Israel Independence Day

Today I sang Hallel, the paragraphs of Psalms that are sung on Jewish festivals and every first day of the month. Long ago in Talmudic times it was enacted to praise God by singing these Psalms on another type of occasion. It was to be said any time the Jewish people were in straits and they were saved from their trouble. We celebrate and sing praises and give thanks to God not only because of the United Nations vote to establish the State of Israel but primarily because of the salvation that took place after the Holocaust. Six million Jews were annihilated – gassed, tortured, gunned down, starved to death. This is called salvation? Yes, this is called salvation. Because we are still here.

I recently viewed a film produced by David Lewis called Miracle of Israel. This educational documentary production explores the period of 1945-1948 chronicling the end of the Holocaust, starting with the liberation of the camps in Germany/Poland and ending with the declaration of the State of Israel. Some of the footage I had seen before, some was new to me.

The film gives great insight into the plight of the survivors and Jewish refugees (DPs) in their struggle to begin life anew while facing new challenges. The program also explores the amazing behind-the-scene events in America, Europe and Palestine that eventually lead to the miraculous establishment of the State of Israel. It is a most unusual film in that it emphasizes the enduring faith of the Jewish people even in the face of enormous suffering and how that preserved them.

The miraculous unbelievable sequence of events sharpened for me the realization that every tiny step along the way was nothing short of miraculous. We Jews celebrate miracles and we are grateful for everything good there is to be grateful for, no matter how much evil we are suffering at the same time.

So as I sang Hallel I imagined all of history compacted and all of the Jewish people compacted into one as if I had experienced it all. I was there, a child who could barely stand from weakness being helped along and shoved up the snowy mountain on the long journey from Europe to Israel, as if I was being thrown into the transit camp by the British and then thrown onto a boat that they sent back to France, and I refused to get off the boat, and finally made it back to Israel, and I am in the circles of people dancing in the streets after the UN vote.

And here I am, living in the modern State of Israel, where I didn’t have to go through any of that and I am blessed with the most loving community and special people all around me and we are all singing as one voice, again grateful, so grateful for everything, even though we are still longing for peace. But we are here.

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