-Semitic persecution was to establish a Jewish nation. The horrific atrocities committed by the Nazis (Holocaust) and Soviets (Pogroms), among others, that unfolded throughout the early and mid 20th century, confirmed Herzl’s hypothesis.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence occurred under imminent danger, circumstances similar to that of the United States. On May 14, 1948, in the midst of Arab armies attacking from all sides, Israel declared its independence. “Thus, we, the members of the People’s Council assembled, the representatives of the Hebrew Yishuv and the Zionist Movement, on the last day of the British Mandate over the Land of Israel, and in light of our natural and historic rights and on the basis of the United Nations’ resolution, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, named the State of Israel,” Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion read.
Over the past 66 years, the Modern State of Israel has been able to strengthen and grow through many challenges, including a handful of further wars defending itself on multiple fronts. Israel has blossomed, showcasing a prosperous economy, now known by many as the start-up nation.
Tonight, much to the chagrin of its enemies sworn to its destruction, the Jewish State celebrates its 66th year of existence as a free people.