Home is where you feel safe, but for many Jews, with our shared history, we have felt safe in few places. We have tried throughout millennia to make different nations our homes; we have served in their militaries, contributed to their economies and tried to become part of the communities — yet we were brutalized and forced to leave.
This is why Israel is such a gift — a gift Jews celebrate worldwide each year on Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day, which this year falls on Wednesday, April 29.
As the executive vice president of One Israel Fund, I have the privilege to provide help to those living in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley with security and medical facilities and equipment to help the Jewish communities with their daily living.
My work with One Israel Fund has allowed me to follow in my father’s footsteps in doing work to fulfill the Zionist dream. A U.S. military veteran who served in World War II, my father was and continues to be a passionate Zionist. He was even involved in the underground movement to smuggle arms into Palestine before it officially became the State of Israel. Even more special to me, however, was the impact my father had on my view of Israel; he raised me with the knowledge that, wherever I lived, Israel was still my home.
The Jewish people owe a great debt to our forebears who made Israel what it is today. Although Israel always had a Jewish presence, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jews went to then-Palestine and helped make the desert bloom. They knew that this land was their home and they did everything in their power to build it for future generations.
And their pioneering spirit lives on today. Today’s Israel’s pioneers live in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, on land promised to them by God in the Torah, the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then became part of international law at the San Remo Conference in 1920, which marks its 100th anniversary this week. Hopefully, with the support of President Trump and his administration, these areas will officially become part of the State of Israel and gain the protections that only a nation state can provide. One Israel Fund tries our best to fill in gaps in services and equipment the Jewish communities have needed in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley while they live in a state of political flux and even though we have provided a myriad projects including state-of-the art communication and security systems, armored ambulances, playgrounds and communities centers, it would be a blessing if our donations would be a supplement to what the Israeli government could provide rather than being necessities that would be absent without our support.
The world is always quick to criticize Israel and fails to give credit to Israel’s pioneers in the fields of medicine and science which are benefiting the world through cell phone and computer technology to groundbreaking research, medications and devices to help those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer related maladies, to environmental achievements such as drip irrigation systems…the list goes on and on. Next on the horizon is the work Israel is doing to create a vaccine and medications to combat COVID-19.
While the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has sought to impose economic boycotts upon Israel, especially upon companies operating in Judea and Samaria, its economy continues to grow and prosper. From technology to agriculture to education, science and medicine, Israel continues to defy all odds in making itself into the envy of much of the western world. Sadly, the BDS Movement has done more to harm the very same Arab population it purports to support by removing economic and educational opportunities and other prospects for growth. That is because the BDS Movement was always a movement against Israel more than it ever was for the Palestinians. It is yet another anti-Semitic crusade aimed at destroying the State of Israel. And combating anti-Semitism is another area Israel is leading the fight against.
Yes, the Jewish people benefit from having the State of Israel as a refuge and a place to thrive. But the world has benefited as much or even more from this country that gives so much to humanity.
As we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut this year — Israel’s 72nd Birthday — I would like to raise a toast to the pioneers of yesterday, today and those Israeli pioneers of tomorrow who will make the world a better place not just for Jews, but for all.