This year, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of Israel with a range of events and initiatives and we are celebrating the Return to Zion and the establishment of the National Home of the Jewish People for generation upon generation, with the reunited city of Jerusalem as its eternal capital.
Just a few weeks ago, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I headed a delegation of the Keren Kayemet Le’Israel-Jewish National Fund at the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland. I marched together with tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and from the Diaspora all over the world. The feelings and emotions that seized me cannot be described in words.
On Sunday, I shall march again, this time down New York’s Fifth Avenue, in the Celebrate Israel Parade of Jewish communities from the United States and the Diaspora. A single thread links the March of the Living in Poland and the memory of the six million Jews murdered because of their Jewishness to the thrilling parade in New York in support of Israel. From Holocaust to revival. From despair to hope. From darkness into the light.
Root in the forest that is called Israel
The Jerusalem Post conference to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Israel offers an opportunity to meet friends and supporters of Israel from all over the world. As the chair of the Keren Kayemet Le’Israel – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), I regard every single participant as a root in the forest that is called Israel.
It’s said that if a tree falls in the forest, no one hears. However, in all my encounters with Jewish communities in the US, I see the roots planted deep in the ground, as the poet Natan Zach said, “Because man is like a tree of the field.” The relationships between Israel and the Jewish community in the US are an endless forest with eternal roots that connect us all as a people and as a nation.
SEVENTY-FIVE years after its founding, Israel is a well-marked path and a success by every yardstick. It is an exemplary society, a nation that has moved from Holocaust to rebirth and a state that is home to the Jewish People.
A state that stands at the forefront of international technology and has produced the world’s largest number of Nobel prize winners. The state that invented WAZE, the flash drive (disk on key), the cherry tomato and so much more.
Pirkei Avot attributes “fullness of years” to age 70, and “special strength” to age 80. At 75, Israel lies between the two.
At this time in particular, when Israel may appear to be experiencing a period of turbulence and polarization, I beg to differ. I observe the history of the Jewish People and the struggle for the character of the state of Israel, and I see that controversy has ever been at the foundations of Jewish identity: “dissent for divine ends.” The House of Hillel and the House of Shammai, different streams and different sectors have composed the social mosaic of the Jewish Nation for generations and still do so. Disputes are what has molded the character of the Jewish People, and they have led us to mighty achievements. They have made us a light unto the nations.
Throughout all the years of its existence – over 120 now – KKL-JNF has constituted the ideological and practical foundation for settlement in Israel by redeeming and planting the land, supporting settlement in all its forms and absorbing new immigrants. It is on this foundation that the magnificent edifice of the state of Israel arose. All this was achieved on the basis of cooperation, with no differentiation between Right and Left or religious and secular, as the shared Zionist narrative was constructed and Israel established.
This year, we mark the 126th anniversary of the vision of Herzl, who at the Fifth Zionist Congress took action to promote the establishment of KKL-JNF. A dream that has become a reality, a state that grows and flourishes despite complex challenges and major threats.
I believe that if Herzl were standing here together with us today at the Jerusalem Post conference, he would tell us that if all the pieces of the puzzle are to combine and form a single picture, every person must be allowed to be who he or she is, while we always search for what unites us rather than what separates us; what we share, not the differences that divide us; that together we should all agree, from a position of mutual respect, on shared Zionist values from a desire to act together all the way along the line – together for the same goal of building a state for the Jewish People. That is the debt we owe Herzl and it is our obligation to the generations to come.
Together with you and with your help, we at Keren Kayemet Le’Israel shall continue to invest in the state and develop it so that the light of Jerusalem, of the State of Israel, shall continue to shine for many more years to come. This road begins here.
The writer is the KKL-JNF world chairwoman. She will take part in the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 5. For more information, visit: www.jpost.com/AC23.