Israel celebrated the 75th anniversary of the modern Jewish state in a dignified and relatively peaceful manner this week after months of violence and political turmoil.
Independence Day was preceded by Memorial Day in honour of the country’s fallen servicemen and women.
Reuters reports both days have traditionally served as markers of unity in a nation that has had to fight several wars and uprisings for its survival since its creation in 1948. That unity has been overshadowed by divisions this year.
Independence Day celebrations began on Tuesday (April 25) evening with the traditional torch lighting ceremony in Jerusalem.
At the same time protesters gathered in Tel Aviv waving the blue and white Israeli flags that have come to symbolise their weekly demonstrations against the government’s plans to push through restrictions on the judiciary. The massive rallies have been going on all year.
Reuters reports “the government and its supporters argue the changes are needed to rein in activist judges who have intruded aggressively into the sphere of parliament and the executive, while their opponents view it as a threat to the nation’s democracy.”
The plans have been on pause during the April religious and national holidays to allow for more consultation.
The growing power of the religious parties that helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return as Israel’s leader has also alarmed many secular Israelis.
They resent the special conditions that allow Orthodox Jews to avoid military service and study in religious schools rather than take paid employment.
Against a background of this year’s escalation in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the divisive anti-government protests, President Isaac Herzog underlined the gravity of the challenges facing the Jewish state.
“I am convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within: Our own polarisation and alienation from one another,” he told the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Tel Aviv this week.
Other Israelis were more sanguine about the nation’s future.
Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer told CBN News: “It’s a modern miracle, the rebirth of the Jewish state against all odds. It is the greatest miracle of the 20th century and maybe the greatest miracle of the last 2,000 years.”
Dani Dayan, Chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial observed that: “When you understand that only three years after the end of the Shoah (Holocaust), the lowest point the Jewish people reached in their exile, we started our redemption process and regained our independence after 2,000 years of terrible events. Well, if that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what a miracle is.”
Israel’s survival depends heavily on one of the most powerful defence forces in the world.
“Today, we are a highly organised, developed, and well-funded military, perhaps the strongest in the region, that enjoys a significant technological advantage over all of our enemies,” former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Jonathan Conricus told CBN News.
The Christian news outlet explained that Israel is also an economic miracle with the highest concentration of new businesses per capita in the world, earning it the nickname of Startup Nation.
From a Biblical perspective, many Christians view modern Israel as fulfilling the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel, where the dry bones of the Jewish people come to life after 2,000 years of exile.