Israel turns 70 this year so we celebrated the country’s birthday with a Middle Eastern dinner of falafel, pita, hummus, Israeli salad, roasted corn and kale chips.
There were also school and synagogue celebrations.
Because Israel has always been around in our lifetime, it may be easy to take its existence for granted, but its struggle for survival never ends.
A few years ago, I wondered why there was such anger and hatred directed at Israel as a country (I understand that some people may disagree with some of its government’s policies, but I’m talking outright hatred to the point where people don’t think it should exist). I did some research and was shocked to find out that the version of Israel’s history I’ve learned about is completely different from what people growing up in other Middle Eastern countries are learning: “One land, two stories: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
About four years ago, I wrote an article about “Why the world should care about Israel,” about all the contributions Israel has made to the world. From medical and technological innovation to environmental resources and humanitarian relief, this tiny country has had such an important impact on the rest of the world.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Israel three times so far, once in 1992, once in 2013 for a press trip with the American Jewish Press Association (“Discovering Israel’s multiple layers“) and once with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, with a group of moms from my community (“Israel trough a mother’s eyes” and “Translating inspiration into action“). (I also have a pictorial post on my old blog that shows the 2016 Israel trip as experienced by Max, my son’s stuffed dog, who accompanied me on my journey: “A traveling companion.”)
One of the things I miss about working as a staff member of a paper is all the opportunities to meet such interesting people doing important work. Some of the most memorable Israel-related stories I was fortunate to do through the years, primarily connected to Jewish National Fund, include (with links):
Four childhood friends who grew up in Tel Aviv made a decision while serving in the Israeli Army: If they survived, they would devote their lives to a cause. They eventually founded the OR Movement, with the mission to develop and build up the Negev and Galilee.
Dr. Ziv Gil, chairman of the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, was in Scottsdale to give a presentation about an innovative method for removing skull-based tumors.
The capital of the Negev Desert is being transformed into the centerpiece of Jewish National Fund’s Blueprint Negev campaign, an initiative to revitalize Israel’s southern region and residents of Arizona play an important role.
A founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, a nonprofit that aims to remove professional, logistical and financial obstacles to those who move to Israel, visits the Valley to share information about a program that aims to bring doctors to Israel.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaks to nearly 700 attendees at the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Mega Israel event in 2017.
A generation ago, Israel’s biggest need was financial, Barak told those at the Scottsdale Princess resort, but now that Israel is economically in better shape, Jewish communities around the world have a commitment to take care of the elderly and vulnerable in their community and, most importantly, give the next generation the Jewish education and experiences they need to strengthen their Jewish identity, he said. He also encouraged communities to continue to send young people to spend time in Israel.
A chief rabbi and a Knesset member
Other incredible speakers who have come to speak in the Valley include Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor who became the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, who spoke at an Ahavas Torah event (“Rabbi Lau: Now is the time to learn to live together“), and Rabbi Dov Lipman, the first American-born member of the Knesset, who was in town for a Valley Beit Midrash lecture (“Rabbi Dov Lipman: Attempting the Impossible“).
My most recent article about Israel, which ran in the Phoenix Jewish News last week, focuses on Israel’s 70th birthday: “Scottsdale sabra recalls family’s role in Israel’s creation 70 years ago.”
Happy 70th birthday, Israel!