Today, Israel turns 60! My father helped her gain her independence, serving first in the British army as an officer and later in the first Israeli army. In fact, my maiden name, and the name I use for business (Amir) was a name he selected just after Israel’s independence was declared and the officers of that first Israeli army were asked to take on Israel, rather than European, names. (His name was actually Rottman.) My mother also served in the Israeli army. My sister was born a Sabra in an Independent Israel. Besides my immediate family — two sisters and my mother — the rest of my family lives in Israel. So, I feel almost (not quite) as connected to this day almost as Israelis themselves.
My wish for Israel on this, her 60th birthday, is that she find peace. In light of that wish, I offer my interpretation of the most important Jewish prayer, the Sh’ma. “Sh’ma” means “listen” or “Hear.”
Listen and hear, all of you who struggle to understand how we are all connected to the same God: The spark of God within you (and in others) and the flame of God that is all around you and in everything, it all comes from and returns to the same fire of God — the original Source, one and the same.
May Israel today be blessed that all her people — Jew and Arab alike — reacha place of peaceful understanding and cohabitation despite differences of opinion and religious belief.
Additionally, in 2003, I wrote an anothology piece for Living Words V, A Source Book on Israel in a Time of Struggle, which was published by Sh’ma. I’d like to offer you a bit of that essay, which was meant to offer people a way to celebrate Israeli Independance Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, as a spiritual as well as a secular holiday. Maybe you’ll find some of it useful today.
I created a “four worlds approach” to observing Yom Ha’Atzmaut, and each year I now invited friends over to observe the holiday with me in this manner. Beginning with Assiya, the world of doing, we select a charity that helps Israel. We place our contributions into a tzedakkah can and the money is later sent to that charity.
Combining this with B’riah, the world of thinking, we acknowledge that the Messianic Age has not yet come and discuss Israel current situation. We brainstorm solutions and action plans for peace.
We then move on to Yetzirah, the world of emotion, acknowledging our feelings about Israel, peace, God, and miracles. Some people bring articles, poems or essays on these subjects to read to the group.
Each guest brings to the celebration something that reminds them of Israel, such as a tallit purchased in Jerusalem or a piece of Israeli jewelry, and explains to the group why it connects them to Israel.
Afterward we join hands, close our eyes and move into Atzilut, the world of being and Divine connection, praying together: “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, ruach ha olam, Blessed are you God, our God, Spirit of the Universe, who gave us the Holy Land, Israel, home of our ancestors, home of all Jews even those residing outside its borders. Bless the state of Israel, the land of Israel, the people of Israel. May its borders know peace, its inhabitants tranquillity, and may the faith in our religion, the bonds of our shared heritage, and the wisdom of our tradition unite all Jews and become a source of light, strength and peace for all the world.”
We each offer our own blessings for Israel and the Jewish people. “Yevarech’ekha, may you, Israel be blessed with ____,” completing the prayer individually.
This done, we continue with a meditation: Remember the miracle of this day. The small, tired, ill-armed Jewish army defending its new homeland…and winning despite the odds. God gave the soldiers strength. Think of a time when you experienced a miracle…Think of a time when you felt God’s presence in your life…
Imagine yourself as a Jewish exile returning to Israel. How does it feel to know you always can come home to Israel? How does it feel to know a prophecy has been fulfilled…to be one step closer to the Messianic Age? Feel your hope for and faith in the promise of peace. Feel peace within yourself…Feel it radiating outward as you and God co-create peace…
We end by reciting, “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu ruach ha-olam, shehasa nisim la-avoteinu ul’imoteinu bayamim haheim ba-z’man hazeh. We praise you, Eternal God, Spirit of the universe. You showed wonders to and performed miracles for our fathers and mothers in days of old at this season.”
I conclude my Yom Ha’Atzmaut observance with a seudat mitzvah, a ritual meal, consisting of Israeli produce, foods, flowers, and wines. Afterward, my guests and I enjoy Israeli songs and dances.
Thus, my kavanah, my intention, of observing Israel’s Independence Day in a meaning-full and spirit-full manner is realized. Now, each year I celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut not only as a commemoration of a secularly significant event but as a religiously and spiritually significant one as well.
Happy Birthday, Yisrael!