Israel turns 71 today. Its population stands at 9 million, 6.7 million of them Jews. The vast majority of those are refugees and descendants of refugees from Europe, the Holocaust, the Middle East, Africa, and the Soviet Union.
In other words, Israel is the most successful effort to save Jews from persecution in human history.
There are many days of the year when Jews like me agonize over and critique the policies of the current Israeli government. Today is the one day a year when we celebrate the extraordinary achievement of Israel, and remind ourselves of a crucial reason why those arguments matter.
Simply put, thanks to Israel, there are literally millions of Soviet, Middle Eastern, and European Jews who would otherwise be dead, imprisoned, or forced to suppress their identity, instead living free lives under their own power and protection.
As Albert Einstein put it in his last speech:
The establishment of this State was internationally approved and recognised largely for the purpose of rescuing the remnant of the Jewish people from unspeakable horrors of persecution and oppression…
Thus, the establishment of Israel is an event which actively engages the conscience of this generation.
None of this is meant to deny the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for a similar home of their own. Rather, it explains why Israel is so important to so many Jews; why we fiercely defend its existence even when critical of its policies; and why we view with suspicion those who call to boycott it.
Because we know that without Israel, so many of us would not be here, or would not be free to be as we are. And that matters—and is worth fighting for.
Chag Ha’atzmaut Sameach.
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