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Happy Birthday Israel

from the May 10, 2011 eNews issue

On Monday, Israel celebrated its Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers. Then, at sundown, celebrations began for Israel's Independence Day. The 5th of Iyyar (May 9 this year) marks the 63rd anniversary of State of Israel and another year of Israel's successful survival in a hostile world. 

Monday was a sober day in Israel as its people remembered the 22,867 soldiers, both  men and women, who have died for Israel since 1860. That was the year Jews began to leave the safety of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods. Special ceremonies also honored the 3,971 civilian victims of terror.
 
At 8:00pm Sunday night, a one-minute siren sounded in communities all across Israel. Vehicles stopped, and Israelis rose to their feet to remember their fallen countrymen. Again the sirens sounded on Monday morning at 11:00am. Again everybody stopped what they were doing and stood in honor of the fallen for two minutes. Military ceremonies around the country began immediately after the sirens quieted. 

To kick off Independence Day celebrations Monday night, prominent Israelis lit 12 torches at Israel's national cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who lit the first torch, said in his speech: "Israel of 2011 is a Jewish and democratic state, which shines proudly in the heart of an oppressive and cruel Middle East."

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, whose daughter and son-in-law perished in the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India, lit a torch along with his grandson, Moishi Holtzberg, who survived the attack. Other torch lighters included people like Gadi Bashari, whose Sweet Heart organization gives aid to soldiers, disabled people and new immigrants, and Michael Goldman, a Holocaust survivor who served as a police officer at the trial of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann.

Israel's Independence Day is a joyful celebration with picnics and parties and air force flybys.  Young Jewish scholars from all around the world come to compete in Israel's annual BIble Quiz in front of the prime minister. The Israel Prize is awarded on this day to the top minds in the country.   (Because the Israel Prize has so often gone to secular men or people with particularly leftist views, the Makor Rishon Hebrew-language newspaper has taken to naming its own alternative winners of the Israel prize in honor of Independence Day.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a televised statement in honor of Israel's Independence Day. "The establishment of the State of Israel is nothing like the establishment of other countries," he said. "Few against many, our sons and daughters fought to realize our independence. We have come a long, remarkable way in the past 63 years. From a poor and weak country we have turned into a strong and well-established state, a global technological power with an army admired all over the world, with scientists, writers, agricultures, everything."

According to the Israeli government statistics, Israel’s population grew by 155,000 since last year to 7,746,000.  There were just 806,000 Israelis when the nation was established in 1948.  A full 75 percent of the population is Jewish and 21 percent is Arab.  Small non-Jewish immigrants and minority groups make up the other four percent.

Israel has had a rough 63 years, from its War of Independence in 1948, to battles for its existence in 1967 and 1973, and through the constant threat of terror acts within its borders. Israel's security forces are some of the best trained in the world. At one time, every one of Israel's near neighbors was its enemy. It faced hostile armies on all borders. Now, Israel is at peace with Egypt and Jordan. It has serious enemies in the international community and among terror groups within its territories, but it also has some very strong friends. Even then, with God's help, Israel will stay safe.

Israel is the land of the Bible, and Jerusalem is the City of David, the city in which the Messiah will take His throne. As Israel celebrates another year of its existence, it also brings us one year closer to that day when the Son of David will begin his earthly rule, and the wolf will lay down in peace with the lamb. There will be plenty of false cries of "peace" before that day, followed by great turmoil. Still, that day will come, and the Messiah will reign, praise the Lord.

Please continue to pray for Israel, for Jerusalem, and for the leaders and people of Israel.  May the Lord's kingdom come, may His will be done.

Happy Birthday, Israel.


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