My first year in rabbinical school was in Jerusalem, one year after the Yom Kippur war had ended. It was a sobering moment when on the anniversary of its conclusion the nation came to a standstill. As is done every year on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, a siren was sounded for two minutes. Everything stops! Traffic, pedestrians at corners, shopkeepers! The weeks leading to that day were filled with re-burials for those who died in the Sinai and were interred in temporary settings. Nearly three thousand casualties in a small nation which proportionately in America would have meant millions!
A woman standing next to me spoke after the sirens went silent. She told me she had been a nurse on the Egyptian front, had witnessed the carnage. Despondently, she spoke of a soldier who was on life support lingering between life and death and how she wanted to withdraw the sustaining IV and let him die. “I feel that about the Jewish people,” she then remarked. “I had a family that was all but destroyed in the Holocaust. As with the Jewish people I sometimes think after this latest carnage that we need to pull the plug and end our existence. Let us at long last give up!” What response could you offer at such a moment? Who can judge that woman’s despair? Not I then or now!
April each year is filled with small observances that follow Passover but which are large in meaning: Holocaust day, Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atsmaut (Israel Independence Day).
An Israeli member of the Knesset remarked: “That is how we do it: first a sad day of remembrance followed by the jubilance of independence. “ Somehow we find a way to persist. The news out of Israel is often dire. Newspapers tend to focus on the bad news, the injustices and excesses of the Jewish nation state, disproportionately so! One of the antidotes that I prescribe is a website Israel 21C. It is filled with happy reviews of Israel’s technological prowess, efforts for reconciliation and steps for peace. Such newsworthy items are eclipsed by the ugly realities of the Middle East. It provides us with some balance. Not to ignore any of the concerns that arise when we consider the poor machinations that befall any nation state which are by definition endemic! Hopefully not epidemic!
I will celebrate Israel’s Independence Day this year as I do every year. On page
8 you can review that which I review every year; Israel’s Independence day declaration. It too, is an antidote to despair and a reminder never to pull the plug!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.
On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over a Palestine expired, the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR.
ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) – the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.
Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.
On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed
a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.
ACCORDINGLY WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE’S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.
WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.
WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.
WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.
PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE “ROCK OF ISRAEL”, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (14TH MAY,1948).
Daniel Auster Mordekhai Bentov Yitzchak Ben Zvi Eliyahu Berligne
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Meir Grabovsky Yitzchak Gruenbaum
Dr. Abraham Granovsky Eliyahu Dobkin
Meir Wilner-Kovner Zerach Wahrhaftig Herzl Vardi
Rabbi Kalman Kahana Saadia Kobashi
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin Meir David Loewenstein
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman
David Zvi Pinkas Aharon Zisling Moshe Kolodny Eliezer Kaplan Abraham Katznelson Felix Rosenblueth David Remez
Berl Repetur Mordekhai Shattner Ben Zion Sternberg Bekhor Shitreet Moshe Shapira Moshe Shertok
* Published in the Official Gazette, No. 1 of the 5th, Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948).
One of my favorite Yiddish expressions is “Mitten d’rinen!” roughly translated as “In the middle of everything!” Two examples:
You finally settle down in the bathtub after a long arduous day and the doorbell rings! “Mitten d’rinen!”
It is some long-lost relative who happens to drop in unexpectedly; or you are on an important business call and a friend
beeps in on your cell phone who just has to ask you one question. “Mitten d’rinen!” Not now!
I tend to think of the end of February as a “Mitten d’rinen!” time of the year. Winter is not quite over, and Spring is just a few weeks away.
No mistake that Groundhog Day takes place in the first week of this month. It is a lovely tradition that is steeped in silliness and in anticipation of the end of one season giving way to the next.
This year’s turn of the season adds another and more painful aspect beyond the chilling effects of winter which will hopefully abate.
The pandemic is still with us, painfully with us! We all know the statistics for each day brings a shocking review of death and illness. The vaccines are finally here
as are other measures that if followed will minimize harm. It is human nature to practice denial. Some think they are indestructible and have some special
immunity from this plague. Some religious leaders in defiance have done what they could to ignore the proscriptions and prescriptions. One woman, a devout Christian,
was questioned why she was gathering at church service with hundreds of others. She cheerfully insisted: “I am bathed in the blood of Christ” which somehow offered her immunity.
Such foolishness is not limited to Christian devotees as many of our traditional brethren have also gathered for huge celebrations. In all instances, illness and death follow.
I am as anxious as anyone to return to our sanctuary filled with members. It is still not safe! We remain virtual! All of us are filled with an anxiety (or should be) about how diligent we need to be.
Many of my rabbinical colleagues often face pressure to allow services to resume in the temple. There is a wide range of responses to life cycle events. I have elected at this perilous time
to officiate at our cemetery sadly for funerals and unveilings, practicing distancing and mask wearing. Many of my colleagues will only officiate virtually. I respect their choice. Home visits
are out of the question for many. I have continued at holiday time to visit members with some trepidation. Hospital visits are not possible now. It is ironic that the holiday of masks is upon us, Purim!
Beyond the comedy of the normal celebrations is a subtext about the threat to Jewish life. It is for the foreseeable future Purim every day. I wish it were otherwise. In Hebrew the word for
patience is Savlanut. It is related to Hebrew root Samech Bet Lamed – S B L meaning toleration or suffering. There is an old equivalent in English. In a scene from the
film Dr. Zhivago, Yuri’s half-brother Yefgraf says, “He suffered me to buy him a new suit of clothes!” (The book is better by the way!)
I wish one and all Savlanut, patience at this time and not suffering. Purim and joy is if not around the corner – it is in view!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.