The emergence of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust is no less miraculous than the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus.
Starting today, we celebrate a week of holidays that, like Passover, afford an opportunity to reflect, remember and reconnect to our Judaism. They also link that Judaism to the land of Israel. With Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers) and Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day), we commemorate how and why Israel came to be, and recommit to ensuring the survival of our homeland.
Yom Hashoah (April 16) reminds us that people are capable of unimaginable evil and cruelty. The lessons of the Holocaust and the dangers of passivity are unfortunately still relevant today. A global wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment has spilled over into dangerous acts of violence and intimidation against Jews. Life in the Diaspora remains difficult for Jews. What is different today is that we now have a safety net and its name is Israel.
Yom Hazikaron (April 22) acknowledges and laments the many who died to create and maintain the Jewish state. In Israel, where military conscription is mandatory, many families have suffered losses. For them, the holiday is neither abstract nor remote. They have paid, and continue to pay, the price to keep Israel free so that the world’s Jews have a place they can call home.
Yom Haatzmaut (April 23) commemorates the birth of Israel, the one place that unconditionally welcomes all Jews. On this day, we rejoice that we survived as a people and remember those who sacrificed and perished on our behalf. We forget the contemporary political and religious differences of opinion that may divide us and collectively marvel at the week’s journey from Holocaust to sacrifice to homeland.
What will we take away from this week? Perhaps a sense of responsibility and duty to safeguard Israel’s existence will inspire us to take action to contribute to her legacy. Perhaps awareness that we are all survivors will rekindle an image of a global Jewish family that can cherish Israel’s existence while acknowledging her faults. At the very least, we are reminded that Israel’s existence is nothing less than a miracle that should never be taken for granted.
Last week we ended our Seders with the words, “next year in Jerusalem.” This week we give thanks that, for us, that is a real option.
This originally appeared in the Jewish Journal on April 16, 2015.