Yesterday we celebrated Israel’s Yom Ha’atzma’ut.
For many of us, the date is set aside on the calendar as profoundly, eternally significant. Some of us actually recall that heart-stropping, epoch-making moment before the arrival of Shabbat, 71 years ago on the fifth day of Iyar. It is a categorically wonderful day worthy of full celebration. For others, alas, the day is simply another day, without special attachment of kinship or of soul or even of curiosity.
However individuals among us relate to Yom Ha’atzma’ut, one irrefutable fact about the day stands out. It represents that rare, but remarkably demonstrable moment when a relative handful of human beings decided to direct the flow of history rather than merely observe its path. Despite overwhelming odds, they determined to act, to give meaning to their millennial hope rather than desist from acting while waiting – and hoping – for a better moment.
The following are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence proclaimed by David Ben-Gurion on that fateful Friday afternoon 71 years ago.
“The State of Israel will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice, and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed, or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education, and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
“In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and the representation in all its bodies and institutions, provisional or permanent.
“We offer peace and amity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
“Our call goes out to the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations — the redemption of Israel.
“With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hand to this Declaration, at this Session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar 5708, the fourteenth day of May 1948.”
There is much for all of us to learn today in our respective struggles, challenges and campaigns from the resolve, determination, will and courage of the men and women on the fifth of Iyar, some 71 years ago, who said to themselves and to the world: “If not now, when”?
Like they, let us make and not merely observe history. Let us finally, make Jewish education affordable to every family that seeks it for their children.