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A Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) Message (05/14/24)

A Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) Message

There’s a statement in the Talmud that boldly declares that all Jews are responsible for each other.

מלמד שכל ישראל ערבים זה בזה (Shavuot 29a)

The Talmud’s profound message is that we have a moral duty to support and assist and, when necessary, admonish our fellow Jews. We cannot dismiss their actions with the simple statement, ‘ They’re not my concern.’

It seems our detractors have taken this statement to a higher level. All Jews worldwide, particularly Zionists, are responsible for all the Palestinian suffering, especially what’s going on in Gaza.

My heart goes out to Jewish college students nowadays. They are facing levels of Jew-hatred (antisemitism as a word that has been neutered) and discrimination never before seen in our country.

Columbia University students recently penned a letter to their administration.

They claim, “We shuddered when an “activist” held up a sign telling Jewish students they were Hamas’s next targets, and we shook our heads in disbelief when Sidechat users told us we were lying. We ultimately were not surprised when a leader of the Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition encampment said publicly and proudly that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and that we’re lucky they are “not just going out and murdering Zionists.”

We felt helpless when we watched students and faculty physically block Jewish students from entering parts of the campus we share, or even when they turned their faces away in silence.”

Yet, proudly, the Columbia University students are not backing down. Five hundred and forty of them signed a letter stating, “One thing is for sure. We will not stop standing up for ourselves. We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists.

We believe in the Jewish People’s right to self-determination in our historic homeland as a fundamental tenet of our Jewish identity. Contrary to what many have tried to sell you – no, Judaism cannot be separated from Israel. Zionism is, simply put, the manifestation of that belief.

Our religious texts are replete with references to Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem. The land of Israel is filled with archaeological remnants of a Jewish presence spanning centuries. Yet, despite generations of living in exile and diaspora across the globe, the Jewish People never ceased dreaming of returning to our homeland — Judea, the very place from which we derive our name, “Jews.”

We connect to Israel not only as our ancestral homeland but as the only place in the modern world where Jews can safely take ownership of their own destiny. Our experiences at Columbia in the last six months are a poignant reminder of just that.”

I teach our religious school’s ה class (7th graders). My curriculum encompasses antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Israel. To drive home the need for our own Jewish country, we watch/study the exceptional documentary “The Long Way Home (1997).” It depicts the life of Jews in Displacement camps during the post-war years, 1945-1948. It’s hard to fathom that people who survived the horrors of concentration camps had no place to live afterward. They weren’t welcome to return to their homes in Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Ukraine, and the British were afraid to anger the Arab world, so they would allow only 1500 Jews per month to enter Palestine. General Patton felt the surviving Jews were dangerous and placed them once again in camps surrounded by barbed wire.

It was only the hope of having our own homeland, one where we would be in control of our destiny, that gave these survivors something to live for. Thankfully, we made that happen through the UN vote in November of 1947 and the declaration of statehood in 1948.

None of us claim that the modern state of Israel is perfect. Yet, it’s our state and our home should we ever need to seek haven there, as Jews worldwide have done so for the past seventy-six years.

Therefore, this year, show your support for Israel by buying Israel bonds and Israeli products and marching in this year’s Salute to Israel Parade on June 2.

Several people from our congregation will be marching in the ADL’s outfit. You can join us by registering with this link:

While all Jews, especially our young students, shouldn’t be accosted for Israeli policy, we should have a right to support our country in dignity. The Jewish people are one, and in some way, our detractors are correct; whether we like it or not, we are responsible for one another. Therefore, please celebrate Yom Ha’Atztmaut today and join us in the March for Israel on June 2.

Chag Sameach,

R’ Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
244 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY 11803
516-935-5454|Email Us