This month begins the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary. Why does this anniversary matter?
Well, the number 70 frequently recurs in the Bible and Jewish tradition. Moses has 70 elders. Jerusalem has 70 names. 70 years was considered a full life.
The number also spans multiple generations. Israel’s 70th anniversary feels much more significant than 50 or 60. But most importantly, 70 represents success.
A Close Call
Israel almost didn’t make it to her first anniversary. On the announcement of the creation of the state, half a dozen neighboring Arab countries invaded. One percent of Israel’s fragile population was lost during this war for independence.
In the ensuing decades, Israel has faced other wars and terrorism. No other country has had to fight so hard for its survival. Yet, the nation thrives. It is among the happiest and healthiest countries in the world.
That is not to say Israel is perfect. It faces enormous political, social and military challenges. And it has corruption like every other country. But Israel’s 70th anniversary is a time to celebrate. Here are ten reasons to feel inspired by it.
1. It is a modern miracle: In 70 C.E., the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. Soon thereafter, Jews were forbidden to live there. For almost 2000 years, Jews built communities around the world.
Yet, somehow, the memory of the biblical homeland of Israel stayed alive. Then, in 1948, three years after six million Jews–a third of the entire Jewish population–was murdered in the Holocaust, the Jewish state was reborn. It seems impossible not to see the hand of God in this moment.
2. Israel has given so much to the modern world: If you have ever used text messaging, you have Israel to thank. The basic technology for text messages was developed by the Israeli army to communicate with soldiers in the 1980s.
If you ever get concerned about shortages of water, you can feel better by looking at Israeli technology. The country has solved its water shortages through desalination and has shared that technology with companies and countries around the world.
3. Israel gave new energy to Jewish communities around the world: In the 1950s and 1960s, Jewish communities around the world felt the pain and devastation of the Holocaust. Many feared the loss and assimilation of the Jewish people.
But pride and joy in the accomplishments and growth of Israel inspired many Jews to visit and to bring a new energy to their congregations. Even as it depended on American Jewish donations, Israel helped save American Jews.
4. Israel has represented America’s highest values: Israel remains the only real democracy in the Middle East. Israel’s citizens–20 percent of whom are Arab–vote freely. Israel is also the only country with freedom of religion in the Middle East.
Muslims, Christians, Jews and others practice their religion and build houses of worship without coercion or danger. Despite a frequent demonization in the media, Israel seeks to protect the dignity and rights of all its inhabitants. Its military code of ethics is among the strictest and most detailed in the world.
5. Israel makes us optimistic for the future: The world seems so confused and divided. Every time I land in Israel, however, I feel a sense of vibrancy and hope. On Israel’s 70th anniversary, knowing this country could emerge and thrives gives me confidence in human ingenuity and possibility.
6. Israel gives us hope for peace: What is often lost in the confusion of Middle East politics is that Israel is the only nation that has ever tried to create a Palestinian state! In 2000 and again in 2008, Israel’s Prime Minister made sweeping accommodations to make a Palestinian state on almost 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. If there is ever going to be Middle East peace, Israel will help make it possible.
7. Israel brings together families: My grandfather took me and two cousins to Israel when I was a teenager. It brought all of us closer together. I’ve seen this phenomenon repeat itself many time times.
8. Israel revived an ancient language: For almost 2500 years, Hebrew was used almost exclusively for biblical study and prayer. It was not spoken on the street. Many Jews did not know it.
Then, during the early twentieth century, a man named Eliezer Ben Yehuda became determined to revive this ancient language and make it the spoken tongue of the Jewish state. He succeeded.
So many core ideas of Judaism find unique expression the Hebrew language. Language shapes identity and Jewish faith is enriched immeasurably by knowledge of the language of the Bible.
9. Israel has helped Christians connect with the Bible: Christians around the world visit Israel. I’ve led interfaith trips there. Watching people of faith stand at the place where the sermon on the mount was heard and delivered shows the enduring power of this ancient land for people of faith.
10. Israel saves lives: Immigrants from around the world have come to Israel since its founding. While Jews naturally came in great numbers, Israel has also welcomed people of any and all faiths.
During the ongoing war in Syria, Israeli hospitals have quietly treated hundreds of wounded Syrians who made it across the border knowing they will escape death and horror in their homeland. Refugees from Africa have found their way to Israel, and many Israelis seek to give them shelter and safety.
Israel is not perfect. But she is miraculous. On Israel’s 70th anniversary, let us hope and pray for another 70 years ennobled by blessings, life, and peace.
What Does Israel Mean to You?