Chag Atzma’ut Same’ach! Happy 66th Independence Day Israel!

It’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and, as remarked upon by both local and foreign observers, the country swings in a schizophrenic kind of way from the mourning, sorrow and remembrance of Yom Hazikaron to the flag-waving patriotism and general merry-making of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

We started the day last night with a special prayer service which included Hallel (the thanksgiving prayer recited on festivals)  at our central Synagogue, accompanied by music and community singing in a very moving service. From there the youngsters moved on to the dancing in the centre of town  and admire the fireworks, while we oldsters went to a wonderful evening at my sister’s neighbours, where Yankele Ben-Sira, a Yiddish and Hebrew actor told us the story of his life and his escape from Europe, all accompanied with great humour and lots of Yiddish jokes. He was accompanied by my sister’s neighbour himself, Hanan Bar-Sela, a very talented clarinettist. And there was food. Lots of it. 🙂

Today the entire country seems to move outdoors to fire up the grills for a national “mangal” – barbecue. No doubt every blade of grass, every bench in every public park, and the shade of every tree will be taken up by celebrating citizens out to enjoy a national holiday.  On the other hand the weather has turned very peculiar: a very hot hamsin, but very cloudy and a few drops of rain even fell a short while ago!

We will be heading out to our son who is holding a חנוכת בית (hanukat bayit – housewarming) of his new house in his Shomron community. That house was a long time in the building, courtesy of the blasted Obamaniac freeze a few years ago. However that is now in the past and I am so excited for them to be in their beautiful new home after having been cramped in a tiny caravan with 5 children for the last 6 years.

Various ceremonies will be taking place today, as in every year: The Hidon HaTanach – the International Bible Quiz for Youth, (watch live here) the Presidential Awards for outstanding soldiers, and the Israel Prize ceremony.

In honour of Israel’s 66th birthday, the ever-funny comedian Benji Lovitt has penned another hilarious yet so-true list of 66 things to love in Israel. Here is a small sample but read the lot to bring a silly yet satisfied grin to your face:

7.  I love that the coolest guy at the party can be the dude named Pinchas who shows up with a 1 kilogram tub of chumus under his arm.

9.  I love that when I walked into my neighborhood café, the waitress doing a crossword puzzle on her break asked me if Laban was Abraham’s brother. What’s a five-letter word for “the guy who screwed over Yakov”?

19.  I love that the “at” symbol in the email addresses is named for its resemblance to a delicious pastry. [It’s called “strudel” in Hebrew 🙂 -Ed.]

23.  I love that men, women, and children can all safely walk home at 2 AM when the greatest danger they face is a DJ blowing out their eardrums.

30.  I love that you can pick up a hitchhiker holding a gun and not think twice about it.

39.  I love that while plenty of countries around the world are still run by dictators, the only voice that eight million Israelis will unconditionally follow belongs to Waze.

44.  I love how people eat communal lunches, kibbutz-style, in the office rather than alone at their desks. Yotam from Accounts Receivable just stepped out to milk a goat.
49.  I love that “ladybug” in Hebrew is parat Moshe rabeinu (Moses’ cow) and “praying mantis” is gamal Shlomo (Solomon’s camel). I’m going to name my pet butterfly “Herod’s platypus.”
60.  I love that despite the effort of BDS-supporting morons around the world, 2014 will be bringing us Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, and more. Sorry, BDS, but “you….can’t….get….nooooo…….sa-tis-fac-tion.

66.  I love that I’ve had this once in a lifetime experience and it’s not over yet.

I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it I could think of at least 66 more things I love about Israel but that will have to wait a bit 🙂

Israel’s population reaches 8.18 million

Here are some statistics that would certainly have brought a smile to our founding fathers’ faces, if not staggered them completely: Israel’s population has grown to over 8 million souls!

Days before Israel’s 66th Independence Day, the Israeli population has reached 8.18 million people. This is more than 10 times the size of the population (806,000) when independence was declared in 1948.

Israel’s Jewish population numbers about 6.14 million — roughly 75 percent of the total population. There are 1.7 million Arab citizens in Israel, making up 20.7% of the population. Those in the “other” category, including non-Jewish immigrants to Israel and their descendants, comprise 351,000 people — 4.3% of the total population.

Some 178,000 babies were born in Israel since last year’s Independence Day, marking an all time high in the birth rate. About 40,000 people died over the last year, and 24,000 new immigrants moved to Israel. Israel’s population had a net growth of about 137, 500 people since Independence Day in 2013.

On Thursday, 30 new immigrants from North America arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and 60 new immigrants received their identification cards, officially becoming Israeli citizens. Also on Thursday, 104 new immigrants were drafted to the Israel Defense Forces through the Friends of the IDF and Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldier Program.

Every year when I read these statistics I feel my heart swell with happiness at the living fulfillment of our prayers: וקבצנו יחד מארבע כנפות הארץ: “And gather us up from the four corners of the Earth”. Surely this is at least reason no. 67 to love living in Israel.

As my regular readers will know from my Good News Friday posts, Israel’s technological prowess is one of its most important achievements and a major reason to be so proud of our little country.  Here is a list of 18 Israeli inventions that could save your life (via DebiZ), including:

1. The First Care Emergency Bandage (also known as the “Israeli bandage”),

4. Tel Aviv’s Cheetah Medical invented the NICOM non-invasive cardiac output monitor to prevent sepsis

7. The Babysense breathing monitor by HiSense alerts parents of respiratory cessation (apnea) in babies.

8. XSight Systems’ award-winning FODetect advanced runway sensors keep runways around the world safe from foreign object debris

13. It started out as a rescue “spider” in 2005, and today the Israeli-made Skysaver is deployed to help evacuate skyscrapers in emergency situations.

And the last item is the most important of all as far as I’m concerned:

18. Wherever disaster strikes in the world – be it natural or manmade – Israel is always among the first to send medical and search-and-rescue teams and supplies, even when it lacks diplomatic relations with the country in crisis.

An Israeli mobile hospital in Haiti. Photo by Ambassador Daniel Saada.

Governmental and non-governmental agencies (including Israel Flying Aid, IsraAID, Israeli Humanitarian Aid-Latet, Israel Trauma Coalition, ZAKA, Magen David Adom, Tevel B’Tzedek and many others) have been among those on the scene saving lives after disasters including:

The 2004 tsunami in Sri LankaHurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005; the 2007 earthquake in Peru; the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar; Philippines typhoons in 2009 and 2013; the Haiti earthquake in 2010 ; a 2010 hospital fire in Romania ; the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the Turkish earthquakes in 1999 and 2011 ; and Hurricane Sandy on the US East Coast in 2012.

Israel also set up a field hospital on its border to treat victims of the Syrian civil war, and continues to provide – without charge — lifesaving treatment of wounded Syrian civilians at its northern hospitals.

Who could fail to be proud of such achievements? Kol hakavod Israel!

A final article to lighten your heart on Yom Ha’atzmaut is a great optimistic piece by  David Weinberg: The Heavens shine on Israel:

n the meantime, Israel’s dramatic drive to succeed ever-more in all aspects of life continues unabated, with spectacular results: outstanding science and top-notch technology; leading brain scientists and missile defense systems; Nobel Prize winners; first-class doctors and world-class health care; high levels of Torah study — only 70 years after the destruction of European Jewry’s Torah world; a robust economy and strong currency; massive foreign investment; innovative water desalinization programs and newly discovered, massive natural gas resources; a super-vibrant social assistance sector; multiple humanitarian missions undertaken abroad; and most of all, sensational activism and high motivation of our magnificent youth.


And note: Israelis are neither crushed nor dispirited by their challenges. They remain quite resilient and energized to build an even better future.

Listen to the words of the late, great Rabbi Dr. Ambassador Yaacov Herzog, speaking in 1971 about “The Permanence of Israel”:

“We face perils. No man can guarantee that fighting will not resume tomorrow, that our soldiers will not have to fight again bloody battles. But we know we have the strength to withstand them. The balance of arms is in our favor at the moment. … We may face political isolation and pressures, but we face all this in the knowledge that we belong to a new epoch and that the Jew has changed — in Jerusalem, in Israel and across the world. And though at times it looks dark, the light will reappear. With firmness touched with generosity, with strength uplifted by spiritual understanding, we can move ahead. With all the difficulties, with all the pressures, we are the generation of redemption. Let us indeed be worthy of this privilege that defies human logic and supersedes human vistas.”

So on this Independence Day, count your personal and our national blessings. Life in Israel is full of meaning and delight — adorned by sacrifice, commitment, achievement and joy — all the components that make life satisfying and exciting, and certainly so for a Jew.

Despite the overwrought friends, and the naysayers, boycotters and detractors — the heavens are shining, not collapsing, upon Israel.

Happy Birthday Israel! Chag Same’ach!

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10 Responses to Chag Atzma’ut Same’ach! Happy 66th Independence Day Israel!

  1. JudyPT says:

    When one sits back and takes a look at all that has been achieved and invented by our small country it is really quite mind boggling.All this occured whilst keeping implacable enemies at arms length and absorbing millions of new immigrants ,who we did not leave to rot in “refugee camps” but integrating them to be productive citizens.It is truly a miracle that we have come so far .May we continue to thrive and prosper in our ancient land and ignore the doom sayers who try to weaken our resolve.

  2. Reality says:

    What a great heartwarming post.May G-d grant us peace and we should continue to thrive in our amazing G-d given country.We’ve just finished part 1of a 2part mangal at the beach with loads of Israelis and Arabs(so much for apartheid!) enjoying themselves and cheering in the planes and helicopters of the flypast that the airforce display.I’m so proud and grateful to be able to live here.Mazal Tov Israel.Happy 66

  3. cba says:

    Thanks for a particularly lovely column.

    חג שמח!

  4. Shein Ariely says:

    I am blessed to be an Israeli.
    I am 69 years old. I consider myself blessed because i am taking an
    active part in an unprecedented period of history.
    The rebuild of the independent Jewish state – Israel.
    Such an event never occurred in human history!
    I am a child of a 3500 years old nation keeping the same religion, following
    the same moral values, speaking the old-new Hebrew language!
    Except of China and India no other country and culture worldwide has such a
    heritage– and i am part of this.
    The culture with the traditional of searching freedom (let my people go), leading moral values (the 10 commands).
    A nation of great philosophers, lawyers and scientists, but not great conquerors subjugating other nations.
    A nation that demanded every single person to read, write and speak in public for more than 2000 years.
    A nation that for the last 100 generations suffered unmatched persecutions,
    expulsions, demonization, murders and mass Killing during the holocaust.
    A nation that for the last 100 generations prayed “the next year in Jerusalem and land of Zion””
    And here i am– the first generation of the free Israelis in the modern era!
    Israel has many of achievement as well many problems.
    I am proud of our achievements in every aspect of science, culture, values, medicine and society we share with the world.
    I am proud of dealing with my own nation problems in the many aspects of life
    and the quest of finding applicable solutions.

    Every morning before going to work I listen to the news and most of the times I hear a new statement that we will be destroyed or eliminated and we should do this or else……..
    Daily, by my work and my life routine i contribute a new small drop to the ever growing wonderful sweet lake named Israel
    My mobile is always open for connections of my children and grandchildren in case of emergency call..

    Sometime, in the evening I either dace-or sing- or attend a lecture- or exercise sport- or have an emotional political discussion with my friend.( few people, many ideas , everyone argues claiming that his solution is the best)

    I am proud that despite the need to defend ourself from external and internal enemies all our governments and most of our people try to follow the values as stated in Israel independence declaration:
    **will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants.

    **will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the
    Hebrew Prophets;
    **will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex;
    ** will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture;

    ** will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions

    Always hope that one day the Arabs will accept Israel the Jewish state and we will live peacefully.

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