WASHINGTON (Jun. 23)
The 40th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel will be marked by a year-long celebration in Israel and the United States starting in September.
“The birthday celebration of Israel will be the biggest, largest birthday party ever,” Asher Naim, Minister for Information at the Israel Embassy here, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Naim spoke excitedly about the plans which he is coordinating to include every Jewish federation, organization, synagogue and Jewish school, as well as the non-Jewish community.
The American Jewish community is eager to participate, according to Naim. “The response everywhere has been, ‘Oh yes, let’s do the best,'” he added. “I’m so happy.”
Howard Squadron, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is head of the U.S. National Committee for the 40th Anniversary, which is under the auspices of the Presidents Conference, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and the Council of Jewish Federations.
The 40th anniversary will be a major “milestone” in Israel’s history since “40 years in Jewish tradition is a generation,” Naim noted. He pointed to the wandering of the Jewish people for 40 years in the Sinai before they could go to the Land of Israel. For this reason, the celebration is particularly aimed at those 40 and under, who were born and brought up after the establishment of the Jewish state, Naim said.
The year-long celebration of the anniversary will stress that “Israel is not like any other country, it has a message, a purpose,” Naim said. “Israel is today, more than the Jewish religion, the unifying factor for the Jewish people.”
“No matter if we sometimes falter, if we make mistakes,” Israel still seeks to achieve the principles set forth in its Declaration of Independence, Naim said.
In Israel, the anniversary will be marked by a “recommitment” to the Declaration of Independence. All Israelis will be asked to sign the Declaration, so that particularly the 40 and under generation there will feel part of the principles enunciated by their parents, Naim stressed.
TOURISTS A GOAL
Another major goal is to bring the largest number of American tourists ever to Israel. Naim said most American Jews have not visited Israel, and this is particularly true of those 40 and under.
Israel wants to stress three major themes during the anniversary celebration in the U.S., Naim said.
“The first and foremost is the increasing connection between ‘Am Yisrael’ and ‘Eretz Yisrael,’ between the Jewish people and the Land,” he said. “The Land could only have been redeemed when the Jews came to the Land. The Jews could be redeemed only by the State of Israel.”
Secondly, “we want to show what Israel has achieved in the last 40 years,” Naim said. “We believe we have achieved miracles,” the ingathering of Jews from throughout the world, the revival of Hebrew, the creation of a State, a free society, democratic institutions and a high technology economy.
Finally, the celebration wants to stress the “amity between Israel and the United States based primarily on common values, Judeo-Christian moral principles, respect for the individual as the center of our society and democratic institutions,” as well as shared “strategic mutual interests.”
To express these themes there will be programs in every community. A major event will be a two-hour program on national television featuring Israeli and American entertainers performing at the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem next April 23. There will also be a television documentary on Israel to be shown next spring.
An Israeli group will tour major cities presenting material that expresses Israel’s culture. There will be seminars on various aspects of Israeli and American culture in many cities. A major program is planned for the Kennedy Center in Washington at which it is hoped the President and other government officials will participate.
Essay contests on why the participants want to visit Israel will be held in every state with the winners going to Israel.
Each federation, Jewish organization, synagogue, Jewish center, Jewish school will be offered a “menu” of programs to sponsor, Naim said. “We are not dictating anything,” he stressed, but the Israel Embassy and consulates are ready to help.
Naim emphasized that the celebration is not limited to the Jewish community, but it is hoped that all Americans will participate. Churches and other non-Jewish groups are also expected to schedule anniversary celebration programs, including a large ecumenical conference in Jerusalem.