Happy Birthday Israel

Tonight we begin the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s 67th Independence Day.   Happy Birthday Israel! It was 67 years ago that the modern State of Israel was born. But it was really a rebirth of our ancient nation state, reborn after 2000 years!

The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel reads: THE DECLARATION:

ERETZ-ISRAEL (the Land of Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.


After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.


Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim (immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation) and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.


In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.


This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.


The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people — the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe — was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations.


Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.


In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.


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.


This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.




WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.


THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.


THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.


WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.


WE APPEAL — in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months — to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.


WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.


WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream — the redemption of Israel.



THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 – 14TH MAY,1948.

 The Declaration was signed by 26 people including David Ben Gurion, Rachel Cohen, Golda Meir, Rabbi  Kalman Kahana, Abraham Katznelson, Moshe Shertok, Moshe Shapira among others.

Noticeable is that from the very beginning of the modern State of Israel they were willing to accept the partition plan of the United Nations from 29th Nov, 1947 which called for a division of the land into two nations, Jordan and Israel.  Further the new nation state already under attack by its Arab neighbors, extended a hand in peace to the Arabs who lived there and to all the neighboring peoples. Unfortunately, the partition plan was rejected by Arab leaders and the Arab nations  and neighbor states immediately declared war on Israel.
For 67 years Israel has defended its borders from her enemies and still tries to live up to its ideals.  As Israel celebrates another birthday, we pray for peace and prosperity of all its citizens.  We pray for the safety of Israel and her neighbors and that soon peace will break out everywhere.

In 8 days the voting for the WZO elections closes.  Please vote here for ARZA. This is the way we Jews outside of Israel can shape the state of Israel with our values of equality, liberty and to push Israel toward peace rather than isolation and theocratic control that some would prefer.  This is our chance on Israel’s birthday to help bring about a more democratic and an Israel that is welcoming to all the Jewish people.   Happy Birthday Israel.  Long may the blue and white wave!


Israel flag

Day 19 Splendor and Beauty

Today Yom Haaztmaut -Israel’s Independence Day! The renewal of the Jewish homeland in our life time!!!! It is also the 19th day of counting the Omer. Today we also think about the attributes of hod b’tiferet. Hod is splendor and majesty. Tiferet is balance and beauty. The splendor and majestic beauty of Israel is the focus for today. I imagine Mt. Hermon covered in snow. I imagine the sparkling Dead Sea surrounded by the hot desert. I imagine the beautiful sunset on the shores of the Mediterranean near Netanya. I imagine the glorious colors of sandstone at the Machtesh in Mizpeh Ramon. I imagine green valley of the Galill and the rushing waters of the Banyas Spring at Tel Dan. I imagine the jumping playful dolphins of Red Sea in Eilat. I imagine the beauty of Haifa and the glint of the sun on the Bahai Temple surrounded by its glorious gardens. Today we celebrate the Magestic Splendor and Beauty of Israel.

After death…there is Life again

Parshat Achrei Mot/ Yom Haaztmaut

Leviticus 16:1-18:30

This week we celebrate Yom Hazikron and Yom Haaztmaut –Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the IDF and the next day Israel’s 64th birthday, Israel Independence Day.  Tuesday night and Wednesday day is Israel’s Memorial Day and Wednesday night and Thursday is Yom Haaztmaut-the celebration of Israel’s founding. These seemingly secular days are anything but secular.  The framework for understanding these days is a Jewish religious framework, a Zionist framework.  Israel’s founding moments is one of the most spiritual in the life of Am Yisrael.  Even for the secular Zionist who repudiated the rituals and Jewish law and observances of their fathers and mothers, Yom Haatzmaut is a fulfillment of the Jewish ideals of our people and a new life for our historical imperatives.

Israel is not just another country in the parade of nations.  But for the Jewish People, the modern miracle of the state of Israel is one of the great religious moments of our history.  The restoration of a national homeland for the Jewish People after the darkest moment of our people’s history, the Shoa, is more than just an event in a historical timeline.  The restoration of our National ancient homeland is a moment of pride and joy and spiritual renewal.  Even for American Jews and Jews throughout world, Israel’s 64th year of existence should be a moment of religious awe.

According to Rav Soloveitchik, the great Modern Orthodox thinker in his book Kol Dodi Dofek, the rise of the modern State of Israel is a reminder that God is knocking on our door.  God is trying to rouse us from our sleepiness.  Just as the lover in Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) knocks on his lover’s door to trying to get her attention to greet him.
In a world where many assert the death of God especially in light of the Shoa, Soloveitchik reminds us the God is calling out to us.  It is our choice whether or not to answer the door.


Yom HaZikaron where we honor the deaths of the fallen IDF soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the modern state of Israel and the next day when we celebrate the miracle of the “Start Up Nation” we must see if we can answer the call to support the ideals of Israel whether or not we agree with any of its governments.  The very beautiful audacity of a Jewish Democratic state is a statement of God’s miraculous call to us to work for and support that reality.


This week’s Torah portion called Achrei Mot, after the deaths refers specifically to the death of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who died when they brazenly tried to offer sacrifices that were not proscribed.   They violated the precincts of the Mishkan, the Holy Meeting Place and tampered with the new sacrificial system. This week our Torah portion reviews the sacrifices for Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, Day of Forgiveness. Aaron the High Priest and father of the two who died, must send a goat to Azazel with all of our sins placed upon its head.  For the ancient Israelites this was the way to restore their closeness with God and to be ready to answer God’s call again.

May we be ready to answer God’s knock on our door and may we celebrate and support Israel as the way we listen to God’s call to us!

The Sanctity of the land

Parshat Behar/Yom Haatzmaut

Leviticus 25:1-26:2

Parshat Behar teaches us about the cycles of the land. Specifically it teaches about the sabbatical year and the Jubilee year.  These are cycles of land rest every seventh year and every fiftieth year.  Just like Shabbat each week, the seventh day, when human beings and work animals are to rest, every seventh year the land is to have its own Sabbath.   It cannot be worked to produce grain or vegetables or fruit and must lie fallow.

Every fiftieth year, or Jubilee year the ultimate land redistribution plan is put in place and holdings revert back to original owners, according to the Biblical text.  “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land belongs to Me, for you are strangers and [temporary] residents with Me “(Lev. 25:23). We are not to get caught up in what we own because ultimately it will revert back to original owners of the land and every seventh year we won’t be able to even till the land gaining wealth from what it produces.

The Torah is trying to teach us that the land ultimately belongs not to human beings even the original owners but to God.  The Torah is dismissive of the idea of private ownership!  This even extends to the notion of slavery in the Bible.  For every Jubilee year all slaves were released! We are lent our property according to the Bible.  We cannot measure ourselves, or define our identity through our holdings of property.

The land of Eretz Yisrael is sacred in its own right.  The holiness of the land of Israel and our connection to it has always remained an important part of Judaism.  Our focus on the land of Zion as the fulfillment of God’s promise to our ancestors is actualized in Israel reborn.  This connection of our identity to God’s holy land was never lost. It was part of our prayers, our theology and our focus as a people to return to the land.

This week we observe the modern State of Israel’s 63rd birthday.  Israel and its people are at an important crossroads in its own young life.  Israel is still threatened by hostile neighbors, like Iran and Syria.  Yet, despite these threats Israel and Israelis thrive. It is a vibrant democratic Jewish state unlike any other place in the world.

The forces within Israel on the left and the right of the political spectrum exert great pressure. Israel is trying to define itself in the face of both outer threats and inner ones. There are policies of the government that seem so difficult to understand when we live in the relative safety of America. And in a country like the United States where there is a separation of synagogue and state.  It is hard to understand that Reform and Conservative Judaism don’t have full equality in Israel.  Even as many Israelis are completely secular.

But the identity of Israel is more than just an idea. It is tied to this sacred holy land.  And our Jewish identities are tied to this holy land. That makes all of us Zionists.  And while we might disagree with a particular policy of a standing government in Israel (Just as we might here in the U.S. disagree with the Congress or the President) our connection to the Land of Israel must remain strong.

So Happy Birthday Israel.

Number 63

It’s Israel’s Birthday.  Number 63!  Well the Modern State of Israel is 63 years old today.  It is Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day.  Of course Israel is 1000’s of years old.  It is an ancient land, the Promised Land of the Torah.  And it is 63 years since the revival of the political entity of a Jewish homeland!   That is what makes Israel unique. It is a Jewish Democratic State.  A Jewish majority.  A Jewish rhythm to the year, to the week.  Hebrew is the language not just of the Torah but of the People of Israel.

It is a beautiful country-beaches, desert, mountains, hills, green valleys and urban centers.  And it is a cultural center and Israel has a tremendous economic engine that drives not just Israel but the surrounding area!  It competes on the world economic stage.

Like every country, Israel has its challenges.  Both external and internal challenges.  And like every country its political realities.  But the recent movements and calls to divest from Israel as a way to force the state to settle with the Palestinians is to miss understanding the realities on the ground.  When you go to Israel and you go to Palestinian territories you understand the divide between developed nations and developing nations.  Between east and west. Between democratic institutions and no institutions at all.

Israel isn’t perfect.  Not by far.  But it is still the fulfillment of an ancient dream of our people.  May we salute her and help Israel fulfill its highest ideals.

Come celebrate Israel Independence Day on Friday, May 13 at 8 pm as we welcome Israel’s Consul General, Hon. Yaakov Dayan at Shabbat Services at Kol Ami (1200 N. La Brea Av, West Hollywood at Lexington Av)