With the approach of two of the most important “secular” days in the Israeli calendar, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, I have been reflecting as usual on what Israel means to me personally and to we, as a Zionist Community in the Diaspora.
This year, as I watched a live ceremony of the Yom Hashoah Commemoration on Israeli television, I began my reflection a week earlier. Listening to stories of Holocaust survivors who chose to make the land their home after the Shoah, gave me goose bumps. Many of the stories had a recurring theme; they had dreamed in their childhood of going there and now had the opportunity to start their lives afresh after all they had endured; it was the realisation of a dream.
I am not seeking to link the Shoah as the sole reason for the establishment of Israel because history tells us the story is far more complex. However, the impact of one on the other is too strong to be ignored. Growing up in Australia as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, it was instilled in me to never forget its horrors, and I was always reminded too of the central importance of a Jewish state. Their mentality was that the establishment of a Jewish State would help promote in this world the message of “Never Again”, not only for our people but for all oppressed peoples.
For years, Israel was only part of my grandmother’s dreams as she and my grandfather worked hard to rebuild their lives and family in this country.
Some years after my grandfather passed away, she visited Israel for the first time in 1998 at 76 years of age. She later recalled to me the overwhelming sense of feeling at home, an emotion that she and countless others have felt upon arriving in Israel. What she marvelled at most was listening to Hebrew being spoken by the people and seeing Hebrew lettering on shops and street signs! It seems such a basic concept but essentially there is something so beautiful about the revival of Hebrew as a modern language, and whenever I think of my late grandmother and her trip to Israel, I am reminded of this amazing achievement. More importantly, I am reminded of the fact that for her generation, the existence of Israel was never taken for granted; she knew what the world looked like without Israel in the picture.
The focus of much of what I write has been on Israel, what she is and has achieved and what she means for the Jewish people and the world. This is not to say that this nation is one without social and economic problems which still must be dealt with and overcome to improve the lives of all of its citizens; not to mention the need to achieve peace with its neighbours but, at this particular time, it’s well worth reflecting on what this small country has achieved in just under two-thirds of a century.
For a nation that is only 65 years young, the volume of success stories are astounding, from technology and innovation, science, medicine, literature, music and so much in between. Those who have contributed and continue to do so to this society are extensions of the same people who did likewise in Europe, in Northern Africa, and elsewhere in many different parts of the globe (including the Land itself) from which this melting pot of cultures originated. This Yom Ha’atzmaut, I will be celebrating these achievements and I hope you do as well.
But before the celebration, we also stop to commemorate the brave soldiers of the IDF who fell in Israel’s wars and the victims of terror. Sadly, the numbers are always increasing, and the same is true since last year’s Yom Hazikaron when three Israeli citizens and three soldiers were killed during Operation Pillar of Defence and five Israelis were killed in a terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria. We cannot celebrate Israel’s independence and ongoing freedom without paying tribute to those who lost their lives in attempt to fulfil that dream.
Please click here to see all of our events for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut here in Victoria!
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Austalia