Yom Ha'atzmaut

The Jewish holiday cycle is not just a series of individual holy days and festivals. Holidays are linked to one another to
Israel celebrates its 68th Day of Independence this week. Let me put my cards on the table. I'm not dispassionate when it comes to Israel. Quite the contrary.
On this important day, I can live with these dual feelings: an immense pride as a Jew in the glories of the Jewish state, and a realization that the challenges facing Israel are profound and require new initiatives.
Security issues still loom large and likely will for the foreseeable future. Yet Israelis also understand that the best way to counter those seeking to challenge the Jewish State's existence is to build a stronger Israeli society.
At moments like this, we like to see the helpers. It is affirming and heart-warming to see the altruism of others and to see how individuals and communities stand together. We must not forget the positives, even as we face tragedy.
These very different "shots heard round the world" should both call us to attention and remind us of everything we have to celebrate and be thankful. May those who are bereft be comforted. May those who sustained injuries find a healing of wholeness.
As Israel celebrates its 65th birthday, we should pause to marvel at the many successes of the Jewish state. Democracies around the world, including the U.S., have taken centuries to achieve the type of political, social and economic advances that define Israel's existence today.
Sixty-five years ago the State of Israel was born. Yom Ha'atzmaut commemorates the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. The root letters of the word atzmaut can be translated as "essence." This poem is my attempt to share and celebrate a small slice of Israel's essence.
Simply put, Israel is exceptional and Her exceptionality needs to be celebrated, not condemned, which is exactly what we should do this Yom Ha'Atazmaut, Israel Independence Day.
A rabbi once said that the secular Zionists stole the love of Israel away from Haredi Jews. What he meant by this was that Haredim, who ought to have a deep and natural connection to the Holy Land, now feel a little uncomfortable with and alienated from those feelings. This is sad. But it is changing.
On its 65th anniversary, I am mindful of how far we have strayed from our original ideals and how much needs to be done in the years ahead to make these ideals a reality in this country.
We have had 64 years of building a homeland for the Jewish people, an heroic task that has at times succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, and of which we are immensely proud, and at times let us down in deep and painful ways. That is what it means to be in a loving relationship.
Israel, on my first visit in 1994, was teeming pitas, tomato-and-cucumber breakfasts and fresh-squeezed Jerusalem juices. Still, I could not find a cornerstone of my culinary upbringing.
On Israel's 64th birthday, I've been thinking about how to share that love of Israel with my daughters, even while I know the Israel they will come to know may seem different than when I first went 40 years ago.
Los Angeles is home to more Israelis than many Israeli cities. And yet, last year the Israeli Festival was cancelled after falling on financial ruin, and a lack of general community support. Then came Naty and Debbie Saidoff to the rescue.
As Israel marks its anniversary, my hope is that from out of Zion will come forth inspiration, innovation and regional collaboration, paving the way to environmental sustainability and peace.
The promise that God will raise up the poor teaches us that a mother's joy also depends on raising her child in a fair and just society.
Despite the stalled peace process, we shouldn't give up hope. Bold individuals are demonstrating their commitment to dialogue.