Israel officially celebrates sixty eight years of statehood today. Independence Day or Yom HaAtzmaut, marks the birth of the State of Israel, 1948, to the present day, its achievements, its hopes and its people.
Independence Day in Israel is preceded by a much more somber time of reflection, Yom HaZicharon or Memorial Day. Sirens sound for two minutes across all Israel, traffic comes to a standstill and people pay respect to those who sacrificed their lives; those who fell establishing or defending the state of Israel, soldiers and citizens.
Victims of terror are remembered too, and are a reminder of the continual existential dangers that Israel lives under from its hostile neighbours, within and without.
Public broadcasting is dedicated to coverage of the lives of the fallen, their heroism, soldiers' actions, etc. As most Israelis have lost a family member, friend or acquaintance through war or terrorism, it is a very poignant day for all Jewish people across the Land.
However, at night fall, at the end of Memorial Day, sadness and mourning give way to the unbridled joy, unity and optimism of Independence Day.
Independence Day officially starts with the traditional ceremony of lighting torches at Mount Hertzl, Jerusalem. Chosen figures from civilian or military life light the torches, reflecting a cross section of Israeli society.
The following day, the Israeli Air Force perform a flyover of a number of Israeli towns to excited crowds below. The International Bible Quiz is held in Jerusalem and is an annual competition for both Jewish youth and international competitors to be tested on their knowledge of the Bible, one of the Jewish people's greatest gifts to humanity.
During the course of Independence Day many gather in public places to sing, dance, enjoy street performances or public shows put on by the municipality. Families picnic together all over the country in the beautiful national parks. Barbeques have become the #1 unofficial national activity on this day, smoke ascending from many parks, gardens and public areas.
Military bases are opened to the public and offer the opportunity for people to meet serving soldiers, to acknowledge their contribution in providing security for the nation throughout the year.
It is significant that Independence Day should be so closely tied to Memorial Day and seven days before this, Holocaust Memorial Day. Here, one brings to mind the graphic, barbaric destruction of two thirds of European Jewry in the Nazi concentration camps . Yet despite this horror, a nation arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, a Jewish nation once more in the ancient homeland of Israel.
It is without doubt a miracle of biblical proportions that the Jewish people came through so much in the past 2000 years of exile, their candle almost extinguished in the cruelty of the Second World War. To overcome all this and to establish at the same time a new nation in an ancient land, that would be their home, has no natural explanation. Only a divine one.
To persist and resist all attempts from enemies all around to build a proud nation and a Jewish identity once more after the passing of so much time and history, is an unparalleled feat, unique in the narratives of any other culture in the world today.
Major wars and unabated terrorism have been the way of life for this nation since its founding in 1948. Not only does Israel defy all the odds in her survival, she positively thrives in a region blighted by Jew hatred and open enmity against the Jewish State.
It is a democratic beacon and progressive force in a sea of backward Middle Eastern cultures and oppressive Islam; a global leader on so many fronts - education, medicine, technology, bioscience, innovation, agriculture, irrigation and many more.
Ultimately however, it is not Israeli or Jewish ingenuity that has kept the State of Israel long enough to celebrate its' sixty eighth birthday. It is the Lord Himself who has preserved them to this day. By His covenants, affirmed by the Prophets, He has sworn many things toward the Jewish people and it is these very things that are being fulfilled before our eyes.
The Scriptures spoke of a unparalleled Jewish ingathering in the latter days, their restoration and their ultimate spiritual redemption. This process begun back in the 19th century. It took a major step forward in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel. And more is to come in bringing all the remaining prophecies to pass.
Equally, more hard times are yet to come. Israel is pressed on every side by those who wish her destruction and actively work toward that end. Anti-semitism grows - largely ignored, actively promoted. The world is increasingly turning its back on the Jewish people, choosing rather to believe the lies of a deceptive narrative that posits Israel as the aggressor, bully, oppressor, violator and sole obstacle to peace and cohesion in the region.
There are fifty muslim majority countries in the world; there is only one Jewish one. That one, we believe, has been brought into existence because a faithful God has remembered to keep His covenants toward the Jewish people in our generation.
Doing so, He will preserve them through all that is yet to unfold in the coming days. Stand with us as we seek to do what we can in aiding that preservation through pray and declaring God's Word concerning Israel.
We salute and wish the State of Israel a Happy 68th Birthday and believe for many more to come until the Day, when Messiah Himself returns and shows Himself as the ultimate gift to the Jewish people.