Happy Birthday, Israel!

Today is Israeli Independence Day or Yom Ha’atmaut. It celebrates the 69th anniversary of the formal establishment of the State of Israel and the signing of the country’s Declaration of Independence. The Jewish people of the Diaspora have always longed to escape persecution and return what is now Israel—every Passover we say “next year in Jerusalem”—but that need came into sharp focus after World War II when thousands of Holocaust survivors became people without a country.

The very notion of a Jewish state is credited to Theodore Herzl and the First Zionist Congress. Herzl tried to find a solution to the violent pogroms in Eastern Europe during the late 19th century. Could an entire modern nation be created? The common wisdom said it was an impossible dream. Herzl responded: "Yes, everything you say is true. What I say, however, is that IF YOU WILL IT, IT IS NOT A DREAM."

That dream became a reality in 1948 when David ben Gurion announced to the world the Jewish State was restored after 2,000 years of suffering, working and praying.

A miracle? Of course! We all witnessed it; even those who say they don't believe in miracles saw it happen before their eyes. As Ben Gurion proclaimed during the founding ceremonies, "ANYONE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE IN MIRACLES IS NOT A REALIST."

Photo credits: New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel

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