Can a nation be born in a day?
Today is Israel’s Independence Day! The country that I am privileged to call my home was born in a single moment 70 years ago, when David Ben Gurion boldly declared the establishment of the State on the 5th of Iyar, 14th May, 1948.
Israel's Independence Day, May 14th 1948
It’s difficult today to even try and comprehend what this incredible event must have meant to those Jews living in the land at that time.
The Second World War had been over just three years, the awful, horrific details of the Holocaust and the murder of six million of their fellow Jews still fresh in the mind and in the national consciousness. A bitter war was already raging across the mandated territory between Jewish and Arab communities both desperate to retain their land and identities in the rapidly changing political and cultural landscape. And the British mandatory rulers had withdrawn earlier that same day, as the High Commissioner Alan Cunningham sailed away from the port of Haifa.
What must have been going through the minds of the throngs of Jews gathering in Tel Aviv that day? Could this really be happening, that after all they’d been though over 2000 years, and especially in the last few years when their suffering and pain had reached an inconceivably dreadful apex, could they really be seeing, be witnessing with their own eyes, in their own generation, the rebirth of a Jewish state, lead by a Jewish government, in the land of Israel? Could a nation really be born that day?
The events of the 14th May 1948 followed the dramatic vote at the United Nations General Assembly on 29th November 1947 to partition Palestine and create two states, one Jewish, the other Arab. In September 1897, 50 years before, Theodore Herzl wrote in his diary following the very first Zionist Congress, in Basel in September of that year,
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word… it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.”
Fifty years – just fifty years. A biblical Jubilee. From the absurd, the ridiculous, from an idea worthy only of scorn, to Ben Gurion’s proclamation, to the establishment of the State! It is amazing. The prophet Isaiah wrote some 2700 years ago:
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labour
than she gives birth to her children.
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
all you who mourn over her.
(Isaiah 66: 8, 10)
Indeed, Israel’s Independence Day is a time of rejoicing. Amidst all the problems facing the nation, the political and social divisions, with all the challenges from her neighbours, amidst all this and more, let us take time to celebrate today the nation of Israel, born in a day, the 5th of Iyar, the 14th of May 1948.
Readers of this blog really enjoyed the song I posted from Koolulam last week in my entry about Holocaust Memorial Day. So here’s another one, where people from across the country sing a song of hope for the future of the nation, the region, the world. From a people that yearns for the peaceful future that is so elusive, here’s the hope for ‘One Day’!
Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labour than she gives birth to her children. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
(Isaiah 66: 8, 10)