YOM HAATZMAUT 5773
This Tuesday we will celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Israel is now 65 years old! From a personal perspective, at age 65 you begin to look more and more ahead to your senior years. It brings to mind that old Beatles tune, that was oddly enough, titled, “When I’m 64”:
When I get older
Losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine?
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
If I’d been out
Till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m 64?
Well, Israel is 65 and she has been out in the world selling her technological marvels while, at the same time, trying to fend off vicious attacks from a world that would lock the door on her just for trying to survive. In too many circles, Israel is the leper from today’s Torah portion—shunned and placed outside the camp.
Do you know what BDS stands for? “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” It represents a new movement that calls upon the world to boycott, divest from and place sanctions on only one country—the State of Israel! With all the evil in the rest of the world in countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria and China that promote terrorism, drugs, human trafficking, persecute homosexuals, that are misogynistic and persecute other religions…Israel is the only country in the world deserving of boycott, divestment and sanctions even though it does none of these things? Israel is made to feel isolated and all alone again and again. Let me give you a few examples:
- Supermarkets from Europe to Brooklyn, NY, have refused to sell products made in Israel.
- There is a big push on college campuses calling for administrations to boycott Israeli academics from conferences.
- Celebrities like, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and the Pixies refuse to perform in Israel.
- At the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of years ago, more than 1,000 prominent filmmakers and actors—like Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, Julie Christie and Alice Walker—signed on to a statement asserting that by showcasing movies from Tel Aviv, the festival, “has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.”
- Large companies that do business with Israel are called upon to be boycotted like: L’Oreal, Este Lauder, Sara Lee and Victoria’s Secret. Go ahead, boycott Victoria’s Secret! See who loses in the end!
- No member of the British royal family has ever paid an official visit to the state of Israel.
Yes, in too many circles, the world shuts the door in Israel’s face. Israel is the leper—shunned and placed outside the camp.
Let me ask you a hard question for us—today’s American Jews. Have we locked the door on Israel? Are we, as Jews, shutting her out of our lives? What are we doing to tend to her, to care for her, to let her know we’ve got her back? When was the last time you visited Israel? When was the last time you wrote a letter to your congressman or senator on Israel’s behalf?
Most of us grew up sensing deep inside our very souls that not only did the Jewish People need Israel, but we needed Israel. Do our children and grandchildren feel the same way? Would it make a bit of difference to them if Israel, Gd forbid, no longer existed? Are they dropping Israel as easily as they now seem to be dropping their synagogue membership?
Most of us have been to Israel, gone to the Kotel and wrote a little prayer which we stuck into the wall. When we did that, we left a piece of ourselves there. We do love Israel and we do kvel with great pride when we read about all that Israel has recently accomplished.
There is a good deal of good news coming from Israel these days—despite the attempts to isolate her. Israel has enriched the world with its startup companies and technology far beyond its numbers. Almost every computer, smart phone and tablet is built upon technology from Israel. Its recent advances in medicine, science, agriculture and the environment are to marvel at. Not bad for a young 65-year-old country only the size of New Jersey. All this in fulfillment of the promise Gd made to Abraham (Gen. 12:3) about his descendants: V’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishpachot ha-adama, “And through you will all the nations of the world be blessed.” Israel must be doing something right. Global surveys indicate that Israel ranks among the happiest countries in the world; Tel Aviv ranks as one of the top go-to destinations for young people; and Israelis’ life expectancy exceeds that of Americans.
To celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, I thought I would tell you about 65 ways Israel has recently blessed the world. However, such a list would take too long. And besides, 65 recent innovations would just be scratching the surface. Instead, as representative, I’ve decided to tell you about just 6 recent medical advances and 5 technological advances for Israel’s 65th birthday.
- recently unveiled its original line of innovative lollipops, wafers and toffees formulated to help shed pounds, boost the immune system and promote bone health.
- Israel’s InSightec is transforming the operating room with a new ultrasound technology that enables surgeons to destroy tumors and cysts without incisions.
- Israeli company has developed a new trick to help a patient accept foreign tissue more readily, improving the odds and outcomes for people suffering from leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers requiring bone marrow transplants.
- One of the most common causes of back pain is spinal stenosis of the lower back—a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Fixing the problem usually involves spinal fusion—an operation to permanently join 2 or more vertebrae bones so there is no movement between them. It’s hardly an ideal solution. Israeli is offering a better option. CEO Ron Sacher said, “We’ve developed an implant that recreates all functions of the posterior spinal column, where there are important joints, ligaments and bony structures that provide control over twisting, bending and flexing.”
- President Barack Obama announced that, “3D printing …has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” It’s being developed by an Israeli-American company. In the same way that your computer’s printer deposits ink onto paper to form words and pictures, 3-dimensional printers put plastics and resins on all sorts of materials to make anything from clothing to advanced medical devices. One Israeli company has even grown human tissue from a sample taken from someone and then—using 3D printing—created an organ for transplant that will not be rejected by the body.
- An Israeli invention that can detect lung cancer from exhaled breath; it’s called, “Na-Nose,” The “na” is for “nanotechnology.”
- A hacker sitting just a table away could be hopping onto your device and stealing your info or infecting your phone or tablet as you check your email, but Israel’s Skycure has you covered.
- 35 million FB users “like” PhotMania APP, Instagram. It’s a social platform based on photo effects.
- Tel Aviv’s is built with technology that helps modern travel websites understand natural language. Travelers can type—or, on a mobile device, speak—“Book me a flight from Tel Aviv to New York for 2 weeks, anytime in May, in business class at the lowest fare.” The website takes it from there.
- Successful Israeli serial entrepreneur Yoav Lorch wants you to only pay for what you actually read on your E-reader. “pay as you go” platform—tracks how many pages you’ve viewed and charges only for content consumed.
- Israeli inventor Nimrod Elmish started out creating a low-cost cardboard bicycle, but when a leading charity asked if he could also make a cardboard wheelchair, he realized it was a perfect match for his innovative technique. The cost of these wheelchairs—which are made of recycled cardboard, plastic bottles and recycled tires—is likely to be in the region of $10 each.
Isn’t this all absolutely amazing? Israel is a country smaller than the State of Georgia and only 65 years old. To me it’s absolutely astonishing how Israelis have blessed the lives of all peoples all over the world in almost every area of life—from technology to the environment to health to food to entertainment—and that’s not including all the great accomplishments of Jews in the rest of the world.
If Israel is now fulfilling the prophecy to Abraham that the world will be blessed by his descendants, perhaps the prophecy of the prophets and King David (Psalm 29:11) will now be fulfilled that Hashem oz l’amo yiteyn, “Gd will give His people strength, Hashem yivareych et amo vashalom, and “that Gd will bless his people with peace.” May the Jewish State always be a blessing to the world. She is the fulfillment of the Jewish dream of thousands of years. Am Yisrael Chai, “The People of Israel Live.” Happy 65th birthday Israel. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis