Thoughts & Teachings

Rabbi Deborah Wechsler

In 1949 as David Ben Gurion presided over the first observance of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day,) he issued a challenge to the people of Israel. “Let us stand silent in memory of our dearly beloved sons and daughters who gave their lives for the liberation of our homeland and the security of our people. They gave all they had. They poured out their lifeblood for the freedom of Israel, even as the living waters quench the thirst of the arid soil. Not in monuments of stone or wood shall their memory be preserved but in the reverence and pride which will fill the hearts of our people till the end of time when their memory is recalled. Our hearts are filled to overflowing with praise and thanksgiving to the Rock of Israel. But let us not delude ourselves that our work is finished. We are still at the beginning. The road stretching ahead is long and hard, and there are still many obstacles in our way ...... The sword is still girded round our loins; let us not boast as men who have taken it off. On our festive day let us review in joy and thanksgiving the mighty deeds of the past, and let us resolve to apply ourselves with all our might and all our heart to the new efforts of the future.”

Ben Gurion was filled with hope and expectation while also knowing that subsequent war was inevitable. At the same time as he longed for peace, he knew that we would have to live with our swords still at our sides, our work still unfinished. For us, without swords, without hoes to till the soil, the State of Israel is thousands of miles away but our connection to her must be intimate and strong. It is necessary for every Jew to be deeply and personally involved in the existence of Israel. Not only through philanthropy and not only through cultural affection but through profound spiritual identification and a sense of connectedness.