Rabbi’s Corner: Israel at 75 – Our House of Promise, Our Home of Hope

Last week, we observed Yom Ha-shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We counted all those who perished during the Holocaust. Each and every person, old or young or in-between, was someone whose life mattered, who made an impact on our world. Their death left an incredible void. So we say their names, we light 6 million candles, we count to six million and we shed six million tears.

Six days later, earlier this past Monday evening, we observed Yom Hazikaron, Israel Remembrance Day. We remembered those who lost their lives serving and protecting the State of Israel our Jewish homeland. We count again, we light more candles and we shed more tears.

As soon as the sun set on Tuesday, Yom Hazikaron ended and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, began.  We dry our tears and celebrate with joy and exultation and count the 75 years that Israel has been the free, independent and democratic homeland of the Jewish people. Yes, it’s not perfect. But each and every day we strive for those ideals outlined in our Torah – the ideals of tzedek, righteousness and chesed, love, shalom, peace and shlemut, wholeness.

These three commemorations take place in between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe them metaphorically in between Redemption and Revelation. What does that mean?

Pesach we were freed from physical bondage. Yet, we still experienced so much more destruction and difficulty. The flames and ashes of the Holocaust still resonate with us. They remind us that we are not truly free until all people are free from those who wish to crush them, destroy them. As we all know, the events of the Holocaust served as an impetus for the creation of the State of Israel. But there would be no Israel unless we had people who fought to create it.

Why do we, in the Diaspora, mark these observances as well? Because we as a people are connected to Israel as a family. If someone in my family suffers, I suffer. If someone in my family celebrates, I celebrate. And Israel is my country as well.

Israel is our house of promise, our home of hope. In 75 short years, Israelis have created a vibrant culture and a thriving economy. Israeli is at the forefront of technology, medicine, the arts, ecology and water conservation and so much more. (Join my Adult Education course on Israel: Love, Opportunity and Challenge to learn more). The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is one of the most highly skilled militaries in the world, able to defend Israel from her hostile neighbors. In Israel, Judaism is alive and thriving (yes, liberal Jews face challenges, but our numbers are growing). At the same time, it is a land that celebrates diversity and multiculturalism (yes, with challenges). The scenery is breathtaking: from the snow-capped Mt. Hebron to the stunning gardens of Haifa, to the gorgeous hills of Jerusalem, down to the arid dessert in the Negev. You can experience all of that in one day. It is a country that is ancient and modern, filled with the old and the new.

It is our house of promise, our home of hope. In Deuteronomy we are told: “For the Eternal your God is bringing you into a  good land, a land with streams and springs and  fountains issuing from plain and hill..” (Deuteronomy 8:7)

Israel has matured to a modern, vibrant country and like many modern countries, Israel is experiencing turmoil. It is also one country that is home to two distinct peoples. At the same time, each of those peoples themselves are divided: each does not think, believe or behave unilaterally, the electoral system needs overhaul and there is always ongoing “tumult.” Despite the turbulence of the recent weeks, we have much to celebrate and in which to take pride. We have much for which to still hope.

One of the best ways to support Israel, learn first-hand about the complexity of the issues and experience all that Israel has to offer, the opportunities as well as the challenges, is to visit for ourselves, to listen, observe, learn, taste and smell. If you are interested in traveling to Israel with me and Temple Beth Sholom in 2024, please join us for a:

TBS 2024 Trip “Exploratory”/Informational Meeting
Tuesday, May 23
7:15 PM
RSVP to Mara Lazenby: mlazenby@tbsoc.com (please rsvp if you are interested but are unable to attend the meeting.)

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom

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