On the Threshold of the Next Chapter

16 Apr

While we were all eating matzah a few weeks ago, a subtle but significant change was noted. Without fanfare and great public attention, the Jewish population of the State of Israel passed 6,000,000 – For the first time, Israel has become the world’s largest center of Jewry, with the United States at second place with 5.5 million Jews.

What is so significant about this?

The obvious significance is the number – having marked Yom Hashoah – Israel’s national day of mourning for victims of the Holocaust –just last week, only days after the conclusion of Passover, the significance of this new population figure is reason to pause and grasp the magnitude of that number. An entire Jewish State was wiped out in the Holocaust. In addition, that number is close to tenfold the number of Jews living here on this day 65 years ago when the visionaries of that time took Jewish fate into their own hands and declared Israel an independent state.

However, for me this shift marks much more than reparation and rehabilitation in the aftermath of past confrontations and atrocities. As I find myself celebrating our family’s bar-mitzvah year of aliyah, I have the feeling that Israeli society is beginning as a whole to enter into a new stage of responsible adulthood: little by little, Israelis and our leadership are looking forward more and looking back less.

If the recent national elections are any indication of the mood of Israeli society, then there is clearly, it seems to me, the potential for something very exciting and rejuvenating on the near horizon.

Just a couple of months ago, in his opening words to the newly elected members of the 19th Knesset, President Shimon Peres said:

On its 64th birthday the Knesset of Israel has renewed confidence and renewed legitimacy. The eyes of the public are fixed on you, the members of Knesset, in expectation that you will be their loyal representatives for the creation of a better future. In this Knesset are a record number of new Knesset members, 48 in total, and an increasing number of female Knesset members, 27. This is an achievement but still far less than the equality we seek.

During the last elections the cynicism waned and the scornfulness reduced. Young people were elected, free from the bonds of the past and with wings to fly anew. Veterans were elected and those with experience who will create a constructive balance between new and experienced. The Knesset is not above the nation, it represents the nation. It should serve the nation more than rule over it.

It is hard to put in words, but I feel that there is a spirit here in the State of Israel which exudes much more than hope or optimism. I would have to call it a spirit of confidence.

Perhaps we are truly on the threshold of the next chapter – a chapter that will become the fulfillment of the dreams the most prominent Zionist visionary, Theodore Herzl.

In 1895, Herzel wrote in his journal that one purpose of the establishment of a Jewish State in the Promised land “…would be to educate our people for the tasks which at present still lie beyond our vision. For surely God would not have kept us alive so long if there were not assigned to us a specific role in the history of mankind….The Jewish state is a world need.

On this Yom HaAtzmaut, it is my prayer that Israelis and Jews worldwide begin to see the forest despite the trees, begin to see the great potential that the State of Israel offers not only to its citizens, but to all nations, in building a better tomorrow.





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