Let’s celebrate the Jewish homeland

NEW YORK, May 4 (JTA) — This Yom Ha’atzmaut, let’s celebrate our Jewish homeland. Without apologies — just with pride. Israel is a nation still being created, a land and a people that are constantly evolving. But let us go back and revisit the past so that we can see the future. Land — the land of Israel — is not a 20th-century phenomenon. Indeed, it is a 5,000-year-old commandment. God’s message to Abraham to start a new religion and establish a new nation was predicated on his doing so in a new land. Abraham’s was the first recorded land purchase. Moses knew that his task was to free his people not by negotiating a better life for them in Egypt but by bringing them to the land of Israel. To the Jewish people, Israel is not sacred just because of consecrated moments or prophets and ancestors buried there. It is the land itself that holds significance. Our very land is integral to the essence of our Jewish nation. The soil is the soul of the Jewish people. This land is something we must continuously work to preserve, defend and nourish. The nation’s needs have evolved rapidly over the last century, from buying the land to making it a modern sustainable country, both physically and spiritually. But throughout this natural evolution, our collective mission should always remain the same: We are caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere. In 1901, after a few years of Zionist Congress meetings, Theodor Herzl finally pushed through an agreement to form a central fund-raising body to eventually buy the land that would one day become the State of Israel. What often is not highlighted, however, is that it was not the idea of Jews buying land in what was then Palestine that was unique. Others — both individuals and groups — were already doing that. The unique act was the creation of the Jewish National Fund, thereby creating a central address to which Jewish people could contribute to create a nation and land in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. With the 57th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel that we celebrate this Yom Ha’atzmaut, this fundamental truth remains. We still must serve the Jewish people by creating and strengthening our homeland. For one generation this meant buying the land, for another it meant planting the forests vital to its development. Today, that mission includes creating water projects, new communities in the Negev and forming new Israel advocacy education initiatives. But the essence of all these projects stays the same. It’s a commitment, in perpetuity, to a land in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. As the State of Israel continues to evolve, and as we continue to be a nation under creation, we must be unified and continue to create hope for the Jewish people. Our 2000-year-old prayers have been heard. The challenge is not over, but with a national anthem called Hatikva — hope — and a national flag fashioned after of a tallit, a prayer shawl, I know we have the strength and spirit to continue to create our Jewish democratic state and land for the Jewish people forever. This Yom Ha’atzmaut, let’s celebrate our Jewish homeland. Without apologies — just with pride. Happy Birthday Israel! (Russell F. Robinson is the CEO of the Jewish National Fund.)

NEXT STORY