After a day of somber commemoration of the nation’s fallen, Israel has began celebrating her 61st birthday.
I’ll be adding related stories and updates to this post. If you have any of your own, please leave a link in the comments, and I’ll add it here.
You can also leave your message for Israel in the comments.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
5:50PM: Egyptian President Hozni Mubarak has wished Israel Mazal Tov on the occasion of Independence Day.
“I am pleased to express my congratulations for Independence Day”.
“At this opportunity I would like to express anew my expectation for the return of the Middle East peace process to a path that will lead to an end to the violence and bloodshed, in a manner that will allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that will exist alongside Israel in peace and security.”
I wonder if he wished the palestinians a good Naqba Day.
5:47PM: I’m back, after finding out that I do indeed have a steak saturation point. Go figure.
10:06AM: Benji Lovitt: 61 more things I love about Israel
9:42AM: Just a scenic picture, or is the AP photographer trying to make a point about Israel’s independence?
The Dome of the Rock Mosque is seen as bursts of fireworks light up the skyline of Jerusalem, as Israelis celebrate Independence eve, Tuesday, April 28, 2009. In a jarring contrast, Israel switched moods Tuesday evening from a somber Memorial Day for fallen soldiers to a joyous Independence Day celebrating 61 years since the Jewish state was created, but the absence of Mideast peace weighed on the festivities.
7:48AM: US President Barack Obama:
“The United States was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, minutes after its declaration of independence, and the deep bonds of friendship between the U.S. and Israel remain as strong and unshakable as ever.”
“The president looks forward to working with Israel to advance our common interests, including the realization of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, ensuring Israel’s security, and strengthening the bilateral relationship over the months and years to come.”
7:35AM (Wed): Here are the fireworks I saw from the balcony of my house (note: I did not film this, I just happened to see the same fireworks from my house!)
9:45PM (Tues): Ha’aretz has an interesting article on the only living person to actually be at Israel’s declaration of independence.
Of the 200 Zionist leaders who gathered in Tel Aviv’s Museum Hall to witness the birth of the Jewish state, only Arieh Handler, now a sprightly 94-year-old, is still alive.
To Arieh Handler, the Israeli independence proceedings were the ‘greatest day of my life.’
Back then, Handler was a 32-year-old new immigrant, a member of the body that managed Zionist affairs in what was then the British Mandate for Palestine – the Zionist General Council of the World Zionist Organization – and he was a neighbor of David Ben-Gurion.
The 60th anniversary of Israel’s birth is a milestone as was every other such anniversary going back to that defining moment for Jews and non-Jews alike when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed independence of the Jewish state in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948.
After nearly two millenniums of wandering in strange lands — following destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem by the Romans and forced exile from the land of their prophets — the birth of Israel has offered Jews a secure home where they may prosper without any fear or apology.
Israel’s birth was assisted by Britain, joined by France, which carved Arab states in lands that were provinces of the Ottoman Empire. If Israel had been born 10 years earlier then a great many Jews who perished in Hitler’s death camps likely would have survived and Britain’s eventual withdrawal from the region probably would have been less acrimonious.
For Ben-Gurion’s generation Israel’s birth was a small promise made even smaller by the UN partitioning British-mandated Palestine, and then arriving so terribly late, even as smoke from the ruins of war-devastated Europe hid the full disclosure of the Jewish devastation in the Holocaust.
There is no parallel in modern history to the story of Israel defying the rancour of old and new enemies of Jews.
This is the story of a people about whom it can truly be said are indestructible despite whatever their enemies have thrown at them.
The present world population is over six and a half billion people, and Jews are an insignificant fraction of this number, estimated somewhere around 14 million, or a mere 0.2% of the total.
Yet Jewish contributions in the making of the modern world tower above that of any other people in relative terms and the immense odds of survival as a people given the level of hostility directed at them.
From imagining the fundamentals of monotheism to conceiving the fundamentals of space-time relativity of modern physics, Jews have been an immensely creative people through nearly four millenniums of human history.
Their achievements have earned them admiration, envy and implacable enmity of non-Jews.
But Jews have survived through the ages. They first entered recorded history in pagan times while their contemporaries — the ancient Hittites, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Philistines and the Phoenicians — have vanished totally.
Of the ancient peoples from the age of Moses only the Egyptians, the Hindus and the Chinese survive, but their culturally dynamic moment as civilizations lie in the past. And of these three people from ancient times, Egyptians became Arabized as most of them converted to Islam and disowned their pre-Islamic culture.
Israel is a tiny sliver of land in a vast tempest-ridden sea of the Arab-Muslim world, and yet it is here the ancient world’s most enduring story is made fresh again by Jews to live God’s covenant with Abraham as told in their sacred literature.
Jewish survival as a people maybe providential, but turning a desert into one of the rich economies of the world few imagined six decades ago is a minor proof of how much more could be achieved if those fighting Jews joined with them instead by turning their swords into plowshares.
Happy anniversary, Israel.