Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Israel means to our people and us

he following speech was delivered by Rabbi Elie Abadie, of the Edmond Safra Synagogue, this past Shabbat as we celebrated Israel 60th Independence Day Anniversary. He explained what Israel meant to our people and us. He also included many achievements that Israel has contributed to the world. At the behest of several congregants, he emailed his speech for distribution.

Israel @ 60

The Tangibility of a 2000-Year-Old Dream

As we celebrate, the 60th anniversary of the modern state of Israel it is apparent that most of the people sitting in this room have never lived in a world without Medinat Yisrael. For 60 years, we have actualized ours prayers of thousands of years and have re-established Jewish sovereignty in the land of our forefathers. Tonight I want to remind everyone how wonderful and miraculous this reality is. So often, we are consumed with the political and religious turmoil of the country that we forget how grateful we should truly be for the mere opportunity to call Israel our own.

We, Jews living in exile in the Diaspora far from the daily life in Israel are at times quick to voice our opinion to criticize any little thing that we don’t like about Israel and its government. But beneath the criticism lies our love for Israel, beneath the plagued words lie words of praise, likewise in Israel, beneath negative things lie hidden treasures, beneath any blemish lies its purity, beneath tumah there is tahara, beneath sheker there is emet.

There are not enough words to express what Israel has meant and means to us as Jews living in this modern era. No other Jewish community in the last 2000 years has had the zekhut and the privilege to witness such a miracle. Our fathers and we had the zekhut to see the rebirth of Jewish commonwealth and sovereignty in the land of Israel. To see it grow from a small country to a powerful nation.

When we mark the anniversary of Israel’s rebirth, we are enjoined to celebrate and be joyful. Israel has been a safe haven for Russian Jews since the pogroms in Russia of the last century, for Holocaust survivors, for Jews from Arab lands, for Ethiopians, for recent Russian émigrés, and lately for our Syrian brothers.

Israel has become the brightest light on the world horizon for many people in distress, even non-Jews. But Israel is more than that. It has given Jews everywhere a banner around which to rally. It has made Jews everywhere feel that being a Jew is a proud privilege. It has reversed the 2000-year-old role of the Jew on the stage of history. For the past two millennia, the Jew’s history was shaped for him by other nations. Coercion, subjugation, oppression, persecution, exile, these were the involuntary roles assigned to him. Jewish history has been for 2000 years not the story of what the Jew did as much as what was done to him.

The rebirth of Israel points to a new role that the Jew has chosen for himself. No more shall the destiny of the Jews be shaped by the unkind hands of others. Now the destiny of the Jews rests solely in G-D’s and his own hands in a land, which laid waste for centuries in alien hands, and now once more the Almighty has placed it in ours as a possession for eternity.

Israel has re-affirmed our faith in G-D, and it has rekindled our belief in miracles. Who would have dared to believe that we would have seen it with our own eyes? Any realistic student of history would have given a thousand reasons for denying the possibility of the re-birth of Israel. Here was a people separated from its land for almost 2000 years and exposed to human brutality for all this time, were able to re-create a nation from ashes and from dust, if this is not a miracle, then nothing else could be miraculous.

Don’t take for granted the many Bar Missvot you have celebrated at the Kotel, the many hikes you have taken in the Golan, or the many sunsets you have seen while standing at the banks of the Kinneret. Enjoy the diverse kosher cuisine that presents itself in the country’s many cities. Be proud of the many technological advancements and contributions that your country Israel and your people have made in a mere 60 years.

Take pride in the Jewish learning that is taking place in the countries many Yeshivot. There are over 50,000 Kollel Avrekhim and 44,000 Yeshiva Gedolah Students in addition to over 200,000 elementary yeshiva students in 600-yeshivot ketanot and 125,000 high school Yeshiva students in 300 Yeshivot –Metivta. All enjoying over 1.5 billion shekels or $450 million dollars per year. And who dared to accuse the Israeli government of not supporting Yeshivot and religious institutions?

Pirke Abot 5:21 states “הוא היה אומר ...בן ששים לזקנה - Yehuda Ben Tema used to say: at 60 you reached maturity”. And our Sages state: "אין זקן אלא זה שקנה חכמה" – “a mature person is the one who has acquired wisdom”

Indeed the State of Israel has acquired some wisdom in these 60 years.

Israel the 100th smallest country, with less than 0.001% of the world's population, can lay claim to the following discoveries.

* The cell phone was developed in Israel
* Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Israel.
* The Pentium Chip technology and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel
* Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.
* The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.
* Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U.S., Russia and China)
* Israel’s $130 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.
* Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.
* Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees.
* Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin, as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.
* Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the U.S.
* Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world -- apart from the Silicon Valley, U. S.
* Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U. S.
* Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.
* Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East.
* The per capita income, exceeding that of the UK.
* Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East.
* Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship -- and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 - in the world.
* Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books.
* Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, this was achieved despite being an area considered mainly desert.
* Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.
* Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, machine for breast cancer detection.
* An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment.
* Israel developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill, used to view the small intestine from the inside to prevent cancer and digestive disorders.
* Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood
* Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, ahead of the U.S., Japan, and Germany.
* An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California's Mojave Desert.
* All the above achievements while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other county on earth.

Yes, be proud of the many technological advancements and contributions that our country Israel and our people have made in a mere 60 years.

Become a spokesperson for the state of Israel because you believe in what you are saying. Each of us in this room can play a relevant role in the public relations effort on behalf of the country. At times, it may be difficult and frustrating to watch certain events and circumstances unravel. The most important lesson I can convey to you is to always believe G-d Almighty gave the land to us. The Torah relates the covenant, which was made with Abraham, and subsequently with all of the Abot to inherit Eress Yisrael. In last week’s Perasha Hashem explains to Bene Yisrael that we must act in a holy fashion in order to maintain our existence in the land of Israel. The connection and the history is written in our Bible, recited in our liturgy, and embedded in our Jewish souls.

I am proud to acknowledge my eternal connection to the State of Israel. I am not apologetic for inheriting the land of my forefathers. I need not share or giveaway something which is rightfully mine. I would like to convey that message to the rest of the world, particularly to my Jewish brethren living both inside the land and in the Diaspora. Be proud to say I have come home oh Jerusalem, I shall not forsake you!

It is not by coincidence that we have re-claimed our eternal homeland, and it will not be by chance that we maintain our rightful presence and governance of the land. We must right the wrongs of history, remember who we are and where we came from and hold our heads up high this Yom HaAtzmaut when we declare together Am Yisrael Hay!

Regardless of political affiliation, education or religious observance today is a day to celebrate and rejoice for the dawn of our redemption is near. Amen and thank you.

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