I remember Israel’s 50th birthday. I would have been 10 years old, wearing a festive dress in the expansive parking lot of my local JCC, which had been converted into a fairgrounds featuring live music, warm falafel, and booths offering a variety of activities and items for sale. There’s a photo of my twin sister and me from that day, holding Israeli flags. Despite the physical distance between the midwestern suburb in which I grew up and my birthplace, the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people, I remember a warm, celebratory mood and an unquestioned connection to Israel that transcended time and space.
Things have felt distinctly more fraught in the weeks and months leading up to this year’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israels’ 75th. So many thoughtful writers have contemplated the confusing, complex, and deeply emotional developments in Israel, and here in America, the Jewish community has been grappling with how to understand and respond to these events overseas. As we approach the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence, many of us are turning our eyes toward Israel’s future with concern, with apprehension, with fear. So many of us feel so deeply the urgent need to maintain a safe, secure homeland for the Jewish people. Its existence is simply not optional, and yet its internal and external challenges feel, at times, insurmountable.